Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Baker, Booth, and Lincoln

The assassination of President Lincoln, two madmen, a stuffed horse named Buckskin and the largest manhunt in U.S. history led by a man from Lansing, Michigan will be the focus of April programs hosted by the Historical Society of Greater Lansing.

In April 2015, the Historical Society will sponsor 11 events and programs that commemorate this tragic time in U.S. history, said President Valerie Marvin.

“General Robert E. Lee had surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox only six days prior to when the madman assassin John Wilkes Booth shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln,” Marvin said.
“The North went from celebrating their victory with shouts of joy to tears of grief for their slain leader within only days.  Interestingly, Lincoln died on Good Friday, elevating the symbolic nature of his death."

The unthinkable act would trigger a 10 day manhunt for the assassin when Col. Lafayette C. Baker, formerly of the Lansing area and head of the fledgling Secret Service, called on his cousin Lieutenant Luther Byron Baker, who later moved to Lansing, to accompany 26 members of the 16th New York Cavalry in pursuit of Booth.

Among the troop was another madman, Sgt. Boston Corbett, who would shoot and kill Booth, explicitly against the orders he had been given, on April 25 in a barn in Virginia ending the search for the assassin.
Luther Baker, along with his horse Buckskin, would move to Lansing where he would settle and buy real estate with his share of the reward money.

Later in his life, Luther Baker would go on a lecture circuit often accompanied by his horse, Buckskin.
On April 26, 150 after the capture and death of Booth, historian and national expert on the manhunt, Steve Miller of the Chicago area will describe the fateful manhunt, the actions of the 16th New York volunteers and the Bakers’ role in the capture and burial of Booth.

Throughout the month of April there will be events featuring authors, historians, walking tours, a Medal of Honor recipient and a look at the State’s Civil War flags.

Marvin said more than 90,000 men from Michigan went off to fight in the Civil War; serving with distinction in some of the most important battles of the war.

“The toll was incredible with 14,753 men making the ultimate sacrifice,” she said.

“And a Michigan man, Luther Baker, would lead the final act, ultimately becoming a national hero along the way,” Marvin said.

She said after the war, Luther Baker and his horse Buckskin often led Decoration (Memorial) Day parades and later Buckskin was stuffed and displayed at MSU where he became a favorite with local children until he disintegrated. 

Author Scott Martelle will describe why Corbett was a madman at a discussion and signing of his book “A Look at Boston Corbett, the Man Who Killed Booth,” Friday, April 3, 7 p.m. at Schuler Books in Okemos.
Then on Thursday, April 9, 7 p.m. at the East Lansing Public Library Thomas Mudd, a descendant of the enigmatic Dr. Samuel Mudd, will detail his ancestor’s relationship with John Wilkes Booth.  (Dr. Mudd tended Booth as he fled from Ford's Theatre, treating injuries sustained during the assassination.)  

On Saturday, April 11, 2 p.m. the Library of Michigan and the Historical Society of Greater Lansing will present a dramatic reading of the love letters sent by Union soldier Nathan Adams to his wife-to-be, Emily Parsons. Erik Nelson, owner of the English Inn and Kristin Nelson, his spouse, will bring these letters of battle and love to life more than 150 years after they were written. The Library of Michigan will showcase other rare Civil War items in its Rare Book Room and the Michigan Historical Museum’s Civil War exhibit will be open.

Lansing resident and Lincoln assassination expert Rick Brown will present a special program, “Michigan’s Connection to the Aftermath of the Lincoln Assassination” Thursday, April 16, 7 p.m. at the downtown branch of the Capital Area District Library.

Brown has been collecting material related to the Lincoln assassination since he was in junior high school in 1965 when he bought an April 28, 1865 newspaper detailing the capture of Booth.

“The reason I selected the newspaper was it was exactly 100 years old. Little did I know at the time that this one small incident would turn to a lifetime avocation,” Brown said.

Brown, who has become a national expert on the assassination, has collected thousands of items directly relating to the assassination including diaries, broadsides, engravings, wanted posters, original souvenirs, photographs and more than 200 original newspapers, both Union and Confederate, about the assassination and its aftermath.

In addition to his presentation Brown will showcase his Travelling Lincoln Assassination Museum at the East Lansing Library, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., April 7, 8 and 9. The exhibit, containing more than 30 rare items, will then move to the downtown branch of the Capital Area District Library for three days, April 14, 15 and 16. (Lincoln died from his wounds on April 15).

