Posts Tagged ‘Michigan history’

When I was a kid my father used to bring me (and sometimes my friend, Jill, a reader of this blog) to Ramona Park. We explored and played while he worked–maintaining and refurbishing the pavilion, the grounds, and the shore of Long Lake that ran along the property.

I’ve written before about this park, located in Portage, Michigan here:

The Park with a Literary Name
A Re-telling of Ramona: The Park with a Literary Name

I remember trying to imagine what the pavilion, which was called Ramona Palace, was like back in its heyday, when people came to listen to live music and dance in the ballroom.

Ballroom, Ramona Palace, Long Lake, Michigan

Ballroom, Ramona Palace, Long Lake, Michigan

Notice that this old photograph locates the park in Vicksburg, but it is now Portage, Michigan. This is the ballroom as I remember it–big and empty.  The lake was just outside those windows.

A while back I was contacted by Shawna (Smith) Raymond about those days. Her grandfather, Eddie Smith, and his Big Band used to play at Ramona Palace.

Eddie Smith and the Revelers courtesy of Shawna (Smith) Raymond

Eddie Smith and the Revelers
courtesy of Shawna (Smith) Raymond

Shawna passed on a story from her aunt about those days.

When Mom, whose name was Margene, would walk into the Ramona Palace ballroom where Dad was playing, he’d always stop whatever song they were playing and play ‘My Little Margie.’

Shawna’s aunt has a framed collage of the sheet music to “My Little Margie” and Shawna’s grandfather’s conducting baton. According to Wikipedia:

Margie“, also known as “My Little Margie“, is a 1920 popular song composed in collaboration by vaudeville performer and pianist Con Conrad and ragtime pianist J. Russel Robinson, a member of the Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Lyrics were written by Benny Davis, a vaudeville performer and songwriter. The song was introduced by the Original Dixieland Jazz Band in 1920 as Victor 78, 18717-A, in a medley paired with “Singin’ the Blues”. The B side was “Palesteena”.The Rega Dance Orchestra recorded the song in October, 1920 for Okeh Records, 4211. The ODJB recorded their instrumental version on December 1, 1920. The song was published in 1920 and was named after the five-year-old daughter of singer and songwriter Eddie Cantor. Cantor is credited with popularizing the song with his 1921 recording that stayed at the top of the pop charts for five weeks.

Here is a Benny Goodman version from 1938:


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After I posted the wedding invitation for John DeSmit and Nellie Squares, the mystery of Nellie was solved by Adri van Gessel.

Nellie was born Pieternella Paulina Schrier on Sunday, October 5, 1879, at Kortgene, the Netherlands. She immigrated to the United States in 1891 with her mother, the widow of Paulus Schrier, and 5 siblings.

On Thursday, July 20, 1899, Nellie married John DeSmit in Kalamazoo.

Wedding dress circa 1900

On May 9, 1900, Nellie died in Kalamazoo. She was a 20-year-old housewife, according to her death record.

But the story does not end here.

Adri found the birth of a girl, Nellie D. DeSmit, born April 30, 1900, in Kalamazoo. The daughter of Nellie and John. Sadly, Nellie must have passed away from giving birth.

Baby Nellie was not listed on the 1900 census with her father, John, who was living at home with his family. Instead, the baby was listed as an adopted daughter in the family of Christopher (Christiaan) Schrier, Nellie’s brother and baby Nellie’s uncle.

Baby Nellie, no longer a baby, was married on June 13, 1918, in Kalamazoo, to Garret Johnson, son of J.G. Johnson and Nellie Groenhuizen. Garret was born on May 11, 1895 at Hilversum, the Netherlands. He died August 18, 1961, in Kalamazoo.

It appears, though, that baby Nellie still considered herself the daughter of John DeSmit because in the 1940 census she, her husband, and son Robert (born 1935) lived in the household of John DeSmit and was listed as daughter.

One of the biggest mysteries has been why Nellie’s parents are listed as Mr. and Mrs. A. Ver Sluis.  At first I thought, well, Nellie’s brother Christiaan  married Nellie Ver Sluis in 1898, only a year before our wedding invitation for Nellie Schrier and John DeSmit. Does this have something to do with the fact that there was not a living father to give Nellie Schrier away?

No, it does not!

Nellie’s mother Pieternella de Looff Schrier was married on Wednesday March 2, 1892, in Kalamazoo, to Abraham Jacob Versluis, son of Willem Versluis and Pieternella de Lange.  Abraham had been previously married to Cornelia Verburg and had two children by her. He immigrated to the United States in 1891. Abraham was born on Sunday October 13, 1850 at Kortgene and died on Tuesday November 1, 1938 in Kalamazoo.

