The Local History Project
Mary Beth Looby, Professor of English

The Mid-Michigan Remembers--Stories about Us website grew out of my own love of history as well as the class exploration of Michigan history my Delta College students and I have been conducting since 1998. The essays featured on this website are a good cross-section of the writing my students have done as a result of their focus on their own communities and state. I believe the students' written and visual work, presented on the website, is a real source for celebration of all that is good about us and our remarkable past! At a time when Michigan is struggling economically and our own Mid-Michigan area is faced with escalating violence and the tragic loss of too many young lives, this website allows us to focus on the positive things our young people are contibuting and accomplishing.


Those who visit this website need only click on any of the student essays to see essays and stories that reveal the interest, pride, and appreciation Delta students have for their cities and state. They write about significant people, places and events that have made an impact on them. Reading, writing, discussing and researching local and Michigan history has been an ongoing focus of mine since about 1994, and it has really energized my Delta College English 111A college composition class and captivated my students’ interest.   


In my 111A class, students read a book by the late Stuart Gross--who wrote for The Saginaw News for many years, authored eight books about local/Michigan history, and served as an administrator at SVSU.  In fact, this book, The Saginaws: When Timber Was King, was the last

book Gross wrote, and an English Division colleague and I edited the book and it was printed and published at Delta College (available in our bookstore).  Although the book is graphic in places, depicting the life of a young virgin who arrives in Saginaw during the rough lumbering era, it is a fascinating story about a girl who really lived in mid-Michigan during the late 1800s.  Students sometimes confess this is the first book they have ever read all the way through, and many tell me they pass it on to other family members and friends when they are done with it.  Research material is also available about this young girl, Frankie, so it takes our class out into the community, to Hoyt Library specifically, where students can’t wait to explore more about Frankie, her life, times, and the town she lived in.  This, in turn, leads to additional research, reading and writing, and class presentations on local and Michigan history.



This book by Stuart Gross was the beginning of my/our exploration of community history, and it has led to many great things in the eleven years since I introduced it:  Students and I have researched, nominated and inducted a little-known African-American lumber baron into Saginaw’s Hall of Fame (see "Atwood Factsheet"); we have researched the life of Saginaw’s only female lumber baron and published a fact sheet on her life (see "Martha Hay Factsheet"); my students, The Saginaw historical Players, have volunteered over 150 hours presenting what they know about local history to area elementary school students (see photos and news articles); we have taken numerous fieldtrips into the community--to sawmills, libraries, museumsand courthouses; and I have received two sabbaticals (one in winter ’06) along with the honor of Delta’s Carlyon Endowed Chair in 2000-2001.

A Student's Reaction to the Local History Project
Delta College Student Eric Clark

During the course of this semester, I have really enjoyed the things that we've learned in English 111A. This class has helped me develop critical writing skills that will really benefit me in the future. Class never got boring because there was always something to do that caught my attention, like reading The Saginaw's: When Timber Was King. That book turned out to be one of my favorite books that I've read in a long time. The characters really came to life with each and every page that I turned. I also enjoy the topics we wrote about. We were never limited to write about one specific thing as a class. We were always granted our freedom to choose a subject that related to one central topic. The things that our class did together really brought us together and allowed us to get to know each other. I can't ever remember being in such a close-knit class in which everyone was friendly to one another.

The Saginaw's: When Timber Was King emerged as one of the best books--I never got tired of reading it. I found myself often times reading the book at night. Honestly, I think that it's the only time that I've ever kept a book on my nightstand that was there for a purpose. The book was so captivating and never let my attention go while I was reading it. It wasn't uncommon for me to imagine that I was there in Saginaw at that particular time, thinking of what I would do in situations that the characters were in.


Writing in class was something that I found to be quite fun. For the first time in my life, I actually enjoyed sitting down and being able to write about-something that was pleasing to my standards. My favorite piece that I wrote in this class was my essay about living in Saginaw and in Muskegon, not to mention the girls. I had the opportunity to say whatever I wanted, about whatever I wanted. I think that the girls were the highlight of my essay, along with my comedic style of writing.

A couple of weeks ago, our class was able to present a small portion of Saginaw's history to the third grader students at Emerson Elementary School. I was fortunate enough to be able to play the role of William Q. Atwood. I actually had to research my character, and during the research I learned more than I had planned on learning about William Q. Atwood. After the play, the class took pictures, sat and talked and had a good time. The class, or should I say the students in the class, were especially nice and friendly. In fact, I'd say that I even made a few new friends, people that I'd like to keep in touch with after college.

This English 111A class has been one of my favorite classes that I've ever taken in both high school and college. There isn't a single thing that I would change about the class and the things that we've done for the duration of this semester. The one thing that really stands out in my memory and something I'll never forget is the day we spent at Emerson School. I felt like we really served a purpose there on that day. This truly has been a great learning experience for me, and I hope that what I learned in this class will greatly benefit my future.

Script for Saginaw Historical Players:
William Q. Atwood

Eric Clark

My name is William Q. Atwood. I was born January 1st, 1839, in Wilcox, Alabama. Did you all know that I was a slave, and my father was my own slave master? However, I was granted my freedom in 1853, so I moved up north to Ripley, Ohio.

After six years of assisting in the Underground Railroad, teaching school, and attending Barea College, my younger brother John and I moved to California during the "Gold Rush". While I was there, I opened a restaurant, searched for gold, did some silver mining, and bred horses. Without gaining any riches, we went back to Ohio.

In 1863, I moved to Saginaw, Michigan, to be a timber cruiser. That means I searched for land for people to cut down trees on. In 1868, I opened a real estate office in downtown Saginaw, and in 1872 I met and married the girl of my dreams. Together we had five children. In 1874, I opened Atwood Sawmill on the Saginaw River. For the next fourteen years, I focused all of my time, money, and effort into my sawmill. After my sawmill went out of business in1888, I began to participate in politics. I served as a delegate for the Republican National Convention three consecutive times. I finally died at the age of 71. At the time of my death, I was worth $103,000, which in today's monetary value (2002), is over $1.7 million dollars.

The written and visual works in Mid-Michigan Remembers-Stories about Us were chosen on the basis of their quality, diversity, community interest and appeal. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the College. This space is provided as a service by Delta College.