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Post My Father at Michigan State Normal College
Created by John Eipper on 06/27/20 4:30 AM

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My Father at Michigan State Normal College (Patrick Mears, Germany, 06/27/20 4:30 am)

In going through my Mears historical material that I have collected over the years, I noticed that my father's Michigan State Normal College yearbook makes it clear that Adrian College at that time was their primary rival.

Adrian was to MSNC as Michigan State is now to University of Michigan. I am now putting together (and am almost done with) a history of my Mears/Irish forebears. I have just finished the narrative ending with the day of my birth. From there, I will continue with my autobiography, which I need to carefully map out before I start writing. I told Connie today that it will be under lock and key once I am done with it.

While beginning to research and write our family history, I lacked the day-to-day detail of what daily life on a small farm in Michigan must have been like in the latter half of the 19th century. Since then, however, I have come across two authors who fill that gap very nicely. The first is Bruce Catton, the American Civil War historian, who wrote a beautiful paean to his rural childhood experiences on a farm near Beulah, Michigan in Benzie County during the time period I am concerned with. This book is titled Waiting for the Morning Train and was published in 1972. The other helpful author, who was raised on farms in Wisconsin and Iowa during this same time period, is Hamlin Garland (1860-1940). Garland's 1917 autobiography, A Son of the Middle Border, contains extensive and richly described detail on day-to-day farm life back then. This autobiography was preceded by Garland's 1891 collection of short stories titled Main-Traveled Roads, depicting daily life on Midwest farms after the Civil War. Garland was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1921 for his subsequent work, A Daughter of the Middle Border.

I also noticed when writing the history above that, in my father's High School Yearbook (Flint High School, Michigan) from his senior year (1907-1908!) that the following line item in a timeline of the seniors' past school year appeared next to the date of April 14, 1908: "We are addressed by Mr. Rutledge, of Dublin University on the 'Irish Situation.' Young, handsome, bright, witty-and chews gum." I was impressed to see an Irish educator from Dublin come to Flint, not a large metropolis by any means back then, to talk about the very active and aggressive, nationalist movement in Ireland at the time. At least, that is what I assume he addressed.

JE comments:  Pat, it was Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University) that brought you to WAIS!  Some years ago you contacted me about the Argentine patriarch Domingo Faustino Sarmiento's 1868 visit to U Michigan and MSNC.  Your historical curiosity led you to reach out--and the rest, as they say, is history.

EMU is in the city of Ypsilanti (named after the 19th-century Greek general Demetrios Ypsilantis), and the town still has a Normal Street.  I called Ypsilanti home from 1996-2000.  Illinois still has an entire city named Normal, site of the formal normal school (now Illinois State U).  Here's to normalcy!

Bruce Catton (1899-1978) is one of the iconic historians of the US Civil War and the field's pre-eminent writer during the Centennial period of the early 1960s.  Adrian has a Catton street; I always wondered if there is a family connection.

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