Moran, or Jacob City, as it was first called, was a colonization scheme worked out in Detroit. The promoters organized what they called The German Land Co. Each member had a plot or map showing where his lots were located. The farms were located outside the city limits. Mr. Jacob was president of the organization, but on account of fraudulent dealings he was ousted about two years later, and Conrad Orth became president and William Albrecht, Secretary.
The organization borrowed money from William B. Moran to buy more land, and 55 blocks were added to the original Jacob City. From a plot or map that is still in existence in Moran and owned by Mrs. John Roggenbuck, I gathered the following facts. There were 137 city blocks of 18 lots each. Each block contained about 4 acres. There were 27 members in the organization whose names appear on the plot. The streets were named after members. And Main Street was named after William B. Moran. The name Jacob City was changed to Moran. A city park was indicated near the center of the plot.
At the meetings held by the organization the members discussed such topics as: a beer garden; the valuable hickory wood that was growing in and about Jacob City; what improvements were being made, etc.
When my father left Detroit for this promised land he had paid for two lots in full and ¼ down on 80 acres of land. I was nine years old when one day in the spring of 1882 he began packing the household goods in large boxes and bundles while I wrote out the tags consigning them to Jacob City.
Soon we were on our way on a freight and passenger boat, Atlanta, I think was the name. We were three days in making the run from Detroit to St. Ignace. At every port between these two places the Atlanta stopped to load and unload freight. My brother, Frank, seven years old, and I passed the time in scouting about and exploring. Early one morning while the Atlanta was loading and unloading freight Frank and I got out on the dock to do some exploring. We found an old scow tied to the dock. This we boarded and were having a fine time manipulating the rudder, when the Atlanta blew its whistle to pull in the gang plank. When we wanted to get off the scow we found that it had moved about three or four feet from the dock. We realized at a glance that we could not make this gap with a standing jump, so we hurried to the far side of the scow and side by side we made a rush to gain momentum to clear the gap between the dock and the scow with a running jump. We both made it, but I had to grab Frank as he was about to topple backwards into the gap we had cleared with our running jump. A second later we had crossed the gang plank, which was jerked in almost before we had crossed it. Five minutes later the Atlanta was on her way again plowing ahead through the water at her regular speed. Frank and I then went to breakfast and talked about everything except the danger we had been in.
Our fare did not include meals. My father got some hot water from the kitchen and with this my mother steeped some coffee, the only warm thing we had with our meals. After dinner we went on deck where we saw the waiter emerge from the dining room with a tray of the most delicious looking watermelon we had ever seen. There was more than half of a large, red juicy melon, besides other large pieces that had been cut but otherwise untouched. With this enticing tray of melon he walked to the railing, and with a flip of the tray he dropped this precious fruit into the water with the carelessness that one would dump so many rotten potatoes. Although we were dying for a piece of that watermelon, we had the idea that because my father could not afford to pay for such things we could not expect to get them, and that the waiter was not allowed to give us any. An so we managed always to be on hand to see these melons go overboard. If we could not get any to eat, at least we could see how appetizing and delicious they looked.
Late in the afternoon we reached St. Ignace. In the depot they told us that it would be 11 o'clock p.m. before the train would leave for Jacob City. There was nothing else for us to do all this time than to sit on the bench in the depot and wait. I watched the office force flitting about and noticed that whenever anyone wanted service he was told "in a minute", or "just a minute". If one left the room, it was always with the remark, "I'll be back in a minute". I watched the clock and found that some of these minutes were half an hour long.
At last the train pulled in at the depot and about 25 minutes later the conductor called out "Jacob City". The train stopped to let us off and proceeded on its way. Besides my parents, Frank and myself, there were three younger sisters.
We all stood there beside the track speechless with astonishment. We thought we were in Jacob City and here was no light of any kind anywhere. Nothing but darkness and silence.
As we stood watching the lights of the train fading in the distance I noticed on the opposite side of the trace a great wall of trees within 15 feet of the rails. Behind us was a dark unilluminated two-story building. Everything was as silent as death. My father was the first to find his voice. He let out a yell that echoed far into the dark silent night.
A window sash was raised on the second floor of the building near us and a man called out "Who is there?" Soon this man came out with a lantern and led us about one fourth of a mile through the woods to a log cabin. Here the owners, Philip Soeltner and his wife, allowed us to occupy the upstairs. The log cabin was about 24 ft. long and 18 ft. wide. The side walls upstairs were only two feet high. The upstairs floor, which also served as a ceiling for down stairs was composed of wide rough boards with wide cracks between.
