The Yankee West: Community Life on the Michigan Frontier

By Susan E. Gray | Go to book overview

Conclusion. The Foundations of an Empire

On August 14, 1879, the Pioneer Society of Kalamazoo County met in Dyckman's Grove in Schoolcraft for its ninth annual reunion. The society enjoyed pride of place among old settlers' associations in Michigan as the oldest in the state. Members of the society, according to the state association, founded in 1874, were required to be at least forty years of age and to have lived in Michigan for at least twenty-five years. The reunion at Dyckman's Grove, however, attracted many participants who probably did not meet even these fairly elastic criteria for membership, for the society arranged for a special train to run from Kalamazoo to Schoolcraft. The gathering was something more than an occasion for the venerable to talk over old times. 1

Before the luncheon, the president of the society, the Honorable Stephen F. Brown, greeted the crowd with a speech that set the tone for the afternoon program of oratory, music, and poetry. He began with a tribute to Schoolcraft, the county's "cradle of civilization," where "first began that struggle to overcome the manifold difficulties and dangers in reclaiming land from the dominion of wild beasts and the savage and transforming it into fruitful fields and the abode of civilized man." The society met to celebrate this remarkable transformation, to bear witness to the distance, in more than years, of the past from the present. Such an achievement could only be

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