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Dad – What question would you ask your great-grandfather?

20 Feb

My Dad shared, “I would ask Oren Stone why he started the Flint Woolen Mills and what brought him to Flint, Michigan?”

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Photo credit – From Headlight Flashes along the Grand Trunk Railway System – Flint Michigan

The following are answers I have recreated in the voice of Oren Stone (my great-great grandfather)…

“I was born in Sennett, in Cayuga County, New York in 1833. My father and his ancestors going back many generations had grown up in Massachusetts. New England was becoming crowded and many New Englanders moved either directly to Michigan or, like my family, to upstate New York and then on to Michigan. As a boy we lived near the Erie Canal.  It was easy for us to use the Erie Canal to move west to Oakland County Michigan when I was eleven years old, this was in 1844. As you may know, Michigan had just become a state in 1837.

“Later I moved around a bit, at about age 18 or so my parents helped me purchase a stock of goods and I set up a general store. I was also a local postmaster for a while. Eventually I settled in Flint in 1857 and set up a general store there. So that is how I got to Flint.

“Now about your other question about why I started the Flint Woolen Mill. Well, I was doing pretty well with my general store in Flint. Then the Civil War years created a strong demand of wool products. A lot of local farmers, including my uncle D. Hulbert Stone, started raising sheep, my uncle produced Merino wool. Well uncle Hulbert and other local farmers came to me and convinced me that they really needed a local woolen mill, since they were paying way to much to ship wool to the mills in New England.  So I found a few local partners and we started the Flint Woolen Mill in 1867.

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Photo credit – From Headlight Flashes along the Grand Trunk Railway System – Flint Michigan

“It started out as a small but very profitable business both for me and for our local farmers. In a few years I bought out my partners and became the sole proprietor. Later, I formed a life-long partnership with William Atwood.  We changed the name to Stone, Atwood & Company, but we were still known locally and later nationally as Flint Woolen Mills. We picked up and bought out other partners over time.

“The mill continued to grow and was known for quality wool products, cashmere, Neptunus, and suit making wool. I even added a specific Pantaloons wool product line.  Lots of local women worked in the mills and men worked as laborers.  We had a nationwide distribution system. For a while we experimented with trying a cotton mill, but that did not really work out.

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Photo credit – From Headlight Flashes along the Grand Trunk Railway System – Flint Michigan

“My son Dwight Stone, your grandfather, worked at Flint Mills for a while, but he seemed even more interested in our real estate and insurance business. So I am not sure whether the Flint Woolen Mills will stay in the family after I pass on.

“A couple of my other interests: I was active in a number of civic interests, it is important to give back to the community, and Flint has been good to our family. In 1888 I even served as the Mayor of Flint. I am very proud of restoring the Stone Opera House in Flint.  It has deservedly had a good reputation throughout Michigan.

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Photo credit – From Headlight Flashes along the Grand Trunk Railway System – Flint Michigan

“You may not know that I lost my first wife, your great-grandmother Susan C. Thompson. She died in 1870 when your grandfather Dwight was only 7. I remarried a wonderful woman Harriet Hayes Stewart. Her family members were very early settlers. Her parents arrived in Flint in 1833 and it is said that Harriet was one of the first white girls born in Flint.

“I hope this was helpful. Flint has been a great town for our family, I am proud to have played a key role in it development.


Author: Bruce SummersSummoose Tales, Personal Historian, also

Board Member, Regions and Chapters Chair, the Association of Personal Historians.

Additional Credits:

Annie Payne – my Association of Personal Historians colleague who inspired the question by her Blog on what she would ask her Great Grandfather.

Also:

Extract: From, Stone Flint Woolen Mills, Flint, MI (Stone, Atwood & Co.) https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/15a590279d7d6e53?projector=1

As strange as the name sounds, “Stone Flint Woolen Mills”, the enterprise was started by a man named Oren Stone who was talked into creating a local woolen mill to help local sheep farmers sell their wool at profitable prices. Shipping the wool to the large mills on the east coast was not a simple matter in the late 1800’s which made it costly for the farmers. Stone opened the mill and before long, teamed up with William Atwood to rename the concern Stone, Atwood & Co. Stone’s products included blankets, flannel, a product they called “cassimeres” which might mean cashmere, mittens, hosiery and towards the end of the run of the operation a high-end “water-proof” fabric for ladies tailored suits named “Neptunus”.