I shall now relate what happened the year previous to 1882 as told by Charles Becker, the only member of the early trail blazers who is still alive in Moran, two having passed during the summer of 1934 - William Luepnitz, my father, at the age of 88 and John Roggenbuck at the age of 87. Mrs. Roggenbuck is still living. The German Land Co. was organized in 1881, and held its meeting on the second floor of the Martz's saloon, located near the city hall.
Soon after being organized they sent eight men to Jacob City to do surveying and cutting out roads. Charles Becker was one of these eight men. Only one, Richard Fisher was married. When this crew of eight men and one woman reached St. Ignace they had to wait two days before a supply train took them to Jacob City, the railroad having been completed only as far as Trout Lake at that time. There was no sheltering place. They found a roofless building that had been used as a stable. In this they lay down the first night. Soon a cold rain began to fall. This became so uncomfortable that they were compelled to crowd in one corner in a standing position the remainder of the night to keep warm. The next day they cleaned out the place and built a cedar-bark roof over it. Next day they built a log cabin about one and one half miles west of the railroad on the place now occupied by Herman Kaminski. This, when finished, was used as a lodging and boarding place for the crew and surveyor.
John Becker, uncle of Charles Becker, was the first supervisor of Brevort Township when it was organized. He was also in charge of receiving provisions from the German Land Co. This crew then was dependent on John Becker for pay and provisions. But John was lax in his duties, some received their pay and others did not. The crew suffered for want of provisions because John sold most of them to men who were working in Allenville.
None of these Germans had ever seen a tree except in a city park. They could not tell a poplar tree from a hickory. They knew nothing about felling a tree or how to use an axe or saw. So it is not surprising that one of these men were killed by a tree falling on him. Another man of the crew had his wife and children in Germany. When he had saved enough money for their fare he sent for them and when they were due to arrive he walked every day over a swampy trail and in all kinds of weather to meet them. But unknown to him the family was detained a long time in New York. Before the family arrived this Mr. Wenzel took sick from cold and exposure and died the very day the family arrived.
The cemetery then was located about three fourths of a mile from the railroad on the east end of what is now Otto Luepnitz's farm.
After the grave was dug it filled half full of water. When they lowered the coffin, men with poles forced it to the bottom, while others with shovels filled in the grave.
The Wenzel family consisted of a son nine years old, a younger sister and three older sisters.
There was no relief agency then. The widow Wenzel and her children were thrown on their own resources. The older daughters found places as servant girls in Allenville and St. Ignace. Not having potatoes to plant Mrs. Wenzel planted peelings and harvested 20 bushels of good quality potatoes.
The upstairs of the Soeltner home which I have already partly described was also the garret. How Mrs. Soeltner had to suffer for her kindness in allowing us to occupy this place I shall explain later. Next morning I went out to see what Jacob City looked like in day time. This picture as it is still in my memory shows an opening in a great wilderness. The trees are lying about in wild confusion just as they have been felled. This opening covers an area of about 100 acres. On the eastern edge of this clearing is the railroad. Besides the two story building near the track which I have already mentioned, and the Soeltner home there are four others, all in a row; besides another one a short distance back of the two story building near the track. And this was Jacob City.
The city of hickory wood and beer garden fame. No wonder we could see no lights when we got off the train.
My father then learned that the 80 acre farm on which he had paid $80.00 down, was a soft timber farm, about four miles back in the swamp without even a trail leading to it.
When he inquired about the hickory wood, my father was told that it was all a huge joke. Then, they told him how Dermstead, on of the eight men who had come here with Charles Becker, had sold a carload of what he supposed was hickory wood to a business man in St. Ignace, by the name of Snyder, who refused to pay for it because it was poplar wood. Snyder claimed he had no use for that good-for-nothing stuff.
Their explanations always brought forth such epithets as swindle, humbug, cheaters and robbers.
These expressions became so common that even conductors would call out "Humbug City" when they had a passenger for Jacob City.
