TRAVERSE CITY — Learning the local history of the place where one lives fosters discovery, explanation and connection.
Many are of the opinion that local history consists of two basic elements: place and people. Place signifies a specific territory, whether a county within a state, a neighborhood within the county, or your own back yard. Yet, without the involvement of people, place is only local geography. Local history addresses the nuts and bolts of how both the region and its people survived and developed to arrive at the present.
Knowing its history has the potential to make an individual feel part of or connected to a place.
Sharon Neumann, outreach coordinator for the Senior Center Network, recalls a story told to her by a network member about the various hardships his grandparents endured when settling in this area.
“Their homestead was over 10 miles from Traverse City, the only place to purchase food and supplies,” Neumann recounts. “Each week, the couple rode to and from town in a horse-drawn wagon on trails where bandits lay in wait for the passersby. He described how his grandma rode on the back of the wagon, facing out, armed with a whip she used skillfully to flail robbers who would jump out of the woods onto their precious load.”
Today, it is hard to imagine a weekly shopping trip like theirs.
Listening to the stories of families that have been in the area since the mid-1800s, and realizing network members’ genuine interest in local history, inspired Neumann to approach the History Center of Traverse City about the possibility of bringing a series on Grand Traverse region history to the Senior Center Network.
“The History Center of Traverse City has been teaching local history programs for several years, as well as publishing their own books to promote history,” said Maddie Buteyn, the center’s events and exhibit coordinator. “It just seemed like instead of staying at The History Center, we could branch out and go to other locations and bring the history to them, so that they may understand where they are living a bit better.”