Morenci Sportsmen's Club celebrates 50th 8.05.09

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

Members of the Morenci Sportsmen’s Club often talked about the need for a clubhouse back in the late 1950s.

Two local groups—the Seneca Sportsmen’s Club and the Morenci Conservation Club—merged a decade earlier and membership was growing.sportsmen.festival.jpg

Members met at the Powers’ house east of Gorham Street for trap shooting, but the group turned to Morenci’s Teen Inn for monthly meetings. They had no place to call their own.

On Feb. 20, 1959, club members gathered to talk about buying land for a future club house and shooting range. The first step was to approach Richard R. Carryl to see if he would sell some property northeast of town along Mulberry Road.

A deal was worked out with Carryl and at a special meeting April 16, members voted to buy 18 acres. They assessed themselves $5 each to help fund the down payment on the property.

They also planned their first smelt fry—a tradition that never took a break through the club’s first 50 years.

Members set to work on plans to remodel a barn for a clubhouse and to construct a range for trap shooting and archery, plus a picnic area. There was even talk about creating a golf driving range and a children’s play area. Right from the start, they looked at their future club as a place for the entire family to go.

The property was mostly open farm land, but there were a few trees growing along Silver Creek that wound its way through the land.

Rather than submit to a drainage project through the county, the group decided to do the work on its own. The first step was to move 23 trees. Two of them were moved very carefully—one with a dove nest and another with a nest full of robins.

Concrete picnic tables were constructed, trees were planted, and the membership grew. In fact, the Morenci Sportsmen’s Club, Inc., received an award for the best membership increase in the state.

The mortgage on the property was burned in a ceremony Aug. 7, 1969, but six years later the old clubhouse burned and fund-raising efforts were directed to paying for the new facility that was soon constructed.

The wild game supper became an annual event starting in the early 1980s. An additional seven acres of land was bought, and in 1994, an addition was constructed to enlarge the clubhouse. This made way for an indoor archery range.

Through the years, there’s been shooting of trap, skeet, clays and muzzleloaders. In the 1990s, outdoor archery began.

But don’t think only about hunting when the Sportsmen’s Club is mentioned, said member John Hanawalt.

“We work to promote our fishing and hunting heritage, but we also work for wetland preservation and for those who like to go out and watch butterflies,” he said. “We’ve got members who don’t even hunt.

“It’s not just hunting and fishing. We’re trying to keep the land for future generations.”

The club buys the Michigan United Conservation Clubs’ Tracks magazine for fifth and sixth grade students in Morenci, Sand Creek and Waldron.

“It shows what life is all about,” Hanawalt said. “It urges children to get outside and enjoy the outdoors.”

He knows it’s a valuable resource. The club has received letters of thanks from teachers and students over the years.

Club members have moved toward serving the public more by supporting the Rex Riley Scholarship effort and starting their own scholarship administered through the Morenci Education Foundation.

They direct funds to Hospice, the American Cancer Society, the Morenci ambulance service, etc., and have given money to help families who have lost possessions through a fire.

Scholarships are given to area children to attend summer camp at Cedar Lake and the group continues to rent their facility for social events.

With the 50th anniversary celebration scheduled Saturday, Hanawalt says he and other members look forward to many more years of serving the public, saving wild lands and enjoying the camaraderie of fellow sportsmen.

• Everyone in the area is welcome to join in with club members at the celebration this weekend. The annual Kids Day program begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, offering a variety of fun and educational activities at no cost.

In the evening, a family dance with a live band is planned.

  • Front.bridge Cross
    STEP BY STEP—Wyatt Stevens of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge Sunday during the Michigan DNR’s Great Outdoors Jamboree at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The Tecumseh Boy Scout Troop constructed the bridge again this year after taking a break in 2016. The Jamboree offered a variety of activities for a wide range of age groups. Morenci’s Stair District Library set up activities again this year and had visits with dozens of kids. See the back page for additional photos.
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    LEADING THE WAY—The Morenci Area High School marching band led the way across the pedestrian bridge on Morenci’s south side for the annual Labor Day Bridge Walk. The Band Boosters shared profits from the sale of T-shirts with the walk’s sponsor, the Morenci Area Chamber of Commerce. Additional photos are on the back page.
  • Front.eclipse
    LOOKING UP—More than 200 people showed up at Stair District Library Monday afternoon to view the big celestial event with free glasses provided by a grant from the Space Science Institute. The library offered craft activities from noon to 1 p.m., refreshments including Cosmic Cake from Zingerman’s Bakehouse and a live viewing of the eclipse from NASA on a large screen. As the sky darkened slightly, more and more people moved outside to the sidewalk to take a look at the shrinking sun. If you missed it, hang on for the next total eclipse in 2024 as the path comes even closer to this area.
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    THE MAYOR—Cecil Schoonover poses with a collection of garden gnomes that mysteriously arrive and disappear from his property. Along with the gnomes, someone created the sign stating that he is the Mayor of Gnomesville. He hasn’t yet tracked down the people involved in the prank, but he’s having a good time with the mystery.
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    TAKE A BREAK—Last Wednesday’s session of Stair District Library’s Summer Reading Program ended with a quiet period in a class presented by yoga instructor Melany Gladieux of Toledo. Children learned a variety of yoga poses in the main room at the library, then finished off the session relaxing. Additional photos are on page 7. Area children are invited to visit the library today when the Michigan Science Center presents a flight program at 11 a.m. and roller coasters at 1 p.m.
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    THE DERBY—Tyler “Smallpox” Flakne of Minnesota’s Home Run League All-Stars goes for the fence Friday night during the National Wiffle League Association’s home run derby in Morenci. This year the wiffleball national tournament moved from Dublin, Ohio, to Morenci’s Wakefield Park. During the derby, competitors had two minutes to hit as many home runs as possible. The winner this year finished with 21. See page 6 and 7 for additional photos.
  • Front.green Screen
    OUT OF THIS WORLD—Elizabeth McFadden and Elise Christle pose in front of the green screen as VolunTeen Noah Gilson makes them appear as though they are standing on the Moon. More photos from the Stair District Library’s NASA @ My Library program are on page 12.
  • Front.fireworks
    FIREWORKS erupt Saturday night over Morenci’s Wakefield Park during the waning hours of the Town and Country Festival. Additional festival photos are inside.
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