Ghosts of Main Street: Mother Nature’s Temper

February 8, 2019

By Julie Traynor

This winter has plagued Michigan with ice events and the Marion area has certainly seen its fair share. Winter usually brings us some ice. It is inevitable; this is Michigan. Historically the mother of all ice storms was the Great Ice Storm which occurred on February 22, 1922; or more dramatically, 2/22/22. Either way we approach the 97th anniversary of that event this month. This event did not miss a single city, village or farm

Heavy ice and snow broke almost every limb from this hardwood tree in the yard of Melvin “Hap” and Vera Liscombe in the same storm. 

Heavy ice and snow broke almost every limb from this hardwood tree in the yard of Melvin “Hap” and Vera Liscombe in the same storm.

in what is now called the Great Lakes Region. The thick coating of ice, which came north as a moisture laden low, up the Mississippi valley, fell as rain and clung as ice. Parts of Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and all of Wisconsin and Michigan were covered. Wisconsin bore the brunt with the thickest coatings of ice. One region reported a record 4” glazing. This record still stands. Millions of dollars in damage was done to telephone, telegraph and electric wires and poles. It was carnage and destruction for trees and forests.

This winter’s rain and ice storms have clearly been a nuisance. Between the extreme cold and the wind and ice school closing events, it has been a challenge to be a Michigander. But we are tough and this winter is not the first to make life in Marion a bit of a challenge. Since the 1922 Ice Storm there have been other notable ice storms and plenty of snow too.

On South Blevins Street an enormous white pine grows on a lot which first belonged to early settlers Samuel and Susie Watt. They were first to own this ground, platted by speculator Mark Ardis about 1900. They built the original house and sold to Frank and Fern Berry by 1922. Among the many trees and shrubs planted by the young Berry family, a white pine sapling, brought from Fern’s family farm in Highland almost 100 years ago, remains the sole survivor.

Through the year’s disease, age, inconvenience and lightening took all the others and a number of its Blevins Street neighbors. And still this giant white pine stands, and grows. Its crown is easily seen above the landscape when approaching Marion from the west. It towers above the ‘pine plantation’ planted by Fern Berry in the 1960’s as a bird sanctuary. The white pine has withstood a lot of wicked weather, assault from insects, sap suckers and tree climbing children.

The venerable white pine of Blevins Street during an ice storm in ca 1950.

The venerable white pine of Blevins Street during an ice storm in ca 1950.

In the middle of the last century, 1950 give or take a year or two Marion experienced a branch breaking, tree snapping wire popping icing which was caught in photos.

Some trees weren’t so fortunate, and across Main Street from the school this maple or elm couldn’t fight the weight of both snow and ice, taking almost every limb. We will add that this photo also gives us a rare look at a venerable Marion home. Built on the southeast corner of Main and Blevins by William Dunham Jr. in 1889, it remained with members of that family until it was purchased by Melvin and Vera Liscombe and daughter Barbara in the mid to late 1940’s. This highly regarded home, with quite a Marion story, remains in their family. (The Liscombe Home – Marion Press 2003) Like many a home in our town, the house and surroundings continues to evolve.

Sometimes Mother Nature has a hand in the landscaping.  Since these icing storms we’ve survived official blizzards, subzero temperatures, more ice, heat, rain, drought and all of the tricks in the weatherman’s bag. We are tough here in the Valley of the Middle Branch.

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