Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Ghost Stories

I will be giving a talk on local ghost stories, at the Michigan Ave. branch of the Ypsilanti District Library, on Thursday, October 20, 2005, at 7:00 P. M.. Now all I need to do, is find enough local ghost stories to fill a 45 minute talk. I know about a few places that are said to be hunted, such as the Cross Street Firehouse, but I am going to need more. I have wanted to research local ghost stories for some time, and now a have a reason to do so. Do you know about a place in Ypsilanti that is said to be hunted? Care to share the story with me? Please tell me.

Monday, June 27, 2005

Body of Infant found in gravel pit, unburied

This sad story was published by the Ypsilanti Daily Press on Thursday, June 26, 1930.

A prematurely born baby was found dead in a gravel pit about four miles southeast of Ypsilanti Wednesday afternoon at 4:30 p. m. The body was discovered in a small pool of water in a pit on the Ford property by two workmen, Ben Rats and R. L. Bennett.

The two men, Ford employees, were working with tractors in an adjoining field, when Rats stopped at the end near the pit. Supplies for the tractor had been placed on the bank and while there Rats noticed a number of rags a few feet below him which at first he thought were wiping cloths from the trators which had been thrown away. Looking closer he noticed flies on the cloths. This excited his couriosity and he called the fact to Bennett's attentioin when he returned from his next round.

Upon looking further, from their position on the bank, the two men saw the body of a baby floating face downward in one of the pools of water several feet away. Apparently no attempt had been made to cover the body.

Chief of Police Ralph Southard responded to a call from the workmen and summoned Deputy Sheriff James Dunstan of Ann Arbor to work on the case.

Corner Edwin Ganghorn was called to the scene later and he ordered the body taken to the University of Michigan Hospital.

The chief clue to the finding of those responsible is a number of footprints made in the hard surface of the gravel pit. The rains had packed the bottem of the pit hard, and in this a man's footprints are plainly visible. The size of the footprint indicates about a number eight shoe.

The baby, prematurely born, is believed to be developed about seven months. Indications are that the body had not been there more than a day. However, with recent rains and hot weather the time element is difficult to determine exactly. The body had been in water apparently all of the time and had become distorted and swollen.

The gravel pit is located on the Ford property along the Huron River and within a short distance of the proposed dam site, about four miles southseast of Ypsilanti on the River Road. Gravel from the pit had been used for roads abd other work and a large quantity had been taken out as part of the gravel was of inferior quality, this poor material had been left in piles. Between these piles water had collected from recent rains, and the body lay in one of the small pools.

Questioning physicians has so far failed to reveal information as to the possible parentage of the child. If the mother is a local woman, her weakened condition should lead to discovery of her identity. There is possibility that the body might have been brought to the abandoned gravel pit from a distance, but no automobile tracks leading to the place were visible.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

A Grave for a $1.25

What is now Prospect Park was originally the city cemetery. The cemetery, known as the East Side Cemetery, was founded in the early 1840's, and remained in use into the early 1890's. The Common Council of the Village of Ypsilanti, passed an ordinance on December 28, 1843, regulating the management of the cemetery.

Under the ordinance, new graves were to be dug by the sexton for $1.25, which included the superintendence of the burial. A person attempting a burial without notifying the sexton was fined $10, but for 50 cents, a person, with the permission of the sexton, could dig their own grave.

The graves were removed from the East Side Cenetery in the early 1890's, when the site was turned into Prospect Park. The bodies were removed to Highland, and corn was planted on the site for two years to prepare the soil. Well. the city said all of the bodies were removed, but there is a rumor that 14 of the bodies still are buried in Prospect Park.

Farmer's Market

I stopped by the Ypsilanti Farmer's Market on Wednesday for a few minutes, and enjoyed my brief visit. There were venders with nice things to eat, and cute plant holders that have to been seen to enjoyed. There was music, coffee and donuts, so everyone enjoyed healty eating. There was, by the way, a display of healty eating at the market. The market could use a few more venders, and more items to purchase.