Nothing of interest happened in the upstairs quarters of our temporary home, for a few days, because it was nice weather, and we youngsters could be outdoors; but then came a rainy day and we were all confined to our upstairs quarters. I don't remember how mother did the sweeping and the scrubbing with the wide cracks in the floor. But let that be as it may. On this particular day she was sitting on a foot bench peeling potatoes. Beside her was a pan of water into which she dropped the peeled potatoes. The ages of my sisters were one, three and five years. No anyone who has ever seen children of this age perform knows that it is next to impossible to make them sit still. And, this was the case with my sisters. They tumbled about on the floor without any intent to do harm. Suddenly one of them accidentally touched this pan of water in some way and spilled some of it. The water immediately began making its way through the cracks of the floor. Whether this water actually dropped on Mrs. Soeltner's head I don't know. But the next thing we knew she was yelling "Jesus, Joseph and Maria, und yetztbrunsen sic mich noch auf den Kopf." Meaning, "and now they even sprinkle water on my head." Then in a loud voice she continued to lament and scold herself for being so foolish as to allow that family with five youngsters in her home and to bewail how little they appreciated her kindness. She continued this monolog till she had said everything she could think of and then quieted down again.
A few days later we had another rainy day and another accident upstairs. This time it was all my fault. I was accustomed to carry all my valuables in my right vest pocket. Among these was a police whistle which I cherished very highly; in fact it was the most valuable piece of property that I owned. I was thinking of making a bow so I could shoot squirrels as soon as the sun came out again. My pocket was so bulged with all the things I carried in it, that it was hard to extract the things I wanted without spilling some of the others. When I tried to take out a piece of cord for my bow my precious police whistle tumbled out, and with a hop it headed for the opening around the stove pipe. I heard some one stir below; the stove door opened and closed. I knew that my precious whistle had gone to destruction, and at the same time the storm below broke loose. For a full hour this storm raged with unabated fury. I was so frightened I did not get a word of what Mrs. Soeltner said. I expected every minute she would come up and murder me. We youngsters were all so frightened that we remained frozen in our tracks, so to speak, for an hour after the storm had subsided. The only audible sounds were the soft footsteps of my mother as she continued with her work.
How this kind lady must have suffered! How much my mother suffered, I don't know, because she suffered in silence.
I know that my mother was very sensitive, and would rather have lived in a dugout than to stand such abuse. But there was no dugout and no one else was willing to take that family with those five youngsters in their one and two room homes. Mingled with these tragic episodes, however, were days of sunshine.
When in Detroit we had lived on Dequindre St. by the railroad track. There were always flat cars and box cars in the side track. This was our forbidden playground. Here we played every day, and every night my mother reported this fact to my father, who would take off his leather belt, thinking with it he could educate us from this practice. But we had no other playground, and we could not think of sitting on the door steps with folded hands waiting for the hours to pass. so we continued to play on the cars and take our medicine at night.
In Jacob City all this was different. Here we had the world, so to speak, for a play ground. We could come and go. Our parents ceased to worry about us, and my father used his belt on us only on rare occasions.
Joe Soeltner, son of Mrs. Soeltner, was seven years old, the same age as my brother Frank. He was our guide, and knew all the interesting places. The woods were full of wild flowers and squirrels. Joe knew where the turnip patches were. He told us he also knew where there was a nice pond and boat. We kept pestering him to show us where the boat was. At last, one day, we got him started. He took us across the railroad track. There was an old camp. It seemed to have been abandoned. We went in and found two barrels of cookies. We were having a glorious time filling up on these, when suddenly a man entered from the end door and shouted "Hey, you little devils, what are you doing there?" We did not stop to explain, but rushed out the side door and down the track till we were out of breath. When we looked back we saw that no one was following. We slowed down and asked Joe to take us to the boat. We were rather disappointed to find it was only a raft. Soon we were poling around with this craft. I was on one end, Frank at the other and Joe in the center. We were having a fine time till Frank suggested changing places with me. We began to change places, but the raft seemed to resent this and began teetering and rolling like a wild beast. Frank and Joe were quickly shaken off. I threw myself flat across the raft and held on desperately, but the wild thing threatened to go clean over with head downward in the water. At this point I also abandoned the craft. When my memory began functioning again I was standing on shore and saw that Frank and Joe also were there. We stood for a minute or two looking at the raft, which now floated quietly in the center of the pond. But inviting as it looked we had lost interest in the thing. We next planned how we were to answer embarrassing questions about being all wet. Frank and I went to where my father was clearing, he had a number of brush piles burning. By these we managed to get dry without my father noticing that we were wet. Joe went to his father and told him, he was trying to pick beech nuts and fell from the trees into the water. Joe's father asked "Who ever heard of picking beech nuts in the spring? and besides beech trees do not grow in water, the grow on land. Show me the beech tree." Joe then changed his story and told his father that it was the Luepnitz boys that coaxed him to go on the raft.