Look at the timeline:

1891, Pieternella and her children, including Nellie, arrived in the United States AND Abraham Ver Sluis and his two children, including his Nellie, arrived in the United States

1892, Pieternella married Abraham Ver Sluis (they got married in March, which is quite early in the year–is it possible that the two families traveled together, intending to marry in this country?)

1898, Christiaan married the daughter of Abraham Ver Sluis and his deceased wife Cornelia Verburg

1899, John DeSmit married Nellie Schrier, daughter of Pieternella and the deceased Paulus and stepdaughter of Abraham Ver Sluis

Was it customary to marry step-siblings, as Christiaan did?

Ring any bells?

In case the name Schrier rings any bells for those from Kalamazoo, there have been many residents with that surname.  The name comes from the Zeeland province of the Netherlands. Paul J. Schrier was the mayor of Kalamazoo from 1967-1969. He was the son of Peter Schrier, who was a brother of Nellie Schrier DeSmit. Therefore the mayor was our Nellie’s nephew, although he never knew her since she died at the age of 20 from giving birth to her daughter.

Paul J. Schrier Mayor of Kalamazoo 1967-1969

Paul J. Schrier
Mayor of Kalamazoo

What I don’t know:


If baby Nellie ever had any half siblings. Her father apparently married Margaret when he was between 42 and 52.

When baby Nellie passed away.

If baby Nellie perhaps lived with her uncle so that she would be raised with his two children. Did Christiaan and his wife already have their babies when Nellie was born or did they come after?

This still doesn’t explain the Corliss home for the wedding.

And we think families are confusing today . . . .



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Let’s take a little break from Theresa’s story this week. We can return to it next week.

Another branch of the family that I have not yet spent any time investigating begins with Richard DeKorn’s other sister Mary. His sister Jennie is the one who married John Culver, had two little girls, and took off for Seattle. It wasn’t until Joyce sent me the photo album that I began to learn more about that branch. But Richard’s other sister, the one who stayed put in Kalamazoo, I still haven’t spent any time with.

Mary DeKorn DeSmit

Mary DeKorn DeSmit


Mary died at age 98, two years before I was born. Maria Catharina de Korne was born on 4 Jan 1855 in Kapelle, Zeeland, the Netherlands.  Mary married John DeSmit in Kalamazoo in 1873 and they had seven children–3 boys and 4 girls. That means that there are a lot of children to investigate. I wonder how many of their descendents are living in the Kalamazoo area.

In order to begin researching the DeSmits, I looked through my documents to see if I already had anything, and I discovered a wedding invitation from 1899. It amazes me how much it resembles a contemporary wedding invitation. It lists the names of the bride (Nellie) and groom (John) and her parents, although not his parents. The place is a residence with an address. I don’t know the connection of the location to the bride and groom.

The wedding was on Thursday evening, which seems like an odd time to me. Also, I wonder if it wasn’t the residence of the bride’s parents because perhaps they weren’t from Kalamazoo? Or perhaps their home wasn’t large enough? I wonder why the bride has a different last name, Squares, from her parents, Ver Sluis.

I found a newspaper announcement which lists Nellie’s surname as Squires, which makes more sense, but wouldn’t the printed wedding announcement be correct? Also, the newspaper lists John’s home as Battle Creek and Nellie’s as Kalamazoo.

But what is the bigger mystery is this. I show that a John DeSmit, the son of Mary and her husband John, and born approximately June 1877, was married to a woman named Margaret. The age would be right for John to be marrying in 1899, as he was 21 or 22. But who was Margaret?

On closer examination of the 1900 census, I see that John was listed as 22, living at home with his parents and siblings, and already a widower! Poor Nellie?! It seems that Margaret was a second wife, later in John’s life.


You can see that this invitation brings up more questions than I had to begin with, but it does give me some information to pursue.  The next thing I went to check out was the address listed: 702 East First Street, Kalamazoo, Michigan. According to Google Maps, it doesn’t exist.



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In Part II, I described Theresa Pake’s high school and college education, but although she was 25 years old and had had a great deal of education for a young woman of her time, she wasn’t satisfied.

Her next step was to attend nursing school at the Kalamazoo State Hospital. I’ve written here about how my great-great-grandfather Richard DeKorn built the historic landmark water tower at the state hospital.


Here is an engraving of the hospital circa 1863:

Kalamazoo State Hospital

Kalamazoo State Hospital

The Michigan Asylum for the Insane was built in 1859, the water tower in 1895, and, in 1911, was renamed the Kalamazoo State Hospital. According to internet sources, nurse’s training was a pioneering program (perhaps started in 1906? I’m not certain), and Theresa would have been there during a vibrant period for the program. After Theresa left Asbury College, she began training as a nurse and graduated in 1925. On May 15, 1925, Theresa was registered by the state.

Notice the pin she wears in this graduation portrait. She actually received two pins. One says “Kalamazoo State Hospital” and the other has the initials KSTS for Kalamazoo State Nursing School.

Theresa Pake Graduate nursing school

Theresa Pake
Graduate nursing school

Here is Theresa with a classmate or coworker sitting outside the hospital. The caps they wear do not yet have the black stripe that is on Theresa’s graduation cap. Also, I wonder if the pinafore style uniform is an example of a student nurse costume.

And here Theresa sits alone:

Theresa’s career as a nurse meant that she worked hard her whole life. She was employed as a private duty nurse for many years. She also worked at Beloit Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin:


After graduating with a nursing degree, Theresa was free to begin her life with a career, quite a feat for a young woman in 1925.

A Series of Disasters

The Children After the Fire, 1902


Saved from the Fire

Who is George Paake, Sr.?

Curious about George

George Paake’s Legacy, Part I

George Paake’s Legacy, Part II: Theresa’s Pre-Professional Education


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Since I spend a lot of time talking about people and events in and around Kalamazoo, Michigan, I thought it might be a good idea to re-post my very first blog post (from September 2012). These are photographs taken by my great-grandmother’s brother Joseph DeKorn of downtown Kalamazoo.


Downtown Kalamazoo early 1900s

The information I have on the location of these photos was shared by Mark Johnson:

The first downtown photo:  Looking west on East Michigan Ave. from Edwards St… Michigan Ave. jogs to the right at Portage St. The building furthest in the distance is the Kalamazoo Bldg. To it’s right in the foreground is the Haymarket Bldg. and further to the right is what became Shau Powell Sporting Goods.

The second downtown photo:  Looking west on East/West Michigan from Portage St. The tallest building is the Kalamazoo Building (see window detail) and one of the buildings foreground right is what would become Stanwoods [Luggage and Leather].

My favorite thing about these photos are the wires in the sky!

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In Part I, I introduced George’s middle child, Theresa Pake, who was born in 1893.


Professor Lawrence has put much effort into piecing together his mother’s educational history.

At some point Theresa lived with foster parents, Una Orline and Oliver Oratio Pickard.  Prof. Lawrence thinks she maybe have gone to live with them as early as age six, which would mean she wasn’t under the care of her older sister. However, the newspaper article about the fire in 1902 would show that she was still living at home at the time of the fire (nearly 8 years old). Regardless, at some point, the Pickards became the caregivers of Theresa. None of the other children in the family seem to have gone to live with the Pickards.

The Pickards sent Theresa to Jennings Seminary, a private Methodist school in Aurora, Illinois, from 1911 – 1913.  Here  is a link to the history of Jennings Seminary, but to give you an idea, it was a school for young ladies and once considered one of the finest private high schools in the middle west.

Jennings Seminary

Jennings Seminary

From there, Theresa went to Chicago Evangelistic Institute. After studying at CEI from 1913-1915, she graduated from the missionary course.

Theresa moved on to Western State Normal School’s High School Department.  She attended the program for at least the school year of 1916-17, participating in a play (where she played “mother-in-law”) and gave a speech advocating Republican Charles Evans Hughes (who was supported by Teddy Roosevelt) as the next President of the United States. She took classes such as anatomy, chemistry, French, and children’s literature.  Western was a teaching college, and the high school department was designed to not only give an excellent education to its students, but to provide a sort of student teaching experience for the college teaching students who planned to teach in high schools. Theresa graduated, at the age of 24, in June 1917 with 27 other graduates. At this time, it is possible that Theresa planned to become a teacher.

Here is a description in the yearbook about the high school program at the teaching college:

Here is Theresa’s yearbook photo. Note that in the above portrait, Theresa is not wearing glasses, but in the yearbook photograph she is wearing them. I think it’s likely she began to wear them in her early 20s.

In 1919, Theresa went to Wilmore, Kentucky, to attend Asbury College. At that time, Mrs. O. O. Pickard, at 1846 Oakland Drive, Kalamazoo, Michigan, was listed as her parent, so Theresa still was being educated under the guidance of the Pickards. Theresa had matriculated at age 25 with the intention of becoming a missionary. She attended Asbury for four semesters, from 1919-1921.

But Theresa’s education was far from over!

A Series of Disasters

The Children After the Fire, 1902


Saved from the Fire

Who is George Paake, Sr.?

Curious about George

George Paake’s Legacy, Part I


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In continuing the story of the Paake/Paak/Peek/Pake family, I will share with you what I’ve discovered about George’s family.

Today the subject is my first cousin 3x removed, daughter Theresa Pake, the mother of Professor Edgar Lawrence, the man who shared the photos and stories of this branch of my family.

Theresa was born Tracy Paak, on October 2, 1893, in Oshtemo, Michigan. Oshtemo is very close to Kalamazoo.


