Treasures from the past

Court records from 1925 detailing cases presided over by a traveling justice of the peace. (Colin Merry/Pioneer News Network)

Crystal Lake Township Hall cleanup unearths records from over 100 years ago

CRYSTAL LAKE TWP.  — When Jill Marble started clearing out the Crystal Lake Township Hall, she wasn’t expecting to find records over 100 years old.

Marble, who is working with the township to clean out the basement, started in early January with a small room filled bottom to top with boxes of old records. As she painstakingly sorted through the paperwork, she discovered some very interesting items depicting a very different township from the one residents know now.

Old maps detailing property boundaries, subdivisions and more, including some printed on linen, were discovered in the basement of the Crystal Lake Township Hall. (Colin Merry/Pioneer News Network)

“I found bound tax assessment records from the 1800s and early 1900s,” Marble said. “I found meeting minutes from 1892.”

Other documents of interest included three bound record books from 1925 detailing court proceedings presided over by a traveling justice of the peace.

“The justice of the peace would travel around Benzie,” Marble said. “In Crystal Lake Township, they held the proceedings in the town hall.”

One of the more interesting cases, according to Marble, was a case involving a $30 pair of bloomers.

Another item of interest was birth certificates, some as far back as 1914.

“It is amazing how many times people gave birth at home, without a doctor,” Marble said. “The father was usually listed as the attending.”

She also said the birth certificates reflected the changes in the economy as time went on.

“Many of the fathers were listed as farmers in the earlier records,” Marble said. “As time moved on, you saw more people working for the railroads.”

Other records showed an early history of who rented out the township hall, and what kind of events they held. Residents held weddings and dances. Jehovah’s witnesses event rented it out from time to time.

Maps were also found, including some made out of linen. The township is looking to see w

Amy Ferris, supervisor for Crystal Lake Township, looks through old records discovered in the basement of the Crystal Lake Township Hall. (Colin Merry/Pioneer News Network)

ho might be interested in restoring some.

Marble said the township plans to eventually bring the records out of the basement and put them on display for a while in the first floor of the township hall.

She also said the Benzie Area Historical Society will be visiting the town hall and looking at the items to see if any might be of interest to them for display.

As for some of the oldest records from the 1800s, Marble said the township would be contacting the Archives of Michigan, and they may eventually be sent to Lansing to be displayed.

“We had a great time looking at these items,” she said. “When I first started working in the basement, it was just a lot of old boxes. Some of them had a lot of water damage. It was one of the reasons (township supervisor) Amy Ferris wanted to clean out the basement.”

As for the years of other records without historical significance, Marble said six truckloads had been recycled, after any sensitive information was removed. Marble has experience working with the state retention schedule and record keeping from work with the Department of Natural Resources.

 

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