Two days after the adventure with the cookies and the raft we were moving from the Soeltner's home to an abandoned camp building across the railroad track. It was one of the two buildings that had been used by the railroad construction crew. The other was the one in which was had found the two barrels of cookies. Both of these buildings were now completely abandoned; even the cookies were gone. How glad the Soeltners were to see us go!
And how glad we were to get away! This rough log building had a door facing the track and a window facing south. The window sash had been removed. My father boarded up the opening and inserted a window pane, 8 x 10 inches. This single pane of glass gave us a very meager stream of daylight in our new home; but we were free-free from those terrible scoldings we had to endure from the kind lady with the sharp tongue. By this time my father had cleared his two city lots and planted them to potatoes. The lots were well located near the track and in what today is the business block of Moran. He was now ready to go to work to earn some needed money. I had found two dollars in silver money in the ashes where he had been clearing, but two dollars does not last long. Every one in Jacob City was short on funds or out of funds, and there was no work or chance to earn money. These innocent Germans who had planned on selling their valuable hickory wood had nothing to sell. How they wished they were back in Detroit. But they had no money to take them back. At this time, the most critical period in those early days, old John Becker, spoken of in chapter two, proved to be the Captain John Smith to save the colony. Being supervisor of Brevort Township and deeply interested in this colonization scheme he planned to create work. In modern New Deal style he persuaded the other supervisors to build a three story poor house, south of Jacob City, one and one half miles back in the woods. This act gave every settler two or three months work. He must have feared that the new settlers would go back to Detroit if they were paid in cash, because I remember that my father had to go to St. Ignace to the then Mackinaw Lumber Co. store to take his pay in groceries.
I remember how everyone went to this old man when they were in trouble and wanted advice; and how they used to cuss him when things went wrong. His name is engraved in the court house in St. Ignace, which also was built the year he was supervisor. Before this, the county seat was at Mackinac Island.
Why this poor house was built one and one half miles back from the railroad is a mystery. My idea is that old John Becker convinced the Board of Supervisors that Jacob City would soon rival St. Ignace.
Only sick and helpless persons were admitted to the poor house; the doctor came from St. Ignace by train and walked the one and one half miles through the woods. After making his call he walked back to the railroad where he was picked up by the section crew and carried back to St. Ignace on the hand car. It usually took all day to make a call.
The following winter my father and other colonists got employment cutting four foot beech and maple wood. Equipped with a four foot saw and a pell axe my father sallied forth every morning to cut down trees, and saw them into cord wood. Whenever my mother had spare time she would help him at his work. He had no sledge or iron wedges. So every night after supper by lamp light he hewed an arm full of wooden wedges for the next day's work. It was the first job he had ever had where there was not a boss to praise or criticize his work. He received a dollar a cord for cutting this wood and he put up about 3/4 of a cord a day.
After New Years he began hewing logs for the new house. These were made from poplar trees. The nearest suitable trees were utilized for this purpose. He felled trees on both sides of the track. I used to go out some times to watch him fell them. He would tramp a path in the deep snow and chop away at the tree while it began to crack. Then he would run down the beaten trail like a frightened rabbit and wait for the tree to fall. But a tree hardly ever falls after the first crack. Then he made his way back slowly and cautiously, and chopped away till it cracked again, he he raced down the path as before. This performance he repeated till the tree finally fell. His trees usually fell the wrong way from which he expected them to fall. Some o these trees were so close to the track that one fell across the telegraph wire and broke it down. Another time one fell across the railroad track just as the passenger train came along. But the conductor did not get excited and scold. He simply got out his axe and cut the tree out of the way. Those days every train carried axes to clear the track from trees that had accidentally fallen across during a storm. In the spring before the snow went off my father hired Mr. Frank Yott, a homesteader, who had the only horse near Jacob City outside of the team that hauled out the four foot wood mentioned, to haul out his hewed logs.
After the snow was gone my father and three other men fitted these logs in place, one man working at each corner. After the roof was finished my father got acquainted with some German business men in St. Ignace and through them he got some work at his trade as mason. He boarded at St. Ignace and came home every Saturday night. One Saturday he came home with a crate of eight brown Leghorn hens and a rooster. These were the most wonderful laying hens that ever came to my observation. These eight hens laid 8 eggs a day. Once in awhile one would miss and sometimes two would miss laying for a day. This they kept up till fall when they began to moult. These hens did more than their duty in supplying my parents and their children with eggs.