And:

Extract: From Flint Woolen Mill Records https://www.umflint.edu/archives/flint-woolen-mills-records-0:

Sheep raising was one of the earliest agricultural specializations in Genesee County. Due to the heightened demand for wool during the Civil War, prices increased dramatically. Farmers in the county complained of the unfair prices they were receiving for the commodity and induced Oren Stone (born July 24, 1833 in Auburn, N. Y., died April 20, 1897 in Flint), owner of a general store, to establish a woolen mill. In 1867 he began the Flint Woolen Mills, with stock in the company being held by a number of owners. By 1870 he was sole owner.

In 1876, having survived the economic troubles of the period, Stone added William A. Atwood (born April 11, 1835 in Newfane, N. Y., died April 11, 1908 in Flint) and, at least by 1879, Charles H. Bowker as minority partners. The company then was known as Stone, Atwood, and Company, although the physical operation continued to be called the Flint Woolen Mills. Atwood’s share ranged from 1/4 in 1879 to 5/13 in 1896. Bowker left the company in 1882 or 1883; J. N. Blake joined as a minority partner in 1885 to 1890 and Edwin W. Atwood, William’s son, from 1895.

Atwood was part owner at least until 1901. By 1905 David D. Aitken and John E. Shortle had become owners. The Flint Woolen Mills folded between 1910 and 1913.

SCOPE AND CONTENT

This collection complements the larger Flint Woolen Mills collection at the Michigan Historical Collection at the Bentley Historical Library. It consists of records documenting the financial and manufacturing aspects of the firm’s history. There is little or no material reflecting the personal lives or interests of the mill’s owners.

 

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He rode off on his great aunt’s prize horse to pursue the Johnny Rebels

18 Nov

The following are excerpts from a family letter dated January 12, 1928 recounting a story shared by my great-grandmother Mary Rogers Thomas Summers.

Charles G. Summers, president 1865-1923

My (great-great grandfather), Charles Green Summers, spent his summers at a farm on “My Lady’s Manor” owned by his great-aunt in Harford County, Maryland. It was situated about seven miles from Monkton on the Northern Central Railroad and about thirty miles from Baltimore.  His love for the country was inborn as all of his ancestors were country-bred. He grew from boyhood to early manhood gaining vitality for his arduous work at his studies though the winter months.

When war clouds began to gather in the early (1860’s) he longed to join the men who were drilling and talking of “going south to aid in the impending struggle (the Civil War). (Charles) has often told of the boyish part he tried to take in this terrible struggle, though young and unfitted as were all of the boys of the South, who left Colleges and Universities, Farms and paid truly the greatest sacrifice.

Harry Gilmor, a name still revered in the South, was a Baltimore man who espoused the Southern Cause and his deeds of valor are told in song and story today. When the northern troops burned Governor Letcher’s home in Virginia, his ire flamed into the deeds of destruction and the air rang with the cry “Gilmore is on his way to Baltimore to burn the home of Governor Bradford” which is situated on Charles Street Avenue, a short way out of Baltimore. Mary Rogers Thomas related how, as a girl of sixteen, (I) sat up awaiting his coming, arrayed as if for a ball in (my) Southern RED and WHITE. Many other were ready to welcome the valiant hero’s coming, but older and wiser heads were alarmed at his nearness and his acts of retribution.  He burned bridges and the (railroad) cars on his approach to our city, leavening destruction in his wake along the Northern Central Railroad.  Soon Governor Bradford’s home was a mass of flames and their hearts began to quake as he neared the city.  But he did not molest us further, once his appointed task was completed, as he loved Baltimore, the city of his adoption.

(Charles, about age 17) on his great aunt’s prize horse, stole from the farm and pursued them, hoping to join the “Johnny Rebels” as they were called. But all pursuit was cut off by the wise raider Harry Gilmore, and (Charles) returned, a disappointed boy to the farm, where his father (Joseph Griffin Summers) ordered him “locked up in the meat house” until he could come out from the city and get him home again.

(Charles) came of fighting stock, though, and was forgiven, as his grandfather, Charles Bosley Green, when a boy of eighteen, joined the hurriedly assembled troops who rallied to the defense of Baltimore after (the British) General Ross had ordered the burning of the Capitol at Washington and was marching on Baltimore (War of 1812).

(Charles) great grandfather (Nathan Griffin) was a soldier in the “Smallwood Brigade” and followed Washington in the Battle of Long Island and afterwards in South Carolina until the close of the Revolutionary War.