I was pleased to learn that someday the bean under the freighthouse is to be replaced, and the walls braced, but still, I am concerned about the future of the market. As much as I enjoy the market, and look back at the many pleasent hours I have spent there, I am worried. We can not return to the good old days of the market. The market must change with the times, and become a self-supporting concern. The city can, and will not fund the market any longer, so the Friends of the Freighthouse will have to come up with a plan for the freighthouse to pay for itself.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Fire! Narrow Escape of the Woolen Mill

This story is from The Ypsilantian of Thursday, June 21, 1888.

The new fire bell sounded its first alarm yesterday afternoon; when dense volumes of inky smoke were seen rising over the woolen mill and knitting factory of Hay & Todd. The fire proved to be in the picking house, a small building containing a picking machine and a quatitl of wool. That was entirely destroyed before the engine arrived. The fire which attacked the adjacent windows of the main building had been fought back by the mill hands with buckets, and no fire was inside the mill; but before the engine was got to work the flames had eaten through the cornice at the eaves, and soon gained access tothe attic, to reach which the hose had to be taken up through the building. Considerable delay ensured before this was accomplished, and it looked for a time as though the whole building would be on fire. The enemy was finally reached, however, and subdued with comparatively small damage to the main building from the fire; but the floors and machines were drenched with water, and the stock by hasty removal

Tje total damage will foot up about $5,000, with insurance suffcient to cover all loss.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Denny Corbeil Killed by Grand Rapis's Express

This story is from The Ypsilanti Sentinal-Commercial of June 18, 1903.

"Denny" Corbeil, who was known to nearly everone in Ypsilanti, was killed Friday just this side of the Peninsular paper mill, by the Grand Rapid's express.

His mind has always been slightly unbalanced, but lately he had shown alarming symptoms. He worked at the Dewey cafe until a short time ago, when he began to sell candy on the street, having a table on the sidewalk near the waiting rooms, and a large sign tied to it entitled "The Ypsilanti Candy Works." Thursday he acted moore peculiur than usual and Mrs. Corbiel asked the nightwatch to see that he came to no harm.

He esceped somehow during the night and it is thought went to Ann Arbor as he was seen leaving there and walking this way. The train crew say he was trying to walk the track and paid no attention when they whistled. He was thrown a considerable distance. The body was picked up and taken to the baggage room, and was from there removed to Jay Moore's undertaking rooms. There were several bad gashes on the head and his facee was badly disfigured.

His parents reside in Lake Linden and he has no famlily. He was of a roaming character.

Coroner Watts at once empaneled a jury and after viewing the remains they adjourned until next Wednesday.

It is said, that he was a member of the Modern Woodmen of American.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Crosses In The Water Tower

There is a cross set in the stone work above the west enterence of the Water Tower on Cross Street. This is the most clearly visible of the two or three crosses set in the stone work of the tower. Accoording to local folklore,the crosses mark the places where workers died during the construction of the tower. The story, however, is not true, as none of the workers died during its construction. The workers, it seems, were more accustomed to building churches, and the set the crosses in place for good luck. It must ahve worked, as all of the workers lived to finish the job, and the tower is still in use today.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Union-Udell Cemetery

I was moved by the posting on the Ypsidixit blog, aobut the visit of her and her friend to the Uniion Udell Cemetery. I was sadden by the site of the headstone for the three childern of James and Mary Sherman, who died in such a short span of time. I decided to do a little research, and stopped by the Ypsilanti City Archives to pull the obit card for James H. Sherman. From the card I foound the following:

James H. Sherman married Mary Wright on MAy 4, 1867.
Willie d. 8-26-1878 age 9y, 3m, 7 d
Ebir d 8-21-1878 age 1m 4d
Bertha d 9-1-1878

The childern died of dipthira.

Wives of James H. Sherman

Mary J. d 8-5-1859 age 24y 17d.
Caroline R. d 9-3-1853 age 17y 9m 18d
Elzabeth A. d 1-3-1865 age 27y 9m.

My guess is, he was married at least four times, and perhaps the last one out lived him.

James H. Sherman is buried in Union-Udell Cemetery, but he is alone in his grave.

Save the Water Treatment Plant

time may be running out to save the Water Treatment Plant on Bridge Road, as the Ypsilanti Township Board may vote this Tuesday on its future. It is likely the majority of the board will vote to demolish the building. I personally think this is a wast as the building is in good condition and could be put to some good use.