The weekend of April 24, 25 and 26 there will be five events recognizing one of the most important times in American history. On Friday, April 24 at 6:30 p.m. the first-ever walking tour of the Michigan State Capitol grounds will be conducted focusing on Civil War era memorials. 

On Saturday, April 25 at 1 p.m. will be a tour and talk of Mount Hope Cemetery featuring the graves of Civil War veterans including Luther Byron Baker, Charles Foster, the first man from Lansing to volunteer for the Civil War, one African American member of the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Regiment (of the movie “Glory” fame) and a special recognition of Lansing’s only Civil War era Medal of Honor recipient Dr. George E. Ranney.

Marvin said “We are so honored to have Duane Dewey, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Korean War, who will lay a wreath at the grave of Ranney. ”

Dewey, one of two living Michigan Medal of Honor recipients, will be escorted by the Seventh Michigan Volunteer Infantry Co. reenactors and the Sons of Union Veteran of the Civil War. On the evening of Saturday, April 26 at Dart Auditorium Steven Miller will present his signature lecture on the manhunt at 4 p.m.

The month’s activities will culminate with two programs on Sunday, April 26 at the State Historical Museum in downtown Lansing. At 1:15 pm, Dr. Helen Veit, noted food author and MSU Professor of History, will speak on the food of the Civil War. Veit has written two books on food in the Civil War era (North and South) and her books will be for sale at the event.

At 2:30 p.m. Matt VanAcker, Director of the Michigan Capitol Tour and Information Service and co-chair of the Capitol's Save the Flags project will take visitors for a behind the scenes look at Michigan Civil War flags.

Marvin said the flag program is a fitting final tribute to the end of the Society’s tribute to the 2, 000 Ingham County men who fought in the Civil War.

“Flags stirred emotion, patriotism, and loyalty in the men like no other symbols.  Countless men sacrificed their lives so that the colors might stand."

“By the end of the war, the flags were sacred relics to the men who served under them, physical proof of their heroism and bloodshed.  One of the reasons our current Capitol was built was to serve as a proper home to our Michigan Civil War battle flags."

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is also publishing for the first time in print the actual lecture that Luther Byron Baker used on his speaking tours. Local historian Craig Whitford has written an introduction explaining the importance of the lecture and provided a variety of photographs and lithographs which illustrate the 48 page book.  The book will be for sale at the Civil War events, at Schulers and at Historical Society events throughout the year.

In addition, the Historical Society’s new exhibit Lansing Goes to War featuring more than 150 iconic objects from the Civil War to the First Gulf War will be open 8 am-5 pm during the week and at 5 pm- 6:30 pm the evening of Friday, April 24.

The Michigan Historical Museum’s exhibit “Conceived in Liberty” on the end of the Civil War featuring several items relating to Luther Byron Baker will be open during normal museum hours.

For a more complete listing of events, please click on the When Johnny Comes Marching Home tab at the top of this page.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Letters From my Father, A World War I Mechanic

Letters From My Father, A World War I Mechanic
by Mary Jane McClintock Wilson
Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 7:00 pm 
Lansing City Hall - 124 W. Michigan Ave.

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting a program on the "Letters from My Father: A World War I Mechanic" at 7 p.m., Thursday, March 26 in the lobby of Lansing City Hall.  Mary Jane Wilson, the daughter of Freeman "Mac" McClintock, will discuss and read from the letters her father sent home during World War I.  McClintock was hand-picked for his skills as an auto mechanic; especially the repair and maintenance of WWI ambulances.

He was one of dozens of mechanics recruited mostly in the Detroit area where the burgeoning auto industry was running full tilt.  By the end of the war he was assigned the prestigious position as auto mechanic in Paris and given the responsibility of keeping the cars of President Wilson and General Pershing running while they were attending the Versailles Peace Treaty talks.

At the end of the war he returned to Michigan and at various times owned Packard and Cadillac dealerships in Lansing.  His McClintock Cadillac, now Capitol Cadillac, was located for many years at 2400 East Michigan Ave.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Lansing Goes to War Exhibit

Lansing Goes to War Exhibit 
Lansing City Hall - 124 W. Michigan Ave.
Monday - Friday, Thru June 30
7:30 am - 6:00 pm, Daily

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing's newest popup exhibit "Lansing Goes to War", a collection of more than 150 artifacts and ephemera from the Civil War to the Spanish American War and from World War I to World War II and to the First Gulf War, is now open and available for viewing at Lansing City Hall.

