John Geisler to speak about U.S. 12, the Old Sauk Trail 2.11

Written by David Green.

John Geisler had a fascination with roads and where they led ever since he was a child growing up in Morenci.

Once he retired from his career as a professor at Western Michigan University, he returned to that curiosity with the highway and took a closer look.john.geisler.jpg

He’ll present some of his findings Tuesday at Stair Public Library when he talks about the Old Sauk Trail.

Don’t expect a boring lecture, Geisler said.

“I’m not a historian,” he said, “and it’s not a lecture type of presentation.”

The title of his talk should make that clear: “From Pathways to Expressways: A Quixotic, Queer, Quaint, Clever and Whimsical History of the Sauk Trail (U.S. 12) from Detroit to Chicago.”

And if that’s not enough, he describes the program “as told by a quaint and quixotic former resident of Morenci” who shows clever slides at the whim of the presenter.

He won’t work his way through a stack of note cards; it’s just a light and entertaining talk coming from his memory.

There are many interesting stories behind the hundreds of major roads in America, and U.S. 12 is no exception.

“It’s still the shortest route from Detroit to Chicago,” Geisler said. “It’s not the fastest, but it’s the shortest.”

The Sauk people had a connection to the British, Geisler said, and they traveled from Illinois to Detroit each year in the late 1700s to receive gifts.

From the first paths forged out of the wilderness to the well-worn trail and finally an early road, the old Sauk Trail served as an important route for travel.

It was the chief road between Detroit and Chicago before construction of the I-94 interstate.

After Geisler retired from teaching graduate level counseling courses at Western, he decided to become a student again.

“I’ve had an abiding interest in roads and highways ever since I was a kid,” he said. “What I’ve done is to continue my education.”

Many retirees just sit and listen in, but not Geisler. He wants the tests and a grade. In a Michigan history class, he decided fulfill a project assignment by exploring his interest in roads.

Michigan highways became his goal, but it didn’t take long to discover he was biting off far too much.

“I soon learned that one road was enough and I chose the old Old Sauk Trail.”

Geisler’s presentation Tuesday, beginning at 7 p.m., will incorporate slides that show highlights of the road from its start in downtown Detroit, the communities it passes through and the attractions along the way.

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    WRECKAGE—Morenci Fire Department member Taylor Schisler walks past the smoking wreckage of a semi-truck tractor on the north side of the Norfolk and Southern Railroad tracks on Ranger Highway. The truck trailer was on the south side of the tracks
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    SCULPTORS—Morenci third grade students Emersyn Thompson (left) and Marissa Lawrence turn spaghetti sticks into mini sculptures Friday during a class visit to Stair District Library. All Morenci Elementary School classes recently visited the library to experience the creative construction toys purchased through the “Sculptamania!” project, funded by a Disney Curiosity Creates grant. The grant is administered by the Association for Library Services to Children, a division of the American Library Association.
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    LEONIE LEAHY was one of three local hair stylists who volunteered time Friday at the Morenci PTO Fun Night. Her customer, Aubrey Sandusky, looks up at her mother while her hair takes on a perfect match to her outfit. Leahy said she had a great time at the event—nothing but happy clients.
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    LEARNING THE ROPES—Kristy Castillo (left), co-owner of Mane Street Salon, works with Kendal Kuhn as Sierra Orner takes a phone call. The two Morenci Area High School juniors spent Friday at the salon as part of a job shadowing experience.
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    IN THE FIELD—2004 Morenci graduate Kayse Onweller works in a test plot of wheat in Texas. She’s part of Bayer CropScience’s North American wheat breeding program based in Nebraska, where she completed post-graduate work in plant breeding and genetics.
  • Front.winner
    REFEREE Camden Miller raises the hand of Morenci Jr. Dawgs wrestler Ryder Ryan as his opponent leaves the mat in disappointment. Morenci’s youth wrestling program served as host for a tournament Saturday morning to raise money for the club. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.bank.2
    SHERWOOD STATE Bank opened its Fayette office at a grand opening Friday morning, drawing a large crowd to view the renovated building. Above, Burt Blue talks to teller Cindy Funk, while his wife, Jackie, looks around the new office. The Blues missed the opening and took a quick tour on Tuesday. Few traces remain of the former grocery store and theater, however, part of the original brick wall still shows in the hallway leading to the back of the building. The drive-through window should be ready for customers later in the month.
  • Front.make.three
    FROM THE LEFT, Landon Wilkins, Ryan White and Logan Blaker try out their artistic skills Saturday afternoon at the Morenci PTO’s first Date to Create event. More than 50 people showed up to create decorated planks of wood to hang from rope. The event served as a fund-raiser for miscellaneous PTO projects. Additional photos are on the back of this week’s Observer.

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