Tag Archives: history

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?”

oren-stone

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.

stone-wollen-mill-flint-michigan

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.

residence-of-oren-stone

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.

stone-opera-house-flint-michigan

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.

 

Advertisements

Why I go to the Association for Personal Historians (APH) Conference

29 Aug

I love my work as a Personal Historian.  Every Friday I drive out to Carl’s house.  We work all day on a current or emerging chapter of his autobiography.  I read through and organize his reference files of letters, trip reports, and work checklists.  We talk through the outline for the next section of the chapter, I record his thoughts and listen to related stories. We discuss and relive particular incidents and anecdotes.  We chat about minor characters and major characters in his life story.

For online chapters I add links to places he has lived, visited or trekked to.  We review photo slides that may be included to bring his personal history to life.  I work at home on scanning and archiving his materials so they can be referenced in the autobiography as threaded links, also so that his descendants can explore his rich trove of family history.

I go to the Annual Association for Personal Historians Conference as part of my ongoing professional development. This year’s conference will be held in Fort Worth, TX from Oct. 23-27, 2016, (Program Highlights). Members from around the globe attend each year, like me they come…

To Learn – There are amazing workshops, plenary sessions, and fascinating keynote speakers each year.

20141023_14343420141023_163042

To Ask Questions – Some of these are specific to my current personal history projects. Some are a follow-up to a workshop that I just attended. Some are spontaneous topics that emerge as we talk.  APH members are extremely generous with their time and with sharing their expertise.

20141026_104025

To Network – Sometimes over coffee or during a group meal with new friends.

20141026_10414620141020_200951

To Be Inspired – We often go on a tour of the city we are visiting. We also have an interesting Public Facing Event and several thought provoking keynote speakers.

20131110_21511020131110_205606 MLK - at Lincoln Memorial

To Kibitz – I have met and had meaningful conversations with well over 200 of my peers.  Sometimes I meet them in the hall, or talk with them before or after a workshop. I had great conversations during bus tours and during morning runs or walks.  APH members are very collaborative. We love sharing and discussing what works, what doesn’t and helping each other problem solve. I like meeting new members and talking with experienced members.

20141025_161336

I am looking forward to this year annual conference. It is my best opportunity to learn a new target set of tips and tricks of the trade that I can incorporate into my personal history work with clients like Carl.  The early bird deadline for Conference Registration is August 31, 2016.

Related:

Skills to “Actively Listen” and Record Family Stories during the Holidays?

How many reasons do you need – to write your life story?

This WordPress Blog is by Bruce Summers, Personal Historian Summoose Tales, summersbw@gmail.com. Bruce is a board member and Regions/Chapters Director of the Association of Personal Historians

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).

He was 102; she was 94…

6 Nov

He was 102; she was 94 building a barn in 1919 brought them together in Australia at the end of World War II. Writing Personal Histories – bringing other’s stories to life, documenting stories and long forgotten conversations is a wonderful gift. Today I am working on page 380 of their book telling their story.

It’s just two days until the Association of Personal Historians Annual Conference in Bethesda, MD. This is my first APH conference, it will be intriguing to meet hundreds of colleagues dedicated to helping thousands of people each year write their life stories.

Some Personal Historians specialize in video memoirs; one colleague used his film and documentary skills, his experience with interviewing, videotaping and editing to craft compelling 30 minute or 60 minute stories that captures and shares the essence of his clients, often bringing them almost to life, for family and friend long after they are gone.

Some colleagues specialize in photo memory books, the focus is on bringing to life those compelling photos and the stories and background connected to the photos. Their books are beautifully crafted bringing individual and family stories to life. Too often the unique stories behind photos are otherwise lost.

Some colleagues specialize in memoir writing – providing coaching and classes to encourage people to just start outlining and writing down their stories. This often gives the rest of us great material to build upon, if/when needed. These colleagues are very skilled in writing and editing and often provide ongoing coaching or ghost writing support to help their clients complete or expand their stories or shape their writing into a book.