Later my father got a job working on the section. The section house was two miles from where we lived, and this distance he walked to his daily toil. After supper he worked at the new house until ten o'clock at night, while I carried the lantern to light up his work. Before the next winter set in we were comfortably housed in our new home-the first home my father ever owned. The building was 30 feet long and 20 feet wide. The front half was our front room except a six foot hall that led to the back half which consisted of a kitchen and bedrooms. Besides this we had all the upstairs for bedrooms. A root cellar connected the kitchen at the back end of the house. Our front room was converted into a school room while the school house was being built.
During the summer my father was building our new home and the following year so many new colonists arrived and new homes sprang up like mushrooms over night. Many Polish settlers came direct from Germany. For a short time the abandoned building that had been used as a cook camp by the railroad construction crew, housed seven families who had come direct from Germany.
I always wondered how these people in far-away Germany learned about Jacob City. There was only one man that I knew of who was still alive that could answer this question.
In answer to my letter this man wrote as follows, under date of February 15, 1935 from Richmond, Michigan, where he had settled down after living in Moran until three years ago.
|Dear Friend William:
We came to Moran direct from Germany, but we did not come through advertising by the German Land Co. My brother-in-law, John Marshall with his wife came to this country in 1880. They landed in New York state near Buffalo. From there he went to Cheboygan, Michigan. Soon after my father sold his farm in Germany and planned to go to Cheboygan. But shortly before we were ready to go, we received a letter from my brother-in-law saying that he was moving to a new place called Moran, where they were starting to build a new German city. We got there June 7 1882, and we thought the mosquitoes would eat us up. My brother Louis and Charles were crying like babies. Charles said, if I only had $100 I would take the next train back to Germany. We lived is a railroad log house next to where you were living. Seven families of us lived there for three days. Then my father bought the house where Frank Becker is living now, from Richard Fisher and four families of us bought 160 acres of heavy standing hardwood timber land between Moran and Allenville for $2500.
From your friend,
Mr. Litzner is mistaken in his date. It should be 1883. He is also mistaken in calling the place Moran at that time. The records show that the name Jacob City was changed July 14, 1883 or after he came to this place. These people who came here to help build a German City had other peculiar notions. One old German who came here built a house back of our place. The ceiling of his house was not over six feet from the floor. He built a kind of fire-place that he used for cooking and baking. When he was ready to cook or bake he would remove the fire and ashes, insert the cooking kettle or pan of dough and close the opening with a metal plate. The heat from the surrounding hot stones would do the rest.
The early history of Moran is so interwoven with the early history of Allenville, that it is next to impossible to speak of one without mentioning the other. In fact, it is doubtful if Moran could have lived through the first two or three years of its existence without the aid of Allenville. Moran joins Allenville on the east side. The railroad stations of the two places are 3/4 of a mile apart. Moran was timbered with soft wood, practically worthless at that time. Allenville was timbered with hardwood. This timber was owned by the Martel Furnace Co. They operated a number of Charcoal kilns located on what is now the William Pecta farm. The timber was cut into four foot wood and converted into charcoal in these kilns. This gave employment to many men. While there was very little employment in Moran, there was always a large number of men employed at Allenville.
After the timber was removed the land was cleared and planted to potatoes, rutabagas and small grains. Men and women from Moran hired out to plant, hoe and harvest potatoes in Allenville. The charcoal was shipped to the Martel Furnace at St. Ignace and used in smelting iron ore. The iron ore was shipped from Marquette over the then Detroit Mackinaw and Marquette Railroad, which later (about 1892) became the D.S.S. & A.R.R.
About 90% of the railroad business at that time was the carrying of iron ore. I can see them yet, train load after train load of iron in dinky cars with the little red caboose at the end. From an elevated side track crossing Main Street in St. Ignace and running out into the bay where the lower part of the iron ore dock still exists, this iron ore was loaded on vessels.
The furnace at St. Ignace burned down and iron ore shipping business came to an end about the same time the Railroad changed hands.
One Sunday morning after my father had the roof finished on our new home, and we were still living in our temporary home, a man came to our door and wanted to know if my father would work for him.
