County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

Local History Best Told by Community

Centennial Guides and More


Slightly more exciting than my local matchbook collection is the centennial book collection I began for the Harrison District Library. While we are committed to keeping our collection local Clare County items and specifically, Harrison, the centennial books are an exception. They are fun to read through and a contain a lot of genealogical information.

Small towns throughout northern Michigan began creating commemorative centennial guides when their community turned 100. That puts most of the books published between 1960 and 1980 considering a lot of northern communities were logged and settled after the Civil War.

The books are simple, unsophisticated, and usually self-published in each locality. The photos aren’t great quality. There was no Amazon print on demand or internet self-publishing. What they lack in print quality they make up for in content. Histories of founding families, businesses, churches, local lore, and lots of photos. The photos are usually labeled who donated them or where they came from which makes a great lead for finding out more from the families today. Most of the folks that produced those books are gone now but their knowledge of local history is preserved.

The books were a lot of work and was almost always done by volunteers. A committee usually was formed to compile, organize, and edit a large amount of local history. The end result is local history preserved and shared for generations.

Harrison produced a Diamond Jubilee guide in 1966 when Harrison celebrated 75 years as an incorporated city. It is a photo heavy book and has pages of sponsored ads which are a great source of information about local businesses. It’s worth noting that the cover art on the 1966 jubilee book is incorporated into the City of Harrison logo today.

Harrison did a centennial guide in 1991 with the title Timber and Rail Dominion of Old. Both guides, though 25 years apart had covers designed by local artist Thelma “Tem” Hubbell. Both were paperbacks and the 1966 guide sold for $1 and the 1991 guide sold for $5.

In 1991, as part of the centennial celebration Harrison created a separate booklet called Harrison Heritage Home and Properties Tour that sold for $1. The tour included information and photos of pioneer homes and businesses and included a map.

In 2016, the Harrison District Library produced a glossier, modern guide for Harrison’s 125th celebration that coincided with the Harrison Street Fair.

In 1978 volunteers formed the Clare Area Centennial Committee and produced a beautiful hard back, cloth covered book titled Clare Remembered The First Hundred Years -- An Introduction to the History of the Clare Area 1879-1979. It includes Clare and Isabella County history.

The Clare centennial book originally sold for $6.95, and each was numbered in limited edition.

The Farwell Area Centennial 1870-1970 guide was published in 1970. It was largely written and compiled by Hazel Littlefield Smith. Her dramatic introduction shows her passion for Farwell’s history.

“It is the lives of the people who have walked our streets who have made the history of Farwell: one hundred years of births and deaths of work and hope, achievement and failure, days of suffering and hours of happiness; all the complex stresses of community living: an Epic Drama too great for any historian to record. Therefore, I have only attempted to sketch the background of economic and social developments against which the reader can imagine the human response.”

Farwell’s centennial guide is one of the longest local books at 92 pages.

Churches also frequently publish histories when they mark significant anniversaries. The Clare United Methodist Church published a history of their first 100 years in 1971. It is an impressive 180 pages long.

The Clarke Historical Library also has a copy of Historical Highlights of the Clare Congregational United Church of Christ, 1872-1987. This book does not appear to have been published in a large amount of copies but contains a lot of information in over 198 pages.

If you are searching for a book not listed locally the Clarke Historical Library has a large collection of local Michigan community produced history books online at


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