To expresss your opinion on the issue, you can email Township Supurvisor Ruth Ann Jamnick, at She will pass on your emails to the other members of the board.

The meeting Tuesday is open to the public and you will have time to speak to the board on the issue. See the township web site for meeting information at

We can save this landmark, but only if we act now.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Shocking Casualty

This story is from The Ypsilantian of Thursday, June 12, 1890.

One of the most distreesing tragedies that has occured here in many years, transpired at the M. C. depot in this city yesterday morning. Charles Lappeus, who has served as conductor of the switch engine at this station for the past five or six years, while engaged in coupling cars in the yard about half past 8 o'clock in some manner fell under the wheels and was so crushed that he died soon afterward. Just how it occurred is not known. They were having considerable difficulty with cupling, and he was assisted the the switchman. There had been considerable starting and backing, and the engineer did not think he moved the engine so much as a foot, when the accident occurred, but the slack in the train must have increased the movement, and the wheels passed over the unforunate man's body below the waist. He was conscious of his situation when extricated, and asked for a doctor, but expired in about an hour.

The family so rudly bereft, consists of Mrs. Lappeus and four young childern. They live on Oak street, a few doors west of Prospect. The blow which falls upon them with such cruel weight and suddenness, calls for the tender the helpful sympathy which this community is always ready to extend--and peculiarly so because Mrs. Lappeus is crippled, and only able to move about on crutches.

News Item

This is from the Ypsilantian of June 12, 1890.

A man in Pittsburgh accidentally killed his wife with a Flohert rifle, the other day, and the incident suggests the liability to such results from the common use of those weapons by boys, in destroying sparrows. One of their bullets whizzed past our head the other day, and we should have strongly resented it if it had hit us.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Accidnets Nearly Fatal

This is from the Ypsilanti Commercial of June 11, 1870.

Last Saturday s a young lady and gentiman of this City were on the River between the Woolen Mills and the Paper Factory boat riding for pleasure and to gather specimens, the lady, in attempting to reach a lilly, tipped the boat so far over as to fall into the water, which was not far from twelve feet deep, and must have drowned had it not have been that the gentilman with her, being an expert in the art swimming, even so much so as to be almost swan like, rescued her from the water without harm to either of them. We could give the names of the parties, but think it Wright, perhaps in this case not to do so, but have another case of a still more serious character. As Mr. Fletcher Moore of Saline and Miss Kanouse, of York, were returning from this city to the home of the young lady, on the evening of the same day, and when only about a quarter of a mile from her home, and in a deep ravine which the highway crosses, a sharp flash of lighting came so near and with such force as to completely blind them, meanwhile the horse stumbled off the bridge at a hight of ten to twelve feet, thereby throwing Mr. Moore over a substantial rail fence of more than ordinary hight, and in stricking on the ground received a severe wound on the head, while Miss Kanouse fell off the bridge to the ground but was not seriously hurt--After a few minutes they walked to her home. The carriage was badly broken up and the horse, a valuable animal, killed.

Ypsilanti Township Board

Strange, but when I went to the Ypsilanti Township web site, to find contact information on the members of the board, I found no email addresses for them. You can write the members of the board at Charter Townshhip of Ypsilanti, 7200 South Huron River Drive, Ypsilanti, MI 48197. You would think there would be an address for voters to reach them at. By the way, the township website is at

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Tour of the Bridge Road Water Treatment Plant

I consider my self lucky to have my name added to tose invited to take a tour of the Bridge Road Water Treatment Plant on Bridge Road, between Grove and Textile. The purpose of the tour was to give the Township Board a chance to see the building before deciding its future. There are those who wish to see the building demolished , and the land opened to development. Then there are those who wish to see the building renovated and put to some good use.

Entering the buuilding one sees the paint peeling from the doors and the thick layer of dust that covers everythiing. Broken glass litters the floor where vandals have smashed the windows. Shelves still hold the parts needed to maintain theplant. The parts are still there, because when the plant was closed in 1994, the workers locked the doors behind them and left everything in its place. There was a lively discussion of what the Township could get by selling the items, made of cast iron. The building is structurally sound, and there is no danger of the walls falling in any time soon. When this building was built, about 1940, it was built to last.