Whenever my father did not understand what was said, he would turn to me and ask, "Was hat der mann gesagt?" Dyer was the man's name. I told my father what Dyer had said. He told me to tell him he had a job at St. Ignace at present doing mason work. Dyer next wanted to know if my father would mind parting with me. He argued that my father had more children than he could properly take care of, while he had none, and that he could give me a good education.
When my father declined, Dyer wanted to know if I could work for him for awhile at fifty cents a day. To this my father consented.
Next day nearly all the men and about half the women of Moran and myself found the place where Dyer put us all to work.
A Big part of this crew had just come from Germany and couldn't talk or understand a word of English. Naturally, then I became interpreter for the boss and crew. The work before us was potato planting. On freshly cleared ground among the stumps, 15 men with hoes lined up in a row began digging holes. These were followed by boys older than myself who dropped the potatoes in the holes, followed by women who covered them up.
Ahead of the planting were men with teams harrowing the ground. And ahead of these were men burning brush and old logs. When the job was done we had eleven days pay coming. The men got $1.50 a day. I drew $4.50 in cash and for the other dollar I took a bushel of green peas. The money I gave to my mother and the peas we used partly for pea soup and the rest we fed to our eight hens and rooster.
After the first week in July wild raspberries began to ripen. At first we picked for our own use, then we found sale for small quantities in Allenville. Every dime that my brother Frank and I took in we turned over to our mother, who could make a dime or a dollar go farther than anyone I ever knew.
She took advantage of every opportunity that presented itself--opportunities that others ignored. One afternoon in September she picked up a grain bag and paring knife and bade us to follow her. She led us to a field in Allenville where wheat had been harvested. Hanging the bag on a stump she began picking up the stray stocks of wheat that were left in the field. She showed us how to gather these in hand as one would gather a bouquet of flowers. When she had a handful she sent to the bag, cut the straw below with the paring knife and chucked the handful of wheat heads into the bag. This we kept up till we had the bag crammed full of wheat heads. After tying the bag she swung it to the top of her head and with hands dangling at her side she carried the load home. Next came the threshing. This she accomplished by taking a little at a time in another bag and pounding it with a club. Then to separate the chaff she put a little at a time in a shallow pan with which she tossed the grain up in such a way that the breeze carried off the chaff and the wheat fell back into the pan.
After the wheat was threshed and cleaned my mother roasted part of it for coffee and the rest went to our small flock of chickens.
All grains then were cut with a cradle, raked with a hand rake and bound with a straw band.
Planting, cultivating and harvesting were done between stumps.
Hay was cut with a scythe and raked with hand rakes.
I have already described the new home my father built, and that the front room was used as a school. The teacher was also the Lutheran minister. Our front room then served as a school room on week days and as a church on Sundays. The young minister and school teacher organized what they called, "Der Deutsche Evangelische Gesang Verein." This singing society would meet at Conrad Orth's Hall, which was the upstairs of his home. Mr. Orth was the president of the German Land Co. According to the city plot his home was located on Main Street in the next block west of our home.
The front half of the building was used as a general store, the back half for living quarters. The building was 40 feet long and 30 feet wide.
At these meetings my father was one of the leading actors. He would recite and sing such songs as, "Aber Sand in die Augen," and "Ein Geder Weis wo ihm der Schun druckt."
In dialogues he would drill me to take part with him. Heedless to say, these meetings were greatly enjoyed by all present.
My father continues working on the section; and from this steady income after paying for the house he invested fifty dollars for an old cow.
This cow, while old, gave an abundance of good rich milk and continued doing so until her heifer calves had matured into cows.
Up to this time we never had anything better than lard to spread on our bread.
Now we had plenty of milk and butter and cottage cheese and sour milk. We had no pasture, but we overcame this difficulty by herding the cow along the railroad track with a rope, or by cutting grass with a sickle and carrying it to her in a bag. For her first winter's feed my father bought an acre of clover in Allenville for eleven dollars; and after working hours on the section-then hired a team to haul it home.
When the raspberry season opened, there were raspberries growing everywhere in Moran. Wherever the timber had been cut down raspberries were growing between the brush and logs. We now found sale for all the raspberries we could pick. The baggage man on the passenger train offered us one dollar for a 12 quart pail of berries. We took full advantage of this opportunity by adding two sisters to our picking crew. My mother also spent all her spare time at the job. We picked as high as four pails a day--four dollars a day earned by us youngsters besides what my father was earning.
