BY KATHLEEN GEST
---- — 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.”
Thanks to sponsorship by Comfort Keepers, “A History of Grand Traverse – Part I” will be presented at the following Senior Center Network locations:
Kingsley Satellite - Wednesday, July 10, at 1 p.m.
Interlochen Satellite - Thursday, July 18, at 1 p.m.
Fife Lake Satellite - Wednesday, Aug. 7, at 1 p.m.
Acme Satellite - Monday, Sept. 9, at 7 p.m.
“The history series will go through why people moved to Grand Traverse, why they stayed, how was the way of life, what is still here and why did it make it through all of the years,” Buteyn says. “And, of course, there will be photos, first-hand accounts and some artifacts to help in the explanations.”
Buteyn believes it is important to learn about the transformation of people as they adapted to a new way of life unfamiliar to them and about the change they brought to this region. Learning from the past is a way of understanding the present. Fortunately, Grand Traverse history is well recorded and preserved.
“For me,” Neumann says, “local history comes most alive in the stories of its people, their personal struggles and successes; the creativity, resourcefulness and willingness to collaborate for worthy community projects.”
Finally, local history to some extent reminds us that history and the responsibility for it begins in one’s own backyard.
“Understanding our local history — and it is a fascinating, multi-faceted history, to be sure — allows us to more fully embrace our present and anticipate our future,” Neumann says. “Whether we have recently moved to the Grand Traverse region or our roots are many generations deep, all of us who call this area home are stewards of its future. We love where we live; it behooves us to know and preserve our wonderful heritage.”
The general public is welcome to attend. The series is free of charge and no reservation is required. A community meal will be served one hour prior to each program. However, a reservation for the meal is required. For more information or to RSVP for the meal, call 231-922-4911.