Peace From The Pines

December 27, 2018

In this weeks Press you will find the second part of “That Winter on the Clam”, written in 1929 by Fern Berry. I found this story several years ago during the course of my reading through the Marion Press files. It appeared on the front page of the January 5, 1930 issue, now just a week shy of 88 years ago.

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

Julie Traynor Postcards from the Pine Columnist

It was a most pleasant surprise to find this story. I do not have a copy nor do I recall ever seeing this in print. I believe that this clipping, along with others from Fern’s early work was among the many personal items lost to fire when the family’s Blevins Street home burned in the fall of 1932. The fire was the result of a kitchen chimney fire, early one fall morning. Many of the family’s possessions were saved, and many were not. As fragile and volatile as newsprint is, some of her clippings were snatched from the flames.

This short story gave me a glimpse of the workings at Milton Beebe’s logging camp one hundred years ago. The crew spent a winter cutting hardwoods along the “Big Clam” River. Since we have not heard any portion of either branch called this, it is a mystery and may be taken two different ways. Big could mean the portion of the river which descends from Clam Lake, now Lake Cadillac; the main portion of the river. Or it may more likely mean a point south of Haskell Lake Road where the west branch joins the Clam. The resulting stretch from there to the Muskegon could then technically be called the “Big Clam” River.
Fern recognized early that the way of life she knew as a child was fast disappearing; as quickly as the last of the old forests had.
Portions of this story are among things of family legend, or were so to my grandmother and her sister. Brother Frank’s handling of the cant hook, coupled with his swiftness and accuracy at the rollways was a thrilling story for Fern to tell. In the eyes of his young sisters Frank could do no wrong, and to be honest, brother George could do little which was right. George, who developed a volatile temper, was the tormentor and Frank the protector.

It is unfortunate that Frank was not able to protect himself or his family. The story of Maud Dunlop of Dighton and Frank Beebe is a short and sad tale. After their marriage in August 1909 they took a forty just south and west of his parents and brother George, in Hartwick Twp. He built a house and they began a family. They were the parents of two sons, Ford born in 1911 and Rudolph in 1913. Frank farmed in the summer and continued to work in the woods with the rest of the family in the winter. Life was good. And then in August 1915, Maud died, according to her death certificate from septicemia, the result of miliary tuberculosis. She was 22 years old. Part of her legend had been that she died as a result of the Spanish influenza, which was not the case. Her death certificate is signed by Marion’s Dr. Donald Johnson, and George Gray, undertaker.

Milt and Lillie would lose three grandchildren to the Spanish flu over 5 days in 1918. They were the children of eldest daughter, Clara May and husband Henry Wilhelm of Jennings.

With the help of his family, Frank continued farming and logging for a time. Then, leaving his sons in the care of their grandmothers, Rudolph with the Dunlop’s and Ford with Lillie, he went to serve in WWI.

He returned to find that his farm had been sold for back taxes and that his young sons did not recognize him. After a particularly ugly argument with his brother George, a heartbroken Frank left Osceola County, not to be heard from again.
His sisters spent years wondering about him and followed any leads that came their way. Fern sent inquiries to various states and county seats in a fruitless search. By the early 1960’s they concluded that Frank had gone to Texas but inquiries brought nothing concrete.

In the ensuing years, until their deaths, both Fern and Criss doted upon nephew Ford who, in turn, was very fond of his aunts. All went to their greater rewards not knowing the fate of brother and father.

Had the Internet been available to aid in the search his sisters could have found Frank, alive and relatively well near Dallas, Texas. He died in until his death in 1963. He became a professional painter, of the buildings and interiors variety, married again and raised a second family. We can only hope that his life in the Lone Star state was a better one.

Anna Beebe, who received a ring from Art Emory at the end of that logging season; she and Art married in April of 1909 when both were 19. They were the parents of four children, one of whom was Aubry “Red” Emory.

Red inherited the family ‘writing genetics’ and was a published poet in his own right, even having had a patriotic poem read in Congress (and into the Congressional Record). He wrote a poem for his wife each day until she died. Red died a few years ago, having lived the last years of his life in Lake City.

Peace From The Pines

Peace From The Pines

As for the location of the Beebe camp, the land lumbered or the rollway on the Clam River, we can only say that it was in Winterfield Township, somewhere. There are a number of high banks which served as rollways.

I wish I remembered more from those Sunday afternoon rides when I was a kid, roaming the two track trails and listening to Grandma’s stories. I love a good mystery and clues come along in the most unexpected places. You just never know.
Here’s to the New Year of 2019 and to all the things we have yet to discover!

Wishing you Peace and Prosperity in 2019 from the Pines.

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