Along about this time Moran was so thickly populated there was not enough work or opportunity to make a living for all. Those who were unfortunate in getting work abandoned their new homes and moved back to the city. The conductor on the train when calling off the station would call out "Allenville" instead of Moran.
The first school in Brevort Township was located on the present site of August Kaminsky's store in Allenville. The building was roughly built of round hardwood logs about 18 feet long and 14 feet wide. There was no wood shed, no toilets. The quality of the teacher was in true harmony with the building. What ever nature had intended him for it certainly wasn't for a teacher. When this teacher put me to work I was just nicely started in the second reader. I had never before seen the inside of a geography.
This teacher assigned me a lesson in the middle of the small geography. I read the questions Bound Illinois; What is the capital of Michigan? etc.; I read the questions over and over; then I looked at the maps which I thought were the funniest pictures I had ever seen. I couldn't make head or tail of the thing. When he asked me to bound Illinois I didn't know what he was talking about. All I could do was to stare at him in bewilderment. Then he told me he would hear me after school. After school I didn't know any more than I did before. Then he switched my legs and told me I could go. This performance was repeated day after day. I was too dumb to tell him I didn't know how to study geography and he was too dumb to notice it.
One day he had it out with a pupil by the name of Mary Yott. She was a girl 15 or 16 years old and full grown. I don't know what it startled over. All I remember was that he was pounding her back till the switch was all broken up. Then he started with a pile of kindling that was under the stove, intended for starting next morning fire. He pounded her back with this till the last piece was broken up.
She offered no resistance, but told him she would tell her father. Sure enough the next day Mr. Yott made school a visit. He had a very earnest talk with the teacher who acted very tame. I suppose he noticed the revolver sticking out of Mr. Yott's hip pocket.
On the last day before the Christmas vacation this teacher brought a basket full of nice red apples to school. Whether he wanted to make up for his sins and omissions, I don't know, but he gave each one of us one of these red apples. They were the first apples my brother Frank and I had since we left Detroit. While we were eating them the thought came to me; why not plant the seed and raise our own apples?
Frank readily consented to let me have the seeds of his apple. These with my own I planted the following spring.
Eleven years later the trees from the seeds began to bear. That was the last we saw of that teacher. When school opened again after the Christmas holidays we had a new teacher. She was a nice lady, but she advanced us from the second reader to the fourth, skipping the last part of the second and third reader entirely.
Our next school was in Moran. The building had been used as a saloon. The teacher was an old man. He kept a wash boiler on the stove, continuously boiling hemlock bark. It seems he was not a qualified teacher, and when he could not draw his pay he quit after six weeks service. Our next school was in the vacant railroad station. This must have been of short duration because I don't remember who the teacher was. The only incident I remember happened the first day when the teacher was taking down our names.
When she came to the name "Roggenbuck", Mary Yott tried to explain to the teacher what the name meant in English "Roggen" she said meant "rye" and "buck" well, she didn't know what that was in English. Evidently she could not make out whether the name meant a cereal or an animal or both.
The next school was in our home of which I have already spoken. During this time the new schoolhouse was being built. John Roggenbuck had the contract for building this two story structure. His bid was $648, while the next lowest bid was $640.
The upstairs was used for Catholic church services whole the Lutherans used the school room below.
The outstanding figure of those German dreamers, who came to the wilderness here to build a German City was Emil Koch. Emil was already an old man when he came here with his wife. He built his house and lot which according to the city plot was located on Charles Street and Jefferson Avenue. He had the sign boards indicating Jefferson Avenue and Charles Street on the corner of his house the same as was the fashion in Detroit at that time.
Jefferson Avenue was never opened up, and Charles Street, at that time was a wagon trail zigzagging between the stumps from the vacant railroad station to the poor house. One half of his house was occupied by the minister and his wife. The other half consisted of a living room and bedroom. The front end of the living room, near the window, was used by Emil Koch as a work room. There he had his work bench. In the back part of the room was the cook stove. A table and two or three chairs occupied a place between.
In this shop he did such work as building a pulpit for the preacher, and benches for the school. Here, also, he made the wooden horses and parts of the merry-go-round and fountain for his amusement park where children could play and grown ups meet on Sunday afternoons.
Without public funds or outside help, Emil Koch, set to work and built a merry-go-round and fountain. After two or three months of labor everything was ready.
