Since I haven’t had time to work on any of my larger genealogical projects, I thought I’d share a smaller one today. This photo is from the Joseph DeKorn collection. He was my great-grandmother’s brother, and he took a great number of our family photos during the very early 1900s.
Because someone took the time to write on the back, I felt that this photo was important to someone in the family. In fact, I believe the handwriting belongs to Uncle Joe.
Here is what is written on the back:
This is the bridge across the Huron R. It was designed by the late Prof. Greene. The place where the posts are close together is where the [?] fell through. The track in the foreground is the Michigan Central. The Ann Arbor crosses the bridge.
Where the WHAT fell through?
Does that say “where the car fell through”? Did someone’s car fall between the posts into the river?
I looked on the internet and all I found was that in the Detroit River, during Prohibition, this happened, according to Wikipedia:
There was no limit on the methods used by rum-runners to import alcohol across the river. Government officials were unable or unwilling to deter the flow of alcohol coming across the Detroit River. In some cases, overloaded cars fell through the ice, and today, car parts from this illegal era can still be seen on the bottom of the river.
But that’s not the Huron River. And what time period are we talking about for this photo?
On the back, it says “the late Prof. Greene.” Here is biographical and obituary information about Professor Charles Ezra Greene. He died in 1903. So the photo was taken at some point after that. A steel bridge eventually replaced this bridge, and it might have happened in 1924.
In this bio, we learn this about Professor Greene’s credentials:
[Professor Greene] entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here he was graduated Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering in 1868. From this time until 1870 he was Assistant Engineer on location and construction of the and Railroad in Maine. The next year he was United States Assistant Engineer on River and Harbor Improvements in Maine and New Hampshire, and was then appointed City Engineer of, where he also carried on a general practice until the summer of 1872. In that year he was appointed Professor of Civil Engineering at the University of Michigan, a position which he held to the time of his death, October 16, 1903. When the Department of Engineering was established as a separate organization in 1895, he was made its first dean. In 1884 he received the honorary degree of Civil Engineer from the University of Michigan. In addition to his duties as professor he carried on an extensive consulting practice. He was Chief Engineer of the Toledo, Ann Arbor, and Northern Railroad from 1879 to 1881; Superintending and Consulting Engineer of the Wheeling and Lake Erie Railroad bridge at Toledo in 1881-1882; designer and Superintendent of the construction of the Ann Arbor water-works in 1885; and designer of the Ann Arbor sewerage system in 1890. He paid special attention to the invention and development of graphical methods of analysis of frames, bridges, and arches. He published several works which were well received by the profession and which have been used in designing important structures: “Graphical Analysis of Bridge Trusses” (1874); “Trusses and Arches, Part I, Roof Trusses (1876), Part , Bridge Trusses (1878), Part , Arches (1879) “; “Structural Mechanics” (1897). He was a member of the American Society of Civil Engineers; also of the Michigan Engineering Society, of which he was president for three terms. In 1872 he was married to Florence Emerson, of , Maine, who with their two children survives him, – Albert Emerson (Ph.B. 1895, B.S. [ ] 1896) and Florence (A.B. 1903).
Joseph DeKorn attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. I’ll make a guess he took the photo when he was a student at Michigan. This helps narrow down the date of the photo because Uncle Joe was born in 1881, so he would have been studying at the university in the first few years of the 20th century.
What is perhaps very telling is that Uncle Joe studied Civil Engineering, so perhaps he was a student of Professor Greene before the man died. It does sound as thought Professor Greene taught up to the last. It also sounds as if he was an amazing teacher. At the least, Joe would have learned of Greene’s influence in the classroom.
Joseph DeKorn stayed true to his studies and went on to become Chief or Supervisor of City Light and Water for the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Additional information provided by my uncle in a comment to this post: Charles E. Greene was indeed Joe DeKorn’s prof. He learned both what to do and what not to do from him! Joe DeKorn was in charge of building the Grand Rapids water system which to this day draws it’s primary water from Lake Michigan. As Uncle Don says, it was a big project!
What do you think that he writes on the back of the photo? Does it say car or cars? Or something else?
FABULOUS CLUE BY MY FRIEND WANDA WHO POINTED OUT THAT THE CAR OR CARS IN QUESTION WOULD BE TRAIN CARS LED TO THE SOLUTION TO THE MYSTERY
There is a long article in the Ann Arbor Argus-Democrat on the same day. It indicates a dispute over the cause of the accident and says that actually 13 cars were destroyed. But the bottom line is that it was NOT a defect in the bridge that caused the accident, but a broken flange on a coal car.