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

  • Snow.2
    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.
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    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.
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    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.
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    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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Tracking down the Underground Railroad in Lenawee County

Written by David Green.


A concealed trap door leading to the crawl space under the house.

A false wall creating a secret hiding space.

A quilt with a particular pattern hanging in the yard as a sign.

Station by station, the Underground Railroad led slaves from the South to freedom in Canada. Michigan played a key role in the secretive, dangerous process, and Lenawee County, as one of the gateways into the state, was at the forefront.

Traces of that era remain, waiting to be exposed by volunteers working through the Sojourner Truth Technical Training Center of Adrian College.kimberley_davis

“The history is out there,” says political science professor Kimberley Davis. “It’s in memories, in shoe boxes, in libraries, but we need help uncovering it.”

Davis has hit upon a unique way to get the job done. She intends to train volunteer squads of people interested in local history. Armed with digital cameras and tape recorders, portable scanners and interview techniques, the community researchers will head out to track down artifacts and stories from an extraordinary period of American history.

Davis is establishing the project in her home area—Lenawee County—before taking the model out across the state. Traces of the Underground Railroad remain, from the southern border towns to communities in the Upper Peninsula.

“We’re sort of creating a modern-day Underground Railroad, building these networks,” Davis said.

All information collected will be fed into a web site known as the Terminus Underground Railroad Digital Archive. Once the web site is launched, it’s expected to become the most advanced database of its kind, offering the most comprehensive repository of information available.

Citizen Researchers

From the very beginning of the project, Davis said, the idea was to train community members to collect information. She and others have devised a system that can make it work.

“It’s portable, accessible and easy to use—for the convenience of the people in the community, who are our researchers.”

Davis aims to begin the work by organizing town meetings in Lenawee County communities and townships. Historical society members are likely candidates for the project, but anyone is welcome to give it a try.

Training sessions will teach volunteers how to operate a laptop computer for data storage, a scanner to copy old letters or other documents, and a digital camera to record images of documents too fragile to handle. Use of a digital tape recorder will also be included. All the equipment will fit into a backpack for easy portability.

The researchers will also be trained in interviewing techniques before heading out into the field to track down stories of the past.

Davis sees this method as the quickest way to gather information, and there is some urgency in her work.

“We need to collect data quickly since older people are passing on and buildings are destroyed through development,” she said.

The citizen researchers will also be trained to enter data into the web site. From oral history to photos of buildings, residents from all parts of Michigan can play a role in developing the digital archive.

“It’s a state-wide story and it’s a national story,” Davis said.

And a large part of the tale can come from Lenawee County.

“Lenawee County was an important part of the state,” she said. “It was a hotbed of activity in the Underground Railroad.

“We have a lot of stories from this area, but I know by no means it’s a complete story. We need people in the community to help us complete it.”

Secret Society

Making the decision to hide fugitive slaves didn’t always come easily. Slaves were property, after all, and concealing stolen property was against the law.

Participation in the Underground Railroad often divided family and friends, said Kimberley Davis, director of Adrian College’s Sojourner Truth Technical Training Center. There are cases where a husband was a slave-holder and his wife secretly aided in their escape.

A kinship grew among those who helped runaways.

“Many different groups came together to help,” Davis said. “They did it because of what they believed in. They crossed all kinds of boundaries.”

There were often surprises among the ranks of the abolitionists—those who wanted an end to slavery. Supporters of the Underground Railroad to freedom went well beyond Quaker congregations and often included the local sheriff or the mayor of a community.

Blacks, whites and the Native American population all came together in the effort. Studying the history of the movement could offer a good model for conflict resolution, Davis said.

“It’s such a powerful story and a powerful lesson,” she said.

It was also a secret operation, and that’s where documentation a century and a half later becomes difficult.

    – June 12, 2002 

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