There was a big crowd the first Sunday. Children rode on the wooden horses and men pushed the thing around, while the fountain was shooting up a tiny stream of water. This water had been carried upstairs by Emil Koch and filled in a barrel that was connected with pipe line to he fountain. Thirty-five cents were the gross receipts of that first Sunday, and twenty cents were the receipts of the following Sunday. After that people lost interest in the thing. In Allenville they called Emil Koch, the flying Dutchman.
When he learned that people were not interested in things that cost him so much labor, Emil Koch took less interest in men and more interest in bugs and bees and butterflies and plants. He had a glass covered case containing specimens of all kinds of bugs and butterflies. He and a two acre garden in which he planted all the rare plants he cold get hold of.
This garden was enclosed with a fence six feet high, made of cedar saplings woven over three rails. Along the roadside of the garden he planted locust trees; three of these are still in existence in front of Frank Becker's garage.
He was a good natured soul always in good humor and never complaining.
He got more joy out of life than most men, because he lived close to nature and always found something to interest and amuse him.
One Sunday evening word went around that Emil Koch had gone out that morning and had not returned.
Next morning some Indians from Pt. Aux Chene brought the news that they had found him dead in the woods, 7 miles from his home.
His rupture had come out while trying to dig up a shrub or tree to plant in his garden.
He was buried in a coffin he had made long before he needed it. His wife lived a year or two longer and was buried in a coffin he had made for her.
No one knew what to do with the 16 hives of bees; so they were destroyed. No one had any use for his glass covered case of bugs and butterflies; so that went on the junk pile.
Today no trace is left of Emil Koch's home or the other two houses that were next to his and facing on Jefferson Avenue. At present the new home of John Winters is located where once was the amusement park.
The south end of Koch's garden is occupied by Frank Becker's garage. On the west side is the Catholic church, and on the north side is the consolidated High School.
The north end of the garden is used as parking place for the cars of the church goers.
So I bring to an end my Moran memoirs.
Today, Moran is a small village. Probably it will never outgrow that status. Its early history repeats in many essential respects the formative period of the most settlements in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Its historical importance lies in the fact that it is typical. I know of no similar settlement in the Upper Peninsula whose history has been preserved in print. The trials and tribulations, joys and sorrows, failures and achievements of those colonists make up the real history of the country. Their hardihood, their perseverance, their courage and industry ought to serve as models for us, their successors.
No country can perish so long as its people remain true to the traditions created by such predecessors. Democratic government can succeed only when practiced by intelligent, thrifty, industrious, moral citizens. Only those can govern a nation who can govern themselves.
Conrad Orth was a native of Germany. He immigrated to Detroit where he kept a boarding house and saloon. He opened a general supply store in Moran and owned a farm. He later moved to St. Ignace in 1882 where he was proprietor of the Central Hotel. He was married twice and had seven children. (St. Ignace & Mackinac County, 1895)
Frank J. Luepnitz: Headstone in Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Moran Michigan shows date of birth as 1879. Date of death is shown as 1952. Married Anna Schlehuber in 1906.
Philip Soeltner was born in Germany in 1843.
Philip Soeltner's wife was Anna Kruger.
Charles Becker: Real name was Carl Michael Becker. Born 25 June 1853 in Oberhessenbach Bavaria, Germany. Married Regina Buetner and had 10 children. Also married Caroline W. Gaberrial. Died 25 September, 1943. Buried in St. Ignatius Cemetery in St. Ignace, Michigan.
William Luepnitz Sr.: Born 1846, died 1934. Married Louise Schmidt. Buried in Moran Township Cemetery.
According to Fred Litzner, John Becker was a cousin to Carl Michael Becker.
Frank Becker was the son of Carl Michael Becker, born 12 September 1882, died 27 October 1957.
The assets of the Martel Furnace Company at Ozark, which consisted of a General Store, Boarding House, and other dwellings, were acquired in 1894 by James A. Hough and a partner. (St. Ignace & Mackinac County, 1895)
William Pechta, youngest son of Adam Pechta who immigrated from Germany to Allenville in 1872. Adam Pechta was born on October 15, 1842 in Janoshkow, East Prussia, Germany, the eldest of 8 children. Other children were William, Charles, Mike, Minnie, and Caroline, all born in Germany, and Bertha who was born in Cheboygan. Adam married Caroline Starosta in 1872. Their children were Bertha, Henrietta, Johon, Augusta, Minnie, Charlie, Emil, and William. Two other children died in infancy.
For comments or suggestions on this site, please contact