 "The current exhibit showcases how war changes all aspects of our life, forever," she said.  "We wanted to express the concept that, once a generation, people in Lansing have sent family members off to war.  The exhibit looks at the time when women worked in factories or were sent overseas as nurses and families received sober telegrams starting with "We regret to inform you...."'

The exhibit includes uniforms, medals for bravery and other mementos from Lansing families, she said.  "We wanted to focus on the things they carried and the things they wore," Marvin said. 

The exhibit also contains items from the home front including the first tank shell manufactured by Oldsmobile.  Numerous items from the Civil War including the Grand Army of the Republic Medals also will be on display.   

Another highlight includes items and letters from Freeman 'Mac' McClintock who was an auto mechanic in World War I and would service ambulances across the French countryside.  At the end of the war he ended up in Paris servicing the cars of General Pershing and President Wilson.  He later returned to Lansing and owned several car dealerships including McClintock Cadillac.  His daughter, Mary Jane Wilson, will present a program at 7 pm, Thursday March 26 based on her father's letters from the front.  Following the presentation guests are encouraged to bring their own or relative's letters and read snippets of them which will be recorded.

The exhibit also explores the role women played in the war as nurses and medical professionals, but also gaining their independence by working in wartime factories making everything from bombs to airplane parts.  A banner from the Willow Run Bomber Plant, once owned by the Lansing aviatrix Babe Ruth, a WWII trainer for the Army Air Force, is on display for the first time.

You will also see how the war was integrally involved in every aspect of the home front including ration stamps, MIA bracelets, and the blue stars which families hung in windows to designate a soldier, airman, sailor, or Marine overseas.

One collection showcases how families and warriors kept in touch through Vmail and how they were able to vote from overseas.  There are also items that feature souvenirs set home to family members, especially mothers and wives.  An extensive scrapbook compiled by Joyce Hammond is an endearing record of her sweetheart fighting overseas.  Ron Springer who served in Vietnam loaned what he calls 'the rucksack letter' which he sent home to his parents detailing what he carried into the field on a mission.

Local attorney Eugene 'Gil' Wanger has provided several items from his magic act which he took on the road with an entertainment troupe of college students assembled by Fred Warner.  Amazingly, he kept the rabbit from the 'flat rabbit trick'.

A truly unusual piece of ephemera is one of the original manuscripts used by Luther Baker in speaking engagements describing his role in leading the group which captured John Wilkes Booth.  Following the end of the Civil War Baker moved to Lansing and used the award money to invest in local real estate.  Baker and his horse Buckskin were often seen in parades and at local speaking engagements.

The HSGL will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the capture and death of Booth in a month-long series of lectures and events in April called When Johnny Comes Marching Home.

All items in the exhibit are from local families or collectors of military items.  Special thanks goes to Scott Shattuck of Mason, Ron Springer of Lansing and Craig Whitford of Holt.  Jana Nichols, Carl Kenter, Eaton County Courthouse Square, Tom Plasman, the Baker Family, Jacob McCormick, and the Logan Family, also provided items for the exhibit.

The exhibit will be open through June during normal City Hall hours and it will also be opened on special days and weekends.  

Friday, February 13, 2015

Michigan's War of 1812

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing will host Adam Franti of Ypsilanti who will speak on “Michigan’s War of 1812” 7 p.m., Thursday, February 19 at Capital Area District Library, 401 S. Capitol.

 Franti, who is working on his Masters Degree in History at Eastern Michigan University with a focus on the War of 1812, was a historical interpreter at Fort Mackinac on Mackinac Island for four years where his interest in the unusual war was piqued.

He will not only discuss how the War of 1812 started, but also will focus on the capture of Fort Mackinac and Fort Detroit by the British and the complex relationships between the British, Indians and Americans.

“The British soldiers assigned to capture Fort Mackinac were, at best, reservists, as Britain’s best troops were fighting Napoleon’s army at the time in Europe.  Their officer, Captain Charles Roberts, reported to his commander that the men 'were so debilitated and worn down by unconquerable drunkenness that neither the fear of punishment, love of fame, or the honor of their country could animate them to extraordinary exertions.'  Yet they still managed to capture the fort, which doesn't say much for the Americans!".  

