Saturday, January 19, 2008

Mike Shaw

I did not know that Mike Shaw had died until I read the posting on Mark Maynard’s blog by Old East Cross. I had noticed his absences from the city’s streets, but failed to wonder why. I just counted myself lucky that he would not stop me on the street, and I would have to listen to him mumble on about his landlord or some other topic. Mike was one of the colorful persons Ypsilanti is known for. He wondered the streets of the city, counting the squirrels, and looking for the Starkweather fountain.
I first came know Mike at the Ypsilanti City Archives, when he came in to do research. He believed he was descended from the Shaw family, who were among the first to settle here. The truth is, he was not, his father came here in the 20th century. His belief, I think, was based on his finding the Shaw family graves at Highland Cemetery. He loved Highland, and often talked of getting a job there as a grounds keeper. It never came to be. The women who worked at the archives were both concerned for him and frighten by him. Mike was like a grandson to them, be it a very troubled one. Mike had gone to Vietnam, and, in a real sense, part of him never left. He suffered an injury to the head that left him disabled.
Mike took an interest in the Starkweather Fountain, missing since the 1930’s. He came to believe it was hidden by his landlord, Kircher, in the basement of the Thompson Block. Once a sharp dealer sold Mike the head of a statue, telling him it was part of the Starkweather Fountain. He spent his pension for a month on the item. He asked me to stop by his apartment to take a look at This was not something I really wanted to do. The head, as it turned out, was made of plaster, and the fountain was made of bronze. I had to tell Mike the head was not part of the fountain, that he had wasted his money. I was nervous as I broke the news to him, not sure how he would react. Mike took the news well, as it did not seem to brother him. I left as quickly as I could.
Now Mike is gone. I pray his soul has found the peace it was denied in life.
Now, those of us who remain, as left with a question: Who will count the squirrels.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Barn on Newton Farm is Burned

The following story appeared in The Ypsilanti Record of Thursday, January 3, 1918.

The Lee Newton farm, one and one half miles west of Sheldon, stocked jointly by Henry Newton, his brother, and operated by Henry Newton, was the scene of a most disastrous barn fire fire Friday morning shortly after 7 o’clock when the huge building and most of its contents was completely destroyed.

Explosion from a gasoline engine by which the milking machine in the dairy was operated, is the cause of the fire. Among the heaviest of the losses was six head of fine milk cows, a recently purchased International tractor, 52 loads of hay, 100 bushels of wheat, 250 bushels of oats, two gas engines lows drill corn planter manure spreader, milking machine and a quantity of corn in shock.

Difficulty arose in starting the engine for operating the milking machine. An overcharge of gasoline was put in, which caused an explosion which set fire from the exhaust at the northeast corner of the barn into a stack of corn fodder which stood about 10 feet distant. The fodder caught fire, the wind carried the blaze to the scale house a short distance away where hay was stored and sweeping under the doors set the hay on fire. From there the fire communicated to the barn.

Six head of cattle were saved and six burned. The horses at the north end of the barn were saved. A tool house, standing midway between the barn and house, was saved by a constant application of water, and the house was thus kept from catching.

The owner of the farm, Lee Newton is postmaster at Denton. The remaining stock and feed on the farm were sold at auction on Wednesday after hurried preparations. The barn and contents were insured, but the loss considerably exceeds the insurance.