Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Sunday

July 14, 2013

Preserving local history

MESICK — In many ways, the Mesick Area Historical Museum is this Wexford County village’s attic.

Here resides a sleigh once pulled by horses, a relic telephone switchboard, an antique pump organ, a small press with tiny type used by the local undertaker in the 1930s and 1940s to print obituary cards and copies of old Mesick Sun-Pioneer newspaper pages laminated in plastic.

It’s also a gathering place for people who treasure old sepia-toned photographs, cream separators, quilts, a Singer sewing machine, pioneer farming and logging era relics and the stories that often accompany them.

Museum president Deborah Kohn of Traverse City and some 15-20 rotating volunteers spend many Saturdays here from May through September to showcase some aspect of local history — toys from the past, the nearby Hodenpyl Dam and North Country Trail, local churches, neighboring places Harrietta and its fish hatchery, Buckley, Yuma, and Sherman.

“It’s important to preserve the heritage of the people who have lived here,” Kohn said.

About 400-450 people visit the museum a year, according to museum guest book entries. A common question that Deborah Kohn and other volunteers often field is, “How did Mesick get its name?”

It’s not much of a mystery.

The village is named for its first settlers — homesteaders Howard and Ellenor Mesick, who came from New York state to farm 160 acres. A surveyor offered to plat their land for two lots in 1880.

The Mesick home, along what is today Clark Street, became a stagecoach way station. Howard started a sawmill and a general store, too.

Kohn grew up in Mesick and graduated from high school in 1961. She attended Northwestern Michigan College and then Central Michigan University where she earned her teaching degree. She taught third and fourth grades at Traverse Heights Elementary School from 1966-1994.

Her mother, Grace Kohn, longtime Mesick school teacher and elementary school principal, headed up the village’s 1989-1990 centennial celebration committee and fundraising for it.

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