Traverse City Record-Eagle

August 1, 2011

Loraine Anderson: Clayton Sporre's legacy

By LORAINE ANDERSON
Local columnist

---- — Clayton Sporre was an interesting man. He died at age 92 on July 24. His funeral was Friday.

My acquaintance with him began in 2009 when he called and told me he had a collection of scrapbooks filled with Record-Eagle clippings dating back to the early 1900s.

They were created by Agnes McDonald Love, his wife Joanne's grandmother, who was born in Elk Rapids in 1867 and died in 1948. Clayton had also added to the collection over the years.

Would I like to look at them, he asked.

I went to his house, expecting to see three or four scrapbooks. He had maybe 20. Mrs. Love had organized the clippings by subject and date — a treasure for anyone trying to decipher and understand Traverse City's history from 1910 through the 1930s when lumbering died and the city recreated itself as the Heart of Nature's Playground and the Cherry Capital of the World.

The books chronicled the development of Traverse City's power dams and reforestation along the Boardman River. They followed movie theater manager Con Foster's transformation of Traverse City's once-industrial waterfront into Clinch Park during the 1930s. They showcased the construction of the Park Place Hotel in 1930.

Clayton was only 12 in 1930, the youngest of five children whose father had just been killed in a tragic industrial accident at Cherry Growers, where Northwestern Michigan College's West Campus is today.

The scrapbooks also detailed some of the city's hard-to-find women's history. Agnes McDonald Love, you see, was president of the Grand Traverse Equal Suffrage Association in the decade before women got the vote. Her English-born husband, William, was longtime superintendent of what later became Traverse City Light & Power.

Mrs. Love was an early schoolteacher, too, in the Yuba and Acme areas and a leader in the Grand Traverse Federation of Women's Club, which lobbied for many civic improvements. She also helped found the Bowen-Holliday American Legion Post and organized the fund drive for World War I monuments at the Grand Traverse courthouse.

It was she who wrote letters to each of Michigan's 83 counties asking them to send a rock for the stone cairn built in 1938 north of Kewadin along Cairn Highway, then part of M-31, which extended from the state line to Mackinaw City.

The information gleaned from the scrapbooks helped me write many local history stories in 2009 and still does.

Clayton Sporre's long watch over the scrapbooks says a lot about him as well as his deep love and pride for the city, its history, present and future. I'm glad he called.

A city like ours should never lose its legacy.

Thank you, Clayton.

Loraine Anderson can be reached at landerson@record-eagle.com or 933-1468.