He said the capture of Fort Detroit was the most embarrassing battle of the War for the American since it was taken not by absolute force, but through skullduggery and deception.  William Hull, the commander at the fort, wrote to the Secretary of War, William Eustis, begging for reinforcements and notifying Eustis that ‘the Northern hive of Indians has been loosed upon the frontier.’  Ironically, the letter was captured in a baggage train by Tecumseh, the most prominent Indian leader during the war, who turned it over to the British authorities.  The letter convinced the British that, though outnumbered, they could force Hull into surrendering.  Encouraged, the British took Detroit easily, shaming Hull.

Following the War Hull was court-martialed, found guilty and sentenced to die, but the sentence was commuted by President James Madison.

“Ironically, Detroit’s misfortune during the War of 1812 and capture actually benefitted Lansing.  Many writers of the first Michigan State Constitution remembered the disgraceful defeat and, due to concern that the British might return to Detroit again someday, mandated in the document that the capital city be relocated by 1847.  Thus the founding of Lansing for the purpose of being the new capital,” Historical Society of Greater Lansing President Valerie Marvin stated.  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Upcoming Events

Chief Okemos, Man & Myth
By Jim Lalone
Thursday, February 5, 2015 - 7:00pm
Downtown Library, 401 S. Capitol Ave., Lansing

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting genealogist and amateur historian James LaLone for a program on “Chief Okemos: the Man and the Myth”, 7 p.m., Thursday, February 5 at the Capital Area District Library, 401 S. Capitol Ave, in downtown Lansing.

LaLone who has been researching Chief Okemos for several years will explore the many myths that surround the life of Chief Okemos including where he was born; was he a descendant of Chief Pontiac; his wartime experiences, how old Chief Okemos was when he died and where he is buried.

“No other Lansing figure has inspired such a mythology as Chief Okemos,” Historical Society President Valerie Marvin said.  “Lansing residents are proud to call him one of our own, yet most of us really don’t know too much about him.”

LaLone who has been doing genealogy for more than 40 years became interested in Okemos when he began doing Michigan and Canadian Indian genealogy. He now has more than 42,000 Michigan Indians in a data base.

“I was an anthropology major in college and naturally gravitated toward Indian genealogy,” Lalone said.

He said he reviewed “everything and anything” he could find that has been written about Chief Okemos and able to more carefully construct a history of the Indian Chief. The village of Okemos is named after him.

“I think people will be surprised about what they think they know about this warrior chief,” he said.
Also local historian and collector Craig Whitford of Holt will display and discuss his tin type photograph of Chief Okemos which he bought on E-bay several years ago. Only two other photographs of Chief Okemos are known to exist and one, an ambrotype, is in the State Archives; the other is in private hands. It is likely the photographs, with slight differences, were shot at the same time in about 1857.

There several works of art which have been executed of Okemos including a  painting in the State Archives; a painting in the Nokomis Museum in Okemos, a painting in the Ingham County Courthouse and a painting in the Clark Archives at Central Michigan University. Several other lesser art pieces including a Lansing City Pulse cover have also been done.

LaLone also will explore Okemos’ war time experience and discuss Chief Okemos’ descendants. It is known that Okemos, likely a mixed Ottawa and Chippewa, fought under the British flag at Fort Meigs near Sandusky during the War of 1812 and was seriously wounded in the battle with Mad Dog Anthony’s troops. Upon his death the Chief was written about in the London Illustrated News.

Also coming soon:

Michigan & the War of 1812
By Adam Franti
Thursday, February 19, 2015 - 7:00 pm
Downtown Library, 401 S. Capitol Ave., Lansing

Monday, January 5, 2015

1847 - Year of Beginnings

1847 - Year of Beginnings
by Professor Emeritus Ann Harrison
Thursday, January 15th, 2015 - 7:00 pm
Downtown CADL, 401 S. Capitol Ave., Lansing

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is hosting former Michigan State University Professor Ann Harrison who will present “1847: Year of Beginnings” 7 p.m., Thursday, January 15 at the downtown branch of the Capital District Library, 401 S. Capitol. Harrison chose 1847 since it was the year Lansing was selected as the State Capital.

She said it was only one of many unlikely events that would occur that year.

“It was very strange for Lansing to be chosen, but it turned out quite well,” Harrison said.

“No one expected Lansing to become the Capitol in 1847,” Historical Society President Valerie Marvin agreed.  “Lansing didn’t even officially exist at the time.  The entire township was then home to exactly eight registered voters, and the total population likely was less than 100.  It was a bit of an odd choice.”

Harrison who is a life-long Lansing resident said began lecturing with a focus on one-year in world history after retiring from teaching French for 34 years.

“It’s an interesting way to explore history and it’s always quite surprising what occurred during a specific year,” she said.