Behind the building is the water storage space, now empty, except for the occasional moouse, or other rodent. Past this are the two large blue storage tanks, but between these and the water storage space is another tank, this one underground, with a one million gallon capacity. There are also the smaller buildings on the grounds, the well buildings and the filter building. These to ar structurally sound and ready to be put to some good use.

The Water Treatment Plant building, I believe should be saved, renovated an dput to some good use that will benifit the community. I think it is in the perfect spot for a restaurant, or apartments. The community should be made aware of this resource in their midst, and rallied to the cause. Write a letter or email to the members of the Board of Trustees to say you want this building saved. There is still time to act.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

David Gillespie was found dead in his room

The following story is from the Ypsilanti Sentinal-Commercial of June 11, 1903.

David Gillespie was found dead Saturday morning in the old Masonic block, on E. Cross street, where he had lived alone.

Gillespie was a widower, and had been working in the Peninsular paper mill. Mabel Hauser has been taking care of his room and cooking his meals for him, but Saturday she failed to call him until after 8 o'clock. Receiving no reply to her call, she entered the room and found him lying on the bed, completly dressed and his eyes partially opened. Frightened because he failed to respond, she summoned help and the police were notitied. The body was removed to the undertaking rooms, and the relatives notified. When searched, it was found that he had over $125 on his person.

When seen last night by his friends Gillespie was in the best of spirits and in good health. Before leaving one of the his friends Friday might he bid him good bye, a thing that was noticed at the time to be unusual.

Gillespie has a family of grown up childern, but has refused to have anything to do with them for many years. His daughter, Mrs. Walmore, lives in this city, and his son, E. O. Gillespie, is a senior dental student in Ann Arbor. A second daughter, Miss Retta Gillespie, has just returned from Trout Creek, in the upper peninsula, where she has been teaching school.

An inquest will be held Friday.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Royal Visit

Just north of Cross and River, just past the Depot, and across the tracks from the Freighthouse, where the parking lot is now, is where the once internationally known Michigan Central Gardens where planted. Every year the gardener, John Laidlaw, from 1891 until he retired in 1900, planted flowers in incredible patterns. The gardens were cotinued long after he retired, and was the scene of at least one touching event.

In about 1905 the Prince and Princes of Hohenlohe of Germany were touring the United States, and a stop at Ypsilanti was arranged. Once their special car had stopped near the Depot, the Prince and Princes stepped out, and the Princes was presented with a magnificent bouquet of flowers from the garden. The Prince and Princes were touched, and, in the words of tourists everywhere, asked where they were.

"Ypsilanti," answered the station agent.

"Ypsilanti!" repeated the Prince, who asked that the train be held five minutes. Then he and the Princes hurried to the Depot to purchase a great number of postcards and addressed the cards to family in Europe. They then asked that the postmark be clearly stamped on the cards.

"You Americans do things so gracefully, and with such fine regard for the fitness of the occasion," said the Prince, as he boarded the train. "Before our marrage, Princes Hohenlohe was the Princes Ypsilanti of Greece, and your agent's knowledge of this fact and the clever manner in which he took advantage of the opportunity touches us deeply."

The blushing agent stammered a reply, not having the courage to tell the Prince no one present had known his wife had been the Princes Ypsilanti.

North Hydro Park

I turned my car onto the unpaved road just north of the Water Treatment Plant on Bridge Road, and followed it down the hill to the parking area behind the plant. Here I found a open flat peninsula formed by the curve of the Huron River. Along the river I found a few people fishing, camping, and enjoying the warm Sunday morning. I kept away from everyone, as I had no widh to intrude on their lives.

I walked by the fence that surrounds the plant and studied the buildings on the grounds as best I could. The grounds appear well maintained, the grass is cut and the fence cared for. The buildings on the grounds look to be in good condition, and most likeley could be renovated and put to some profitable use; perhaps as a restaurant or brew pup, or maybe as apartments. Better, I think to renovate the standing structures then demolish them to put in some development that would require the Township to spend a sumof money on sewer, water, and widening the road.

I then walked back up the hill along the fence to Bridge Road, past the power house and found the enterence to South Hydro Park. I walked down a steep path onto the open space across the river from the plant.