Notes: By Bruce Summers, Personal Historian, Summoose Tales. I recently shared parts of this story with my father. He had never heard this story about how his great-grandfather had tried ride off and join Harry Gilmor and Southern Calvary during the Civil War. It was fascinating to learn first-hand from a family story about the split Southern and Northern sympathies of family members and their friends in and around Baltimore, MD during the Civil War.  I grew up just over the Pennsylvania line not too far from the sites of these Southern raids in Baltimore County.  The Northern Central Railroad that was attacked by the raiders ran through my home town of New Freedom, Pennsylvania.

See also:

What’s in your basement? Personal Historians want to know, but you might also be curious…

Summers One Hundred Years.

Thanks Dad – Happy Veteran’s Day

11 Nov

My dad, Tom Summers, served in the U.S. Army in Korea as an Infantry Officer on Heart Break Ridge during the Korean War.

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He shared with me and my brothers that he never had to fire his rifle at the enemy during his time on the front lines.

However, one night he could hear the enemy attacking one of the positions, an outpost ridge on the US/South Korean line a few hundred yards away. US/South Korean forces counter-attacked with artillery and more.

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He and others waited to see if their point in the line, if their part of the ridge would also be attacked.

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The enemy was turned back and never approached his section of the line.

The next day revealed that it had been a significant enemy attack in force. It also, revealed that one of my dad’s close friends, they had gone to YMCA Summer Camp together as youth, had been killed during the attack along with a squad filled with men that my dad had previously led on patrols.

It was their outpost at a point of the ridge that had been attacked.

I offer my thanks to my dad, to my brother, to my brother-in-law and to all of our Veterans on Veterans Day for your service to our country.

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#911 Memories +15 years

11 Sep

Every Red Cross Chapter and Blood Services Region received hundreds, if not thousands of spontaneous volunteer offers on 9/11/2001 and during the following weeks.

Close to 1,000 people lined up to donate blood at Red Cross Square in Washington, DC on 9.12 and 9.13. I was the end of the line greeter for these spontaneous blood donors for more than 12 hours.

I remember the pilots and flight crew members. They were stranded in Washington along with passengers. All flights were grounded by the FAA. They joined the line to give blood.

I remember the Arab American Businessmen, also stranded in D.C. after their conference. They also joined the line to give blood and to show their support.

I remember the construction crew, they, like many other workers, were given the day off. Their company said, go over to the Red Cross and donate blood.

I remember the teachers and aides I knew. They had been preschool teachers for both of my children. They also came to donate. We chatted, one stayed in line and the others went and bought me a sandwich and a drink for my lunch.

I remember the father who stopped in to bring bags of loose change and bills, money that his children had spontaneously collected from neighbors so the Red Cross could help the victims of 9/11.

I remember the tourists from Europe, they did not speak English, they had never donated blood, but they wanted to support America in this time of need.

I remember the relief crew of doctors and technicians arriving from John’s Hopkins and from other Blood Services Regions to provide respite to the large crew of technicians that had been collecting volunteer blood donations for hours.

Around 7 PM we told the last 100 people in line that we would not be able to take blood from everyone. They were given forms to fill in. They could come back the next or we could contact them to make an appointment to donate at a later date.

Many left, but the last woman in line said emphatically, I will be last. I am not leaving. I was a firefighter. I want to support the firefighters and police and rescuers who were killed. It was after 9 PM when she finally donated.

We also had hundreds of American Red Cross volunteers and employees in Washington, DC supporting the response and recovery to 9/11. Quite a few of those volunteer blood donors left the line to help out as spontaneous volunteers helping with the Blood Drive.

Others were lining up nurses around the country to help with shelters for people displaced by 9/11 and to help with families of victims. Red Cross chapters were also helping to shelter and to provide food and comfort to the thousands of people stranded in towns and cities across the US when the planes were grounded.

Across the Potomac River local American Red Cross volunteers and employees worked with partner agencies to provide food and drinks for the response workers at the Pentagon crash site. We could still see the smoke for days afterwards.

In New York, the theaters were closed. Many actors and artists also volunteered to help in the shelters, entertaining children and families to provide some distraction as they dealt with their losses and the deaths of loved ones.

On this 15th anniversary, I would like to say thank you to the fifty thousand plus volunteers and employees of the American Red Cross. I would also like to say thank you to the hundreds of other response agencies, the police, the firefighters, the military, the municipal workers,the actor s and artists and to millions of Americans to came together to help on 9/11 and the following days, months. You made a difference.

