Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Hickory Island -- A Summer Playground

Hickory Island played a large role in the summers of the Ternes family. My first cousin twice removed, Harold Muir (1917-2003) married Marion Ruth Ternes (1918-1973) sometime after 1940. Marion's parents were William Peter and Elsie Agnes (Gerstner). Marion's sister, Ruth Marie Ternes, drowned on Hickory Island the year before Marion was born. She was only 3 years old at the time of her death.

Ruth Marie Ternes' death certificate

Marion Ruth (Ternes) Muir's first cousin was Edith Mary Madeline Terns, an adopted daughter of Anthony Francis and Mary Ann (Horger) Ternes.

A couple of years ago, I found the Live from Tormville! blog. The author, had purchased some embroidery at a garage sale and when she unpacked it, she discovered a typewritten transcript of voice taps that Edith Mary Madeline (Ternes) Reynolds sent to a relative about their shared family history.  In those transcripts, Edith described how she was adotped:

Transcript of voice tapes sent to a relative circa 1958;
photograph by Sharyn Tomane, author of the Live from Tormville! blog

In the summer of 1911, I was taken by my aunt to a cottage on Hickory Island. I played in the water and on the beach with some other children until nap time. I was put down for a nap, when I awakened my aunt was gone and I found myself in a strange place without a single familiar face. At four and a half, this can be a devastatingly traumatic experience. It was for me. Years later I came to terms with it and even wrote a poem about it. It was a little morbid, as I recall. I am a frustrated poet and write versus at the drop of a hat so don't drop yours or I'll surely write about it. Two of the boys I played with before my world upended were Norma and Orrin, the two surviving children of the Ternes family. They had had five children, three of whom, Chester, Mildred and Edith had died in infancy or early childhood. It was to fill the void left by the two daughters that the Terneses decided to adopt me. They changed my name from Freda Isobel Watson to Edith Mary Madeline Ternes. I found this out when I was taken to school in the fall. From the middle of the summer until school time I wondered why no one ever called me. Every time anyone spoke to me they called me Edith. I did not know who Edith was. This was very confusing to me because my name was Freda. No on ever called me that and I never heard the name again.

Edith wrote about celebrating the 4th of July on Hickory Island:

The 4th of July was generally spent at Hickory Island and it was always a spectacular day. The relatives all gathered there in the morning and after lunch we were given all the sparklers and lady fingers we could handle. This helped us wear off the lunch and prepare for a very special dinner. After dinner our dads would set off the Roman candles and sky rockets and pinwheels and we would roast wienies and toast marshmallows at the bonfire on the beach. We had some wonderful times out there. We went to the Island as soon as school was out in the spring and stayed there until it was time a to get new clothes for school again in the fall.

I wanted to learn a little more about the island that played such a big part in the Ternes family's lives.

Corps of Engineers 1905 topographical map of Hickory Island

The Corp of Engineers topographical map dated 1905 shows that Hickory Island is divided into two large islands.  At this time Upper Hickory was principally farmland. The only buildings were the caretaker's house and barn and a few outbuildings. Conversely, the eastern shoreline of Lower Hickory was well lined with cottages. Cottagers arrived at the dock on Upper Hickory and used a path along the riverbank to to reach the footbridge leading to Lower Hickory. The bridge crossed the channel near Peek-a-Boo, the small island between Hickory's upper and lower sections. This is the earliest map known to show the road leading to Lower Hickory with a bridge for vehicles to cross the channel.

Upper Hickory Dock where people boarded a steamship to return to Detroit;
photograph courtesy of Robert George and published in Images of
America: Grosse Ille
 and copyrighted by the Grosse Ille
Historical Society

I wish I would have known about Hickory Island when I lived in the Detroit area in the mid 1980s.

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