Again I followed the river and saw a boater slowly cursing past. Walking by the river I enjoyed watching the flow of the water and stopped to look down. Almost at my feet I saw a muskrat swimming right to where I was standing, its long naked tail streching out behind it. Knowing muskrats can be vicious, I moved quickly away. At the same time I felt thrilled, as I had never been so close to a muskrat before.

I turned to make my way back, and found the open field of the park covered with the globular heads of dandelion seeds, so thick, the field looked to be covered by a light snow fall.

I made my way back to my car, and set off. I know, however, I shall be back, perhaps with a special friend, to enjoy the peace and calm of the park and river.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

A Beast and Two Brutes

This story was published by the The Ypsilantian of Thursday, June 7, 1888.

A few days ago a certain man from the country drove to town with a load of wood. After getting rid of his load he hitched his horses on Huron street in such a position that when it began raining in the morning soon after, the water from the eaves ran down constantly on the horses. A young man's attention was attracted to it, before noon and again late in the afternoon found the team had not been removed, and what was still more surprising on passing by at half past 10 in the evening, found the team still waiting in the same place. The nightwatch was notified, and while waiting for the clock to strike eleven so he could remove the horses, went down to one of the saloons and found the animal that belonged to the team, who came and let his faithful horses draw him home.

Sneak Burglary

This story is from The Ypsilantian of Thursday, June 7, 1888

Thieves removed a pane of glass from the rear door of Roger's book store, Sunday night and crawled in and rifled the money drawer, getting eight or ten dollars. They crawled out and carefully replaced the pane. The job was undoubtely executed by local thieves.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Immense Dam Considered

Back in 1905 the Michigan Central Railroad considered the constructiion of an immense dam across the Huron River, at a place called Hudson, north of Dexter. This dam would have doubled the level of Portage Lake. It would affected the riveralong its length. The Michigan Central was considering the building of the dam to use the fall of the water as a source of power for its trains. The M.C.R.R. was thinking of turning all of its trains to electric power in place of steam. At this time the Michigan Central ran eight passenger trains daily, consuming twenty tons of coal each. The railroad was interested in finding a way to replace this fast diminishing product. The dam was never built, instead, Henry Ford built several dams along the Huron during the 1920's and 1930's to power his factories, including the one at Bridge Road.

It might be interesting to think about how the building of this immense dam at Hudson would have changed everything. Just think, the Michigan Central running its trains on hydo produced electric power instead of steam in the early 20th century. How would the Huron River, and perhaps how we live today, might have been changed if the dam had been built?

Candy Store in Depot Town

The next time you are in Depot Town and feel the need for a candy bar, I suggest you stop in at Gordon's Five & Dime at 23 East Cross Street, next to Quinn's Essential. The store just opened and the owners, Katherine and Shannon Gordon, are working to give the place the feel of the old fashion five and dime stories. The story has plenty of candy, and popcorn made on a popcorn maker from old Tiger Stdium. They also sell ice cream and toys. None of the toys, by the way, require batteries. A nice place to stop in and shop.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

News from the Past

The following stories are from the Ypsilanti Commercial of June 3, 1865.

Fest Day

Thursday, the 1st inst., was closely observed in this city in the spirit of the proclamations of the President and Governor. No business was done, and severcies were held at all the churches. We understand the sermons were all extremely good, and several have expressed a wish to see them in print. We would be happy to receive them for publication. The only thing that seemed to mar the holy quit of that day was the continual "click, click," of the billiard balls in some of the saloons that persisted in breaking and causing others to break our national sabbath. It seems to us these propriutors, above all others, should observe such a day, or show a decent respect for those who do by closing their groggeres.

Capt. Morgan

By a telegraph dispatch to Mr. George, we learn that Capt. Jas. T. Morgan, who left his studies at the Normal School to enter the 17th Infantry, and who commanded the company of the 30th now stationed at Wyandotte, died very suddenly at that place on Tuesday morning. The Captain got up, feeling quite well and had eaten his breakfast with apparent relish; but while yet sitting at the table, he laid his head on his wife's shoulder and quietly and instantly breathed his last. He was a young man, scarcely 25, but idolized by his company, and loved and respected by all who knew him. A post mortem examination was had but we have not heard the result. The funeral took place on Thursday.