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When Michigan shanty boys (lumberjacks) went into the fall woods in 19th century, they often did not come out until spring. During the long winter nights, if the men wanted entertainment, they had to furnish it themselves. Singing songs helped pass the time. Some of the songs the men wrote themselves or they might add lyrics to a traditional melody. In any event, the songs were often about life in the camp or about their experiences.
Clare’s Stephanie Terpening will perform a number of these songs during the Clare County Historical Society’s Old Fashion Day, Saturday, Sept. 28. Stephanie fell in love with these songs when she ran across recordings of Michigan lumberjacks that were done in the 1930s while in Oakland, California. She eventually wrote her master’s thesis on these folk songs and is involved in notating them, which means creating sheet music with words and melodies.
“These are the real songs the men sang. One of the songs even mentions the settlement of Clare and all the tree stumps in town,” Stephanie said.
She will be performing from 2-3 p.m. Traditional favorites also will be provided by Indigo Moon earlier in the day.
There’s a lot more to this annual event than music. There will be tours, a working blacksmith, wagon rides, food, vendors, old farm equipment and more. It’s also the last chance to tour the Spikehorn exhibit before the museum closes for the season.
There also will be a guest speaker, Mandy Kramer, a CMU doctoral candidate who has used ground penetrating radar at the Clare Poorhouse Cemetery in Harrison and the Garrity Cemetery in Hamilton Township in hope that she could help determine how many unmarked graves might be in each location. She will discuss her findings and how archeologists use radar and other high-tech pieces of equipment in their research.
“We will never be able to determine who is buried in those cemeteries since records we have are incomplete; however, if we can find the locations of possible graves, we want to mark them,” said CCHS Member Marty Johnson. “It’s the least we should do for these early Clare County pioneers, some of whom might have been mere infants.”
Kramer’s talk will begin at approximately 1:15 p.m.
Admission to the event is only $3 per person, with children 12 years and younger admitted free. Proceeds will benefit the museum.