“Lansing as the Capital may have been unlikely, but certainly not more unlikely than Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis both in Congress,” Harrison said.

Harrison also will delve into famous individuals who were born; the outstanding books published; the formation of social movements and other significant events.

For example, she said Thomas Edison, Jesse James and Graham Bell all were born in 1847 and the Communist Party was founded that year. 1847 was the year of the first U.S. postage stamp and the books “Wuthering Heights” and “Jane Eyre” were both published.\

“When you pick a year you don’t know what you are going to find,” she said.

Harrison said she decided to go in a totally different direction after retirement and began teaching history by-the-year in MSU’s Evening College until it was eliminated. Since then, she has been exploring the years for the residents of Burcham Hills in East Lansing.

Knapp's Auction Nets $23,000 for Future Lansing History Museum

A very big thank you to everyone who supported HSGL's annual auction at the Knapp's Centre!  Thanks to your donations, attendance, and purchases, we raised $23,000 - an increase of $8,000 over last year, making this our most profitable auction yet.  All of the money is now in our museum fund and will be used for the purpose of establishing a Lansing area historical museum.

Thank you all very, very much for your support!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Old Fashioned Christmas at Knapp's Silent Auction

Knapp's Centre 2014 Silent Auction
An Old Fashioned Christmas at Knapp's!
The Historical Society of Greater Lansing's 2014 Silent Auction
Saturday, November 15, 2014 - 4:00pm
Knapp's Centre
300 South Washington Square, Lansing

Sponsored By

The evening includes:

- Tours of the Knapp's Centre, highlighting stories of devoted shoppers, longtime employees, and the story of Knapp's renovation, including a peek into a new apartment
- A mini exhibit about the history of Knapp's
- A slideshow of historic images and advertisements from Knapps 
- Bidding on 140+ silent and live auction items (for a complete list click on the 2014 Silent and Live Auction Items Link above)
- Light Hors d'oeuvres

Mark your calendar for Saturday, November 15, 2014 and join us at HSGL’s annual silent auction to benefit the museum fund.  The funds raised through the silent auction will help HSGL continue its efforts to build a collection of historical Lansing artifacts as we work to found a future Lansing area history museum.  You can help HSGL make the annual auction a success in many ways: by purchasing a ticket and attending the event, donating an item for the silent auction, or financially sponsoring the event.

"Physicians Health Plan is proud to sponsor the Historical Society of Greater Lansing’s Silent Auction Museum Fundraiser.  PHP, as a Lansing area employer for more than 35 years, recognizes the need to revive and revitalize historical buildings in Lansing for adaptive use. Historic building preservation tells the story of a city, and Lansing’s story will continue to be conveyed in the years to come through the newly renovated Knapp’s Building.”

Purchasing Tickets
Tickets cost $15 per person and may be pre-ordered by filling out and returning a ticket order form with payment (click here to download ticket form) or by ordering online through PayPal.
Ticket orders and sponsorship forms may be mailed to:
Historical Society of Greater Lansing
P.O. Box 12095
Lansing, MI 48901

The Historical Society of Greater Lansing is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

October 2014 Upcoming Events

Made in Lansing Lunchtime Series
Wednesdays, from 12:10 - 12:30 
Lansing City Hall, 124 W. Michigan Ave.

October 22, 2014
 LorAnn Oils: From Okemos Pharmacy to 
International Corporation by John Grettenberger, CEO 
and grandson of the company’s founder.

Michigan Agricultural College Campus Life 1900 – 1925: A Postcard Book
Thursday, October 23, 2014 – 7:00pm
Downtown CADL – 401 South Capitol Avenue

 Join author Stephen Terry for a remarkable 
armchair tour of Michigan Agricultural College’s 
Campus at the beginning of the 20th century. The 
postcards depict everything from early sports teams to 
buildings lost to the wrecking ball and fire including 
Abbott Hall, the Women’s Building, Chemistry, 
Engineering, Dairy, off-campus housing, and even the 
infamous underground tunnels. Books will be available 
for purchase and signing. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Raye of Light

Raye of Light Book Event
Thursday, September 25, 2014 - 7:00 pm
Downtown CADL - 401 South Capitol Avenue

Join author Tom Shanahan and MSU 1966 National Champion Quarterback Jimmy Raye for a discussion about 'Raye of Light', the story behind Duffy Daughtery's leading role in integrating college football in the 1960s and Raye's football career.  Books will be available for signing.  Learn more here.