History’s Gem of the Month: Cedar Stump article from 1962

April 2008

The following newspaper clipping was found among my mother’s keepsakes. For those of you who have been to Grand Marais and noticed the wood tiled ceilings in various homes and businesses (including the Lake Superior Brewing Company), these tiles were made at the factory owned by Harry Habbershaw. The cedar stump constructed by Mr. Habbershaw survived until around 8 years ago when it finally succumbed to the weather and rotted away. Township officials recorded the history from the stump and hope some day to reconstruct it.

Cedar Stump Speaks of Pride, Joy and Sadness
By Harry C. Sahs
Detroit News (1962)

A tree woodsmen spared when they cleared land for the village of Grand Marais, Mich., lived on to tell the story — literally. A slab cut from a red cedartree well over 100 years old stands today in the village square. Lettered on its varnished face is the story of a town which has known joy, pride, fortune, disaster, famine and near-despair.

It took Harry Habbershaw, president of Superior Wood Products, Inc., and a college student, Dawn Ostrander, half a year to gather accurate information and to inscribe it on the tree trunk. Examples:

  • 1820 “I’m a very small tree. I watch Lewis Cass survey the land on which I stand.”
  • 1880 “A new lumber mill has things buzzing.”
  • 1900 “Grand Marais is now a town of over 3,000 people. The population is growing and so am I.” (Population in 1962 has dwindled to about 600.)
  • 1904 “Fire destroyed an entire village block.”
  • 1933 “Depression and everybody looks hungry. Sixteen trolling craft attract sportsmen.”
  • 1955 “The lamprey eel has taken its toll.”
  • 1960 “The town’s efforts are directed to the tourist trade. The town has a new face for our first homecoming.”

Not yet recorded is last year’s disastrous fire at Superior Wood. The firm is hoping to rebuild with aid of a government loan.

The cedar stands ready to receive the town’s final chapters.

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