This blog is by

Bruce Summers, a Personal Historian at Summoose Tales, Board Member, Regions and Chapters Director, Association of Personal Historians, summersbw@gmail.com 

Related Blogs:

Waking up to the invasion

18 Jun

“All Grenadians come to arms, we are being invaded by hostile forces,” blared the radio in my tiny house in Barbados.  I was jarred awake, I looked around, it was early morning, the sun was not up yet.

I listened carefully. I always left the radio on overnight in my tiny house where I lived during my three years serving in the Peace Corps.  The Barbados radio station signed off about 11 PM each night.  I awakened when the station came back on the air each morning. This was how I started each day.  Listening to the radio, I would then open my double doors and sit out on a metal chair on my porch.  I would look out on the row of cabbage palms across the lawn of the great house of my landlord. My tiny house was one of four rental units on his property in Belleville, St. Michael, near Bridgetown, the capital.

As I looked at the tall stately cabbage palms watching the neighborhood come alive, I often saw a small flock of parrots up on the tops of the trees.  If I sat very still, sometimes a small green lizard would crawl across my foot.  I would listen to the radio, catch up on the news, hear some music, perhaps drink some bay leaf tea and ease into my day.

But today I listened carefully as the Barbados radio station piped in a live feed from Grenada’s national radio station urging all citizens to come out and defend the island from unknown hostile forces. I was listening to history being made, a more than mild change of pace for a Peace Corps volunteer on a quiet, peaceful, beautiful Caribbean island. What’s going on, I pondered.

Grenada is about 150 miles from Barbados.  By air on a BWIA island hopping airplane it was about 23 minutes and most of this time was taxiing. In October of 1983, things were coming apart. A revolutionary (communist leaning) government had taken over Grenada in a coup in 1979. During October of 1983, Maurice Bishop, the leader of the revolution government was placed under house arrest and later murdered.  Many Barbadians had close friends or family in Grenada, so these events were much discussed in our local news.  A military wing of the revolutionary government had arrested Bishop, he escaped, but then he and other cabinet members were killed while they were marching in protest.  Some in Barbados conjectured that Bishop had been allowed to escape so the military faction could kill him and get him out-of-the-way.

Compounding what the Barbadians viewed as the “chaos” going on in Grenada was the presence of Cuban military and workers building a long airport runway, that could accommodate the largest Cuban military planes.  Surrounding Grenada, the other Eastern Caribbean islands were all democracies.  So the increasing influence of Cuba in Grenada, combined with the military takeover of the government  was a threat to peace and stability of the other islands.

The Organization of Eastern Caribbean States along with the nations of Barbados and Jamaica appealed to the U.S. Government for assistance.  Secretly the Governor General of Grenada, the titular head of Grenada which was still part of the British Commonwealth, had also appealed to the U.S. for assistance.  The U.S. was also concerned about the safety of a large contingent of American medical students who were studying in Grenada.

At 5 am on October 25, 1983 a combined force from the US, Jamaica and the Regional Security System based in Barbados commenced the invasion of Grenada, the invasion of hostile forces that awakened me via the radio that morning.

The invasion lasted just two or three days, my Barbadian friends and I learned that many of the aircraft being used were flying out of our local Grantley Adams International Airport.  We learned that US, Barbados, and other Caribbean troops were involved, the Grenada radio station was captured, the Cuban military advisors were captured, the medical students and the Governor General were evacuated and Grenada was now secure.  Our Eastern Caribbean Peace Corps office invited us in for a briefing.  We were asked if any of us would volunteer to help deliver humanitarian aid supplies in Grenada.  I was working for the Barbados Boy Scouts Association, so I immediately volunteered.

Fortunately, a few hours later, we got the word that it probably was not a good idea to have U.S. Peace Corps volunteers immediately follow U.S. troops into a country we had just invaded. I was sorry to have missed this opportunity to help, but certainly understood the rationale.

So the invasion was over.  Barbadians and most Grenadians were very happy that the revolution and the communist experiment was over.  There still was a presence of US military planes at the airport for another month or so. I wrote an article about the invasion for my hometown newspaper, a former employer of mine from my days as a newspaper correspondent. Life went on, I spent another year in the Peace Corps.

Thirty three years passed and then a few weeks ago one of my personal history clients, a former Ambassador, talked about how the Invasion of Grenada threatened to disrupt his wife’s work with the State Department. Over lunch I mentioned that I remembered waking up to the invasion.

Bruce Summers, SummooseTales, summersbw@gmail.com is a Personal Historian, a board member of the global Association of Personal Historians and also serves as their Regions and Chapters Director.  He also is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV).

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