County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

A Glimpse into the Life of Marie Beemer Bailey



Cleaver Managing Editor

When thinking of women in Clare County history Anna Marie Beemer Bailey stands out. Marie, as she was called, was born to Oliver and Lena (Gosine) Beemer on October 31, 1901, in Clare County. Her father Oliver was a legend in the county and also to Marie. Marie wrote a lengthy essay about her father’s merits, but this article is about Marie and perhaps I can share that another time.

She married Frederick Bailey (1898–1954) in 1922. She changed her name with marriage but all her life she was known as Marie Beemer Bailey. Marie’s brother Art Beemer married Fred’s sister Thressia. Such is the tangled web of pioneer family trees when populations were smaller. In 1964, Art, Bill, and Fred Beemer were the founders of Beemer’s Sand and Gravel run by Art’s grandson Cody Beemer today. That business celebrates 60 years of continuous business this year.

Cody holds Marie’s diaries and other family history. Some of that collected history was used in the 2014 book Harrison that Cody and I coauthored through Arcadia Publishing. In the 1970’s Marie intended to write a history book about Harrison but never did. She kept detailed diaries about her life with over 30 volumes in total. I’ve only read through one, but they detail her life from small things such as who she had lunch with or who she called on to noting family or community member deaths. The diaries are a glimpse into small town life seen through the eyes of a busy and vigorous member of the community.

Marie was a schoolteacher for over 53 years in various positions in Clare County. She started teaching school in 1917 at the one room schoolhouse in Leota. Many news items ran in the Cleaver over the years similar to this 1943 clip from Frost Township, “The children of the Frost School enjoyed a program and Christmas tree at the school Wednesday morning. The children exchanged gifts and the teacher, Marie Beemer Bailey, presented them with gifts and boxes of candy and nuts. Each child in school received a sack of candy from the Long Lake Store.”

In 2022, the Cleaver published an early legal cases synopsis by Jon Ringelberg in the case of Bailey vs. the Franklin Township Unit School from 1939. This must have been big news at the time as there was a quarter size ad in the Cleaver prior to the court case listing the reasons Marie was let go and the breach of contract details. Ringelberg remembers Marie well and can tell a great story about her raking an attorney over the coals in the court room on a case he witnessed.

Throughout her lifetime Marie had an infamous battle with the Clare County Road Commission over the road and road right-away conditions in front of her home on Grant Ave in Hayes Township. In 1957, the battle seemed to end with the county condemning the small right of way and compensating Marie in the amount of $205. She would not voluntarily sell the strip of land which was 33-feet wide and 835 feet in length.

 Apparently, it didn’t end in 1957. The Cleaver has an item in 1974 that reads, “Superintendent Brandon informed the Commission Lapham Surveying had completed cross sectioning that portion of Grant Avenue where Mrs. Marie Bailey had erected a concrete wall running parallel with the road for an approximate distance of 80 feet. Mr. Brandon questioned if it was the Commission’s desire to initiate a suit to have the wall removed After discussion, it was the consensus of the Commission that the Prosecuting Attorney be requested to initiate immediate civil proceedings in an attempt to have the wall removed.”

In 1977, she attended a county commissioner meeting to question signs the road commission was installing. This appears to be a fight she never gave up.

The Bailey’s lived in Alaska for a time in the mid-1940s and many letters and photos sent home survive today. One long letter from Marie to a friend was even published in the Clare Sentinel. Unfortunately, the letter is too long to republish here. Her letter details the food and people and ends with their happiness at their living situation, “Inside Passage trip is unforgettable. We reached Seattle without even a flat tire. Sold our car at an unbelievable price and got a warm welcome at the office here. I’ve got the best job I ever had, and Fred is extremely pleased with his and we are very glad we came. We miss our home and family and friends.”

Marie was a friend of John E.”Spikehorn” Meyer the owner and bear man who ran a tourist attraction wildlife park south of Harrison. In 1958 she was named his guardian by Clare County Probate Court as he was deemed an incompetent person. He died a year later. Spikehorn is debated as the most colorful character to live in Clare County.

Marie was a lifelong member of the Democratic Party. She held many positions in the Clare County party including chairman.

Marie passed on at age 86 on August 4, 1988. Marie and Fred never had any children but were aunt and uncle to a great many nieces and nephews and had a large extended family. If you think we have only covered the tip of iceberg about Marie’s life you would be right. While I didn’t know her personally, I have a deep impression that she was a tenacious and busy person, her circle of acquaintance was large, and she was a woman of substance and character. An entire book could be written about Marie Beemer Bailey and likely many Harrison residents have memories of her today.

© Clare County Cleaver


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