The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

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    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
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    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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John Geisler talks about U.S. 12 2009.02.25

Written by David Green.


John Geisler says he’s always had an interest in roads, ever since he was a kid.

“Why does this road go from A to B?”

“Why is Telegraph called Telegraph?”

“Why is U.S. 20 called 20 and not 280?”john.geisler.jpg

After the Morenci native retired from teaching at Western Michigan University, he didn’t want to stay at home so he enrolled in a Civl War class at a community college.

“I was in a class with 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds,” Geisler said. “They thought I fought in the Civil War.”

A later class in Michigan history led to the assignment of a research project and Geisler chose state highways. He quickly discovered that he would need to pare down the project to a single road.

“I knew something about an Indian trail that went east and west across Michigan,” he said. “It was known as the Old Sauk Trail.”

That’s the road he chose to study and he figures he’s probably traveled 3,000 miles researching his beloved U.S. 12.

Geisler spoke at Stair Public Library last week and showed slides of attractions found along the road.

For thousands of years, many trails have been used by native populations in what we now know as Michigan. The Sauk people didn’t break the trail named after them, but they frequently traveled its route.

Geisler said the Sauk once lived in the Saginaw Bay area. They moved north and later migrated into Illinois. British troops at Ft. Detroit kept an alliance with the Sauk alive by handing out gifts every year and the Sauk traveled the trail to receive their tribute.

In the 1820s, Father Gabriel Richard pushed for federal money to survey a road from Ft. Detroit to Ft. Dearborn (Chicago). The survey was completed in a surprisingly short time, Geisler said, because crew soon decided that it was silly to create a new road when the old trail was just what was needed.

Starting in downtown Detroit, Geisler headed west during a series of visits to follow U.S. 12 and record a few of the highlights that he found interesting.

His travels led to a series of commemorative plaques and signs that make reference to the Old Sauk Trail, the Chicago Road, the Iron Brigade Memorial Highway, the Pulaski Memorial Highway and others.

U.S. 12 travels by the former Tiger Stadium and the enormous Michigan Central Depot. It takes a Michigan Left Turn in which a driver must first turn right into order to travel left.

It passes the Willow Run bomber plant that produced one new bomber every hour at the height of production during World War II when 42,000 people were employed.

The highway crosses Normal Street in Ypsilanti, a reference to Michigan Normal College (Eastern Michigan University), the oldest teaching college west of the Appalachian Mountains.

The marker in Ypsi mentions the Old Chicago Road, the name commemorated in the majority of communities across the state.

Geisler noted that many communities along U.S. 12 are spaced 12 to 15 miles apart—the distance a stage coach could travel before changing horses.

His slide show moved into Lenawee County where the road was once known as 112. Route 12 traveled through Ann Arbor, but it was decommissioned after I-94 was built. When the highway signs were first changed, state workers simply used white paint to remove the first “1” in 112.

At the once-famous junction of U.S. 12 and M-50, the commemorative plaque, along with the rock on which it was based, was lost for 40 years following a road improvement project.

Geisler traveled past the observation towers in the Irish Hills and visited McCourtie Park near Somerset Center with its unique collection of trees and bridges made of concrete.

In a roadside park near Jonesville, Geisler encountered his third mention of Father Richard. He moved on through Allen, the antiques capital of Michigan, past a Mail Pouch Tobacco sign in Quincy and the Chicago Pike Inn in Coldwater.

There’s a Chicago Street School in Bronson, Halfway Road near Burr Oak (half way to Chicago?), and an operational soda fountain in White Pigeon. There’s also a United States Land Office in White Pigeon that sold land for $1.25 an acre in the 1820s.

Mottville features the world’s longest concrete camelback bridge in the world. Niles is the city of flags. British, French, U.S. and for 24 hours, Spanish flags have all flown over the city. In the early days of stage coach travel, a trip from Detroit to Niles took 13 days. Road improvements later cut travel time to five days.

Three Oaks proved to be Geisler’s favorite town along the route, with the old Featherbone corset company, the Dewey Cannon captured during the Spanish American War and the incomparable Drier’s Meat Market.

The Michigan stretch of U.S. 12 ends near  New Buffalo, a town that has joined other communities with the construction of a casino. But looking back in time, Geisler also found what’s listed as the first tourist information center in the United States, ready to serve travelers crossing into Michigan from the Hoosier State.

The Native Americans knew how best to travel, Geisler noted, because their old route is still the shortest one from Chicago to Detroit.

“I’ve fallen in love with this particular road,” Geisler said.

His wife calls it an obsession.

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