Fenton Historical Society

A Peek Into The Past

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With a story written by Harry T. Bidelman, we begin a new page for our website. We would like to aquire stories of the past. Lets all remember so we never forget...

" A little Story......
       Peek Into the Past"

I wish you could have been on a recent adventure with me, seeking old messages and old relics from the past here in Fenton. The day was dreary and rainy, October 11, 2007, even at a little past noon. I sensed a rather small historic event was taking place right here in the center of old Dibbleville, beneath my very own shoes. Several large pieces of heavy machinery were scraping and pushing and clawing the old earth to loosen the compacted soil from hundreds of years, where large forests once stood. All of sudden, in the late morning on this second Thursday in October, year 2007, I felt, no, compelled to be at this place in Dibbleville, to follow through on a hunch it was important to the present and future "native residents" of this little town. I addressed and said "hi" to the workman and few adjacent interested resident bystanders who stood in the light rain enjoying the activity.

I was eagerly staring into dirt giving way to the claws and dozer ripping into it inch by inch and foot by foot. Here is the fun part! We all knew that soon the past would be tumbling up and out of this deepening hole in the ground, and yes, here one, there one, dirty, mud covered, different shapes, colors, buried here for maybe 150 years or about.

Look! There is something! A bone! 2 bones! What kind? Bring it up! Let's see it! Put 'em in a bag, keep digging. There is a funny metal object! Hand it to me. Quick! I'm eager to touch it. it's strong, shaped, and it's rusty, dirty. Was it built to open and close? Put it in my bag! Dig deeper! Look at the area the workman are digging. A pile of old size and kinds of stones and rocks appear. Hundreds, thousands, tumbling all over at 4-5 feet lower then road level, approximately 6 feet by 6 feet in area. "What's up with them?" someone says. I think they were a foundation for something, could be! Why there. And now digging deeper at 2 other comers of dug hole are similar catches of rocks and stones same kind of size area. Foundations? Cisterns? Fire Pits? The past of maybe 150 years is not telling us what we have discovered! No records from unimportant town residents probably never written down, to let us in their future. What took place here?! Why? Why? Because, my dear neighbors and friends. let's say probably around 1839 give or take, the forests of huge trees (of all nature) were being entered by our fore fathers with axes and saws and knives, and trails and primitive roads hacked through toenlarge just "paths" to and from cabins and the few early stores and taverns. No one here was alive back there in the early 1800's. Maybe I'm not following the truth as it was. I don't know. As we believe in history, we all must pursue the unknown details made by our ancestors instincts and ways of human habits to survive in adverse elements.

Dibbleville "back to the dirt"!' (Old man of the mill pond). Where was I?! Here in 2007 looking at 1839! The patch of old dirt at my feet is, and has been ... the 80 feet x 100 feet black top area adjacent to the Fenton Museum at 310 S. Leroy Street, Fenton, Michigan known as the "parking lot". The most interesting feature, almost unknown to probably 95 percent of all inhabitants of this fair city (except for a few of us, local history buffs) is that it has overlaid a village R.O.W.* street known, platted and physically used as a regular street from S. Leroy Street, westerly, over to connect with Shiawassee Avenue, west of South Adelaide Street.

This is platted as "Mechanic Street", probably a 66 feet R.O.W. on early original maps. The exact year it was fully put into actual village use is unknown to me and also the exact year of its final use is buried somewhere in our historic records. As the assistant curator of Fenton Historical Society, digging historical facts out of our old records is overwhelming and the most fun in the world! If you get hooked on searching with us, you might have to give up your day

So now, paper bags full of early simple artifacts to clean, study, display in our museum eventually. The stories some of you old timers can add to our written records will be most welcome, without them, how can we tell where we are going if we don't know where we have been? Within the next 3 or 4 weeks fresh dirt, new black: top, new signs, new curbs will appear to grace and enhance our museum and neighborhood stores and buildings for maybe an amount of time present to future of a score of years to come and so, a new covering seals the simple artifacts we missed, back in the past down below ....

I think I've discovered that the simplest occasions might just be the most memorable. May I remind you once again, yesterday was history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift that's why it is called, the present.

Please reflect, remind, restore ... preserve ....

Harry T. Bidelman
"The Old Man of the Mill Pond"
October 11,2007,9:00 p.m.

*Right of Way

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