Personal Historians often collaborate, sharing tips, tricks, tools, expertise, reference resources and referrals. Some specialize in transcription, line editing, converting manuscripts into books; or specialize in community or corporate histories.

Some us are fascinated with genealogy, tying in many little known threads of family history, vital statistics, where their ancestors came from or moved to and why location or specific events, like building a barn after World War I, could shape the story arc of people’s lives on opposite sides of the globe.

My focus is on the research, the interviews, weaving in sometimes hundreds of family photographs, letters, journals, genealogy into the story arc. Sometimes this comes together as a 400 page book; well there was that jam packed file drawer down in the basement filled with “material” that no one had looked at for up to 50 or more years.

Sixteen hours of interviews provide a lot of source material. 500 plus photographs needed to be reviewed, scanned or reshot and PhotoShopped; it is amazing how World War II photos of Japanese Torpedo bombers attacking Australian and US warships can deteriorate after 70 years, but they were part of the unique story of this couple that met while serving in the American and Australian Navy in Brisbane Australia in 1945.

Then there was his High School journal describing daily highlights, studies, sports, singing practice, “choring” on the family farm, sharing with pride how his family was able to harvest, by themselves, the entire potato crop on their large family farm, what the weather was like every day during the winter in Minnesota, walking to school, catching a ride or going by horse drawn sleigh in sub-zero temperatures.

No one else in the family even knew his high school journal existed. They had not read her vivid descriptions of her six months, grand tour of Europe in 1949, staying mostly in Youth Hostels. Witnessing the still very evident effects of six years of World War of bombings, of fighting, of ongoing shortages of people, communities, and countries still recovering move than four years after the fighting stopped.

Everyone has a unique story to tell. Sometime they write some of it down. Often they have documented unique moments through photographs, or they have collected bits and pieces of genealogy of family history. Sometimes they write their own book or craft their own video or photo book.

I help many friends and colleagues get started either with suggestions of how they can start capturing their stories or especially the stories of older family members using a digital voice recorder or a video camera or the voice recorder in their smart phone.

Personal Historians often can help the individual or the families ensure that the unique life stories and family history are captured and compiled. Too often people put it off and then it is too late and the caption to those old family photograph and the answers to those questions for your mother, father, aunt or uncle just never gets written down or never get asked or answered.

For the couple I am writing the book about, I was asked to help the family capture their stories at just the right time. At age 102 and 94 they were still active, living in their own home; they were able to share rich stories about their life and experiences, about the events and people who shaped their lives. They talked about their parents and grandparents who were born in the 1850s who were still alive during their childhood and could tell stories about their ancestors going further back who immigrated from Norway and the Channel Islands to the US and to Australia.

Within about nine months after I did my interviews with this couple, older age, various falls, and time started catching up with them. They became more frail, less vocal, and would not have been able to share these rich personal and family stories. Meanwhile, I could transcribe their interviews, organize their genealogy, review and caption the hundreds of photos, read through that file drawer full of material, develop the story arc and organize their material into Personal History products… audio tapes, transcripts, in their first person voice, a PowerPoint with over 375 photos, and my, still growing, 380 page book draft/manuscript.

Finally time caught up with my clients, he died in September at age 104 and she a month later at age 95 after long, interesting lives and lots of adventures. Yes, I still have to finish their book, but I have been able to document and share large sections of the manuscript with the family. The audio tapes and the hundreds of photos, many of which have been restored or enhanced, to be included in the book, are much valued by their family. Their personal history and family stories will live on and hopefully be passed on for generations.

It is never too soon to start collecting, to start writing your personal history or to start recording the stories of family, friends and colleagues. If/when you need help getting started, or help moving the story along, or with writing, editing, research, etc., look for a Personal Historian, the Association of Personal Historians is a great resource.

Get started today.

Bruce Summers
Personal Historian – SummooseTales
703-503-8834
summersbw@gmail.com

Member – Association of Personal Historians

%d bloggers like this: