Previous Mission Historical past: Mrs. Wilson, Billboards and a Likelihood Encounter in Washington D.C.


(Editor’s Word: Barb Wunsch, Tim Carroll and Helen Vogel replicate on a pillar of our group, Margaret Menauch Wilson. She was often known as Mrs. William Fremont Wilson, and Tim Carroll’s household knew her as “Helen” Wilson, as nicely. In accordance with Ancestry.com, she was born in Scotland on Might 29, 1879, immigrated to the USA in 1881, and married William Fremont Wilson in 1895. They’d 4 kids: Margaret G. Wilson, Isabel M. Wilson, Willard F. Wilson and James G. Wilson. Margaret died on March 18, 1970, and is buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Traverse Metropolis. Learn on for his or her notes, beginning with Barb… -jb)

Because the climate modifications, I’m reminded of my many Fall seasons on the Previous Mission Peninsula. I’ve shut members of the family which might be within the technique of transferring to the Peninsula, and I’m excited by the entire new of us who’re becoming a member of our group. However I’m additionally reminded of many group pillars who’re now not with us.

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I grew up on the north finish of the Peninsula, in Ogdensburg. Once I was rising up, the Previous Mission Peninsula was largely a matriarchy, and lots of the farms had been owned by older girls who performed an necessary function locally. Helen Pratt was north of us, my grandmother Rosa Dohm owned what’s now Twin Maples Farm, and Hazel and Hilda Ladd lived throughout the highway from us. They’d a small farm and had been influential locally.

The Wilson Farm, which my son Isaiah purchased in 2018, is on the south finish within the microcosm generally known as Stoney Seaside. This space was presided over by Margaret Wilson, who has been described as a public-spirited citizen who labored on numerous sorts of group actions that had been crucial to how Previous Mission was developed. Her most important declare to fame was her battle to maintain billboards off the Peninsula. Have you ever ever seen that each group on the outskirts of Traverse Metropolis has very massive, daring signage? Sure, each group, with one exception – Peninsula Township.

Margaret’s granddaughter, Helen Vogel, relays this memorable story about her grandmother and billboards…

A neighborhood businessman put up a billboard on Heart Street. Margaret and her colleagues within the native girls’s membership didn’t admire the brand new massive signal. Margaret visited that native businessman and identified to him that Heart Street (M37) was a lifeless finish highway, the native individuals on the Peninsula already knew about his enterprise, and if the signal didn’t get moved to a extra acceptable place, the individuals of the Peninsula would boycott his enterprise.

Her reasoning made an influence on the businessman, and the signal was moved. I perceive she needed to repeat this efficiency a number of occasions earlier than native companies gave up making an attempt to place up billboards on the Peninsula.

Over time, the Peninsula Township Zoning Ordinance refined the rules to be adopted for signage on the Peninsula.

William and Margaret Wilson | Wilson Archives Photo
William and Margaret Wilson | Wilson Archives Photograph
Helen Vogel, right, with Ruthanne Bohrer, who is related to the Wilson's on her mother's side | Jane Boursaw Photo
Helen Vogel, proper, with Jane’s expensive buddy Ruthanne Bohrer, who is said to the Wilsons on her mom’s aspect; photograph taken at Helen’s farm on Montague Street | Jane Boursaw Photograph

Tim Carroll, our go-to historian right here on the Peninsula, wrote this piece about Margaret Wilson (whom his household known as “Helen Wilson”).

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The Exceptional Helen Wilson

by Tim Carroll

Within the years between 1944 and 1954, I went from Kindergarten by seventh grade at Mapleton Faculty, and was within the tenth grade at St. Francis in Traverse Metropolis.

As my sixteenth birthday approached, I started a blitzkrieg geared toward my long-suffering dad and mom. It went one thing like this: that somebody already in highschool ought to, actually, have a visit to Washington D.C. to raised perceive the workings of our authorities. I had a leg up on this endeavor as a result of “Civics,” because it was referred to as then, was a college topic as weighted as Historical past, Chemistry and Math. And which, amongst a protracted listing of different topics, was typically talked about round our kitchen desk. Sure, that vocal meal, recognized to us as “supper,” was the place a touch emerged that such a visit would possibly even be believable. So I, as we now say, “Leaned In,” and plans quickly started to take kind.

Throughout my years in grade faculty, I had been uncovered to a group of Peninsula girls who had been recognized to be the untitled leaders of their communities. Helen Altenburg was acknowledged round round our desk, as “the shaker and doer” within the Previous Mission District. Seth Tompkins’ spouse, Rebecca, was a number one voice within the Odgensburg District. And Margaret Kroupa Dohm (married to Ray, the elected Treasurer of the Peninsula), lived within the Mapleton District and was the place one went for solutions.

However, main the pack for the Peninsula as an entire was Mrs. Helen Wilson. She lived within the Stoney Seaside District and was, on the one hand, a typical cherry farmer’s spouse of the period, helping with farm work.

Margaret “Helen” Menauch Wilson and William Fremont Wilson | Helen Vogel Archives

However, she was additionally a well-read, issue-oriented, charming girl, all the time able to share her views. I used to be intrigued by her each time we had been in the identical room. She can be prepared to debate the subject of the day with a clumsy teenager, and assumed I used to be going to maintain up along with her. And her love of our communithy was obvious.

I want so as to add that politics weren’t the rancorous affair they’re right this moment. Elections weren’t questioned. Certainly, as I discovered, volunteering to assist on just a few Election Days on the Peninsula City Corridor, the women who ran the polls therein had been towers of information on the precise lawful procedures for casting your vote and woe be he, or she, who dared to wander one inch from the inflexible guidelines, set in concrete, by the Stalwart Minders of our Democratic Republic. It was understood by all that you simply gained some and also you misplaced some. Nobody would have thought of to suppose in any other case.

So, it got here to go that not solely would my dad and mom drive me to Washington to have a good time my sixteenth birthday, however my neighbor and buddy, Judy Freundl, nee Lardie, might come alongside, as nicely. “By no means depart house till all of the seats within the automotive are taken” was a motto of my father’s. (Sadly, Judy died earlier this yr.)

So off we went, over what should have been Easter Break. The nuns frowned on missed faculty days, even for the lofty tour for which I had pressed. We spent an in a single day going every method. Going east, on the newly opened Pennsylvania Turnpike, the idea of a four-lane freeway by the mountains thrilled us. We stayed in one of many new Howard Johnson Resorts our first night time, the newest idea in trendy journey.

Dad (and it have to be famous: a New Deal Democrat) had organized with somebody on the workers of our District’s State Consultant in Washington for the tickets wanted for us to enter the Gallery above the Home of Representatives whereas it was in session. We checked into the Ambassador Lodge, supposedly concerned with visitors from Michigan for our keep. After dinner our first night time, Dad gave me a $5 invoice and instructed me to take Judy, go right down to the entrance desk, get a taxi and ask the driving force to take us round to see the monuments by night time. I used to be sure that this was the start of maturity for a 16-year-old.

And, luck of the Irish, it unfolded precisely like that. Our driver was a black man, the primary in my life with whom I had a dialog. He handled us, I’m positive, to excess of the $5 value and defined every on The Mall, from the Lincoln Memorial as much as the Capitol and returned us blinded by the fantastic thing about all of it on a moonlit night time in springtime. There was additionally an indoor swimming pool within the lodge, and one might lease a swimsuit and go swimming in March! However that was our second night time’s thrill.

After breakfast within the lodge, Dad went out on the road and hailed a cab, an idea I assumed extra refined even than a swimming pool within the basement. We had been dropped at one of many Home Workplace Buildings, walked in (there was no safety in these historic occasions), and took the elevator to the Congressman’s workplace. The workers couldn’t have been extra nice or accommodating. I can’t keep in mind this clearly, however absolutely it was a Republican seat, but we had been from his district and handled with nice enthusiasm (9 years later, I might be on such a workers).

So, with tickets in hand, we had been led to the Capitol Constructing, underground from the Home Workplace Buildings to the Home aspect of the constructing, an expertise which appeared historic to me. Lastly, on the high of a handful of staircases, we arrived on the part the place our tickets had been examined, guidelines given (NO TALKING), and escorted to our seats.

The Home was in full session, debating a invoice relating to some advanced tax difficulty. It made little or no sense to me, moderately like analyzing a single cell of the human physique. However we “leaned in” and labored on understanding how the debating was dealt with. Then, someplace in the midst of this, my mom nudged my father and, to my horror, truly start to whisper to my father, even pointing. I used to be very a lot an obedient teenager so I couldn’t think about what was occurring, however thought of the chance that we may be ejected from our seats. Solely then did I notice they had been pointing at one other visitor of The Home considerably throughout the Gallery from our personal seats. Had they misplaced their minds???

Strive as I would, I can’t keep in mind what occurred precisely after that, however on the finish of the Session, we hustled out of the chamber and round to the opposite aspect and had been all of a sudden dealing with nobody lower than Mrs. Helen Wilson. What had been the percentages?

She had her notebooks and her briefcase (moderately daring for a girl in these way back years), and was giving my of us hugs and kisses and delight. Neither had been in contact with the opposite. It was an unbelievable act of coincidence, but it surely fortunately cemented a friendship, which I cherished within the years that adopted.

Helen Wilson, as I recall, had a married daughter dwelling within the Washington space, and it had been Mrs. Wilson’s routine to come back to the Home on days when the talk might need been essential to our group in Michigan. She did this as a result of she understood the worth of bringing what she discovered straight again to her pals and neighbors, and located pleasure within the course of.

She instantly engaged my father in what he must be doing to assist make an upcoming Invoice right into a actuality. And it simply as all of a sudden opened up an entire new understanding of the federal government “of, for and by The Individuals” in my easy mind. That anybody who paid consideration, did their homework, and was a critical citizen might do that work. It was merely a citizen’s proper, privilege, and obligation to be a Mrs. Wilson.

Within the years that adopted, I might go to her on Wilson Street. I keep in mind a time when my Grandmother Carroll wanted to be dropped off at her home (Sure, I had my driver’s license shortly after the journey to Washington, an occasion of significance solely second to our journey). When you drive on Wilson Street right this moment, you will notice on the suitable as you might be touring west, a conventional farmhouse and simply past, nearer the highway, a Michigan stone bungalow. It had been the behavior of the Wilson household, I consider, that the working household would dwell within the farmhouse, and because the son would take over, the older couple would transfer into the stone cottage. It fitted Mrs. Wilson, I assumed.

Whereas she thought nationally and state-wide, she was additionally concerned regionally. Amongst different tasks, she was the driving pressure behind that little triangular little bit of flower backyard at “The Forks,” because it was recognized in my youth (the place Peninsula Drive separates from Heart Street simply north of Traverse Metropolis).

Certainly, if you need to “meet” a outstanding girl who so dramatically stood entrance and heart within the molding of this younger farm boy’s idea of how this democracy labored and by whom, there’s a stone memorial to her there right this moment.

Might she relaxation in peace and glory.

Plaque for Margaret Wilson at "The Forks"; intersection of Center Road and Peninsula Drive north of Traverse City, Michigan | Jane Boursaw Photo
Plaque for Margaret Wilson at “The Forks”; intersection of Heart Street and Peninsula Drive north of Traverse Metropolis, Michigan | Jane Boursaw Photograph

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(And in closing from Barb Wunsch… -jb)

As I become older, I admire increasingly the individuals from our group. Tim Carroll’s story makes me take into consideration these impressionable years and the way the close-knit neighbors of the Previous Mission Peninsula lent a hand in guiding me, as nicely. Mrs. Wilson was a pressure and performed by a phrase that my very dearest typically recited: “Simply because all people is doing one thing, doesn’t make it the suitable factor to do.”

It’s fascinating to replicate on a person who made such a profound distinction within the particulars of the panorama that’s simply taken as a right. As I drive up and down the roads on the Peninsula, I take pleasure in our small indicators and the historical past behind them.

Margaret Wilson, left | Helen Vogel Archives
Margaret Wilson, left | Helen Vogel Archives
William Fremont Wilson (Margaret's husband) | Helen Vogel Archives
William Fremont Wilson (Margaret’s husband) | Helen Vogel Archives
William Wilson harvesting raspberries on the Wilson Farm | Helen Vogel Archives
William Wilson (Margaret’s husband) harvesting raspberries on the Wilson Farm | Helen Vogel Archives
Wilson Family; Old Mission Peninsula | Helen Vogel Archives
Wilson Household; Previous Mission Peninsula | Helen Vogel Archives
Wilson Family | Helen Vogel Archives
Wilson Household (Margaret Wilson, proper) | Helen Vogel Archives
Stoney Beach School; Old Mission Peninsula | Helen Vogel Archives
Stoney Seaside Faculty; Previous Mission Peninsula | Helen Vogel Archives
Wilson Farm Aerial Photo; Date Unknown | Helen Vogel Archives
Wilson Farm Aerial Photograph; Date Unknown | Helen Vogel Archives

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