Although her birth certificate says her name was Tracy, and her siblings called her Tracy, Theresa always referred to herself as Theresa, so that is how I will refer to her.  Her parents were George and Lucy Paak (note that the birth certificate calls the mother Lizzie), who were both born in the Netherlands. Theresa’s mother died on May 28, 1900, when Theresa was only 6.5 years old. Theresa had two older sisters, one younger sister, and her brother George was the youngest of all the children.

According to the article about the fire that destroyed their residence in 1902, Cora, the oldest child, was taking care of the household and the children. That makes sense because she was fourteen, and the other children were far too young.  So at a very young age, Theresa had to go from living in a home nurtured by a mother to having a young teen sister “playing” mother to her and her siblings.

In this photo, Theresa is quite young. She is not yet wearing glasses. I took the liberty of altering the photo by using a sepia finish, as well as by adding a frame.

The following might be my favorite photograph of Theresa (also note that she is not wearing glasses). She looks so happy. She also looks like a girl who loves babies.  The photograph is from 1912.


For my next Paak post I plan to share photographs and information about Theresa’s education and career plans.

A Series of Disasters

The Children After the Fire, 1902


Saved from the Fire

Who is George Paake, Sr.?

Curious about George


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I started this blog in September 2012 with three private posts and then didn’t write again until November. The idea was that I would start to put the photos and stories I had accumulated “out there” for family members to access. Although the details aren’t that memorable to me, it seems that I switched to public but didn’t tag the posts at first, hoping that the posts wouldn’t get picked up by Google. That way, relatives could easily find the blog, but I was in hopes that nobody else would find it.

It didn’t take too long to see that some family members (Hi, Mom and Dad haha) and a few friends liked the blog and I thought it might be better just to tag the posts and connect with other WordPress bloggers. What I had seen of the bloggers working on family histories interested me a lot, so I wanted to feel more involved.

I had no idea what would happen. No, I don’t have an amazing number of blog followers, but those that do follow tend to be loyal and friendly. They are also kind and generous and have helped with looking at the details in photographs and giving me clues about where to search–as well as giving me some behind the scenes help.  You know who you are and you are fabulous.

Another aspect of blogging that I could not have predicted is how many wonderful non-bloggers have found the blog through internet searches and have shared information with me. I hesitate to name people because I don’t want to leave anybody out, so I will list just a few of the insights I’ve gained from these generous souls.

  • One of the biggest mysteries was the Paak family fire and that branch of the family–now I have info and photos to sort through and a new “cousin”
  • Information and photographs about my great-great grandfather Richard DeKorn’s second wife and her daughters.
  • Dates and names beyond count from a very kind and hardworking soul in the Netherlands
  • Through the previous individual, I found a first cousin once removed (I think that’s right) with a big heart–and photos and info–from my dad’s family
  • Photos and information of my ancestors in the Netherlands
  • Found the Noffke line
  • Found out more about the Jenny DeKorn Culver family–and received the gorgeous album of photographs and postcards
  • Information and photographs relating to Ramona Park, Long Lake, and the Waruf family
  • Learned more about the Bosman family
  • Learned more about the VanLiere family and corresponded with that branch and, yes, photos
  • Traced a branch from the Netherlands to the Holland area of Michigan
  • Identification of various photographs

I could continue as there are more goodies that have come my way since starting this blog. I am so grateful for the generosity of everyone involved. If I had kept this blog just to “us,” I wouldn’t have known how large my family truly is and how kind strangers can be.

That’s all I wanted to talk about today: how grateful I am and how thrilling it is to look back at all the information that has been shared here from such generous souls.


Swans at Brook Lodge Michigan circa 100 years ago

Swans at Brook Lodge
Photo by Joseph DeKorn
circa 100 years ago

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Here is a photograph I need some help with. It’s from the collection of my grandparents.  On the back it says “120 W Ranson.”

I feel certain that this photograph is from Kalamazoo, so I think that the last letter is meant to be an M. I know that sometimes I accidentally write N when I mean M. Therefore, the address is 120 W. Ransom, Kalamazoo, Michigan.

120 W Ransom Kalamazoo, Michigan

120 W Ransom
Kalamazoo, Michigan

On Google maps, it shows this address on the north side of Kalamazoo. So while it is close to Burdick Street, which is the street where a lot of my ancestors congregated, it is North Burdick and not South Burdick. That is quite some distance away.

Through Kalamazoogenealogy.org, I can find some city directories, but they are arranged by last name, not by address. Any ideas how I can find out who lived at that address between 1900 and 1920?

I do love this photo: the bike, his glasses and cap, the serious suit, and the vine on the house. What do you make of the ground? Are those fall leaves?

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I shared a couple of photographs of my artist mother-in-law the other day. They were from the 60s and early 70s and had turned yellow. I was very frustrated with the damage to the photos.


Paula Taylor saved the day by converting them to black and white photos. Here you can see the changes:

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And here:


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I’m really happy with them. Thanks, Paula!Enhanced by Zemanta

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