Old News Beat : The Fourth of July, 100 Years Ago

Independence Day happenings in the lives of our “FrankenGen” ancestors, 1915:

Frankenmuth News header
“The Frankenmuth News” header, 08 July 1915. [1]

Annual Big Time at Birch Run

The annual celebration of July 4th and picnic was held in Smith’s grove at Birch Run. A local band and a number of special features made an enjoyable day. Among the sports, the relay races and the needle race were the most closely contested. The speakers were Clarence Hall and James Lempman of Detroit, and Rev. Scott, Jos. Winslow, M. L. Hadseil, and William McGregor of Birch Run. A ball game between the married and single men was a feature of the afternoon. The married men were the victor by a score of 6 to 5.[2]

Richville Hotel Destroyed by Fire

The large wooden hotel at Richville, known as the Richville house, owned by Jacob Raquet Jr of Saginaw and conducted by Fred Ranke, was burned to the ground Sunday [4 July] morning. Nearly all the furniture was destroyed. With hard work nearby buildings were saved and the total destruction of the little town averted.

Mr. Ranke awoke and smelled smoke and running out of the house found the roof and third story in flames. He got his family out and the piano and children’s bed, but all the rest went up in smoke. Help from Reese and the efforts of the town people saved the rest of the town from destruction.[3]

And the The Saginaw Daily News reported:

Saginaw Ready For The Fourth

Several events are scheduled for Sunday [4 July] afternoon, including the automobile races at the Saginaw Racing association half mile tracks, and the public outdoor meeting at Hoyt park, where it is expected Senator William Alden Smith and Congressman Joseph W. Fordney will make addresses. At the Auditorium The News’ war pictures will be shown in the afternoon with two performances in the evening…

Monday for Main Celebration

Monday, July 5, is to be celebrated as the main holiday by the general public, and it is for that day the small boy has loaded up with firecrackers and similar preparations. Of the events Monday the culmination will be the fireworks display at Hoyt park in the evening following the admirable custom of other years; this eliminates any reason for private fireworks and bringing all the Saginaw family together for one joyous demonstration, the actual work being in the hands of experts, assuring safety with pleasure. In the afternoon, the big attraction will be the Ringling Brothers’ circus out on Genesee Avenue, near the city limits. In fact, the circus is expected to be here Sunday all day and this will unquestionably draw large crowds to that vicinity, the arrival and tenting of a circus still being one of the most powerful magnets known.

Special value is being given to Independence day this year, by reason of the European war, bringing its perplexities to this country and emphasizing the need of true patriotism and true citizenship. July Fourth is the Americans’ day, and all over the land the spirit of Americans is to see to it that it brings its lessons to all peoples living under the Stars and Stripes. The double holiday calls for the display of the Flag, both Sunday and Monday, and it is looked for that every Saginaw home and every Saginaw building possessing a flag display the same.[4]

Reference Notes:

[1] Header, The Frankenmuth News, 8 July 1915, p. 1; digital images, Frankenmuth Wickson District Library, Frankenmuth News Archives (http://www.frankenmutharchives.org : accessed 3 July 2015).

[2] “Annual Big Time at Birch Run,” The Frankenmuth News, 8 July 1915, p. 1, col. 4; digital images, Frankenmuth Wickson District Library, Frankenmuth News Archives (http://www.frankenmutharchives.org : accessed 3 July 2015).

[3] “Richville Hotel Destroyed By Fire,” The Frankenmuth News, 8 July 1915, p. 1, col. 6; digital images, Frankenmuth Wickson District Library, Frankenmuth News Archives (http://www.frankenmutharchives.org : accessed 3 July 2015).

[4] “Saginaw Ready For The Fourth,” The Saginaw Daily News, 3 July 1915, p. 1, col. 3; digital images, GenealogyBank (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 3 July 2015).


The Letters of Carl Gottlob Ammann : First Settler of Frankenhilf

 “No doubt you have been curious for some time how large our Frankenhilf colony will be. Do not be disturbed when I tell you that as of now my family is the only one that will go there.”

-Carl Gottlob Ammann

Carl Gottlob Ammann (surname also spelled Amman) and his family were the first settlers of Frankenhilf, known today as Richville. Frankenhilf was founded in 1850, the fourth and last of Pastor Wilhelm Loehe’s mission colonies in the Saginaw Valley. Three letters written by Ammann were preserved and translated, and this typescript is now available for free download on FamilySearch.

The first letter relates the settlers’ journey across the ocean and onward to Frankenmuth. Ammann discusses the settlement at Frankenmuth, the defection of his fellow colonists, the procurement of provisions, and the selection of the site of his family’s new home.

“During the winter many Indians on the hunt camped near us…They are civilized to a certain extent, but they have no permanent residence.”

Gottlob Ammann’s second letter to his parents tells of local Native American population, the construction of a road from Frankenmuth to Frankenhilf, the clearing and planting of the land, and the construction of his family’s new log cabin home. He also explores his and other settlers’ adaptation to life in America.

“There will always be a Christmas tree decorated with homemade confections.”

Pending Christmas plans are outlined in Ammann’s 1852 letter. He exchanges family news with his parents and discusses the burgeoning church which meets in his home.

Details found in the letters help paint a picture of early life in Frankenmuth and Frankenhilf. Mentions of other early settlers in the area are also sprinkled throughout the texts. They are a worthwhile read for those researching family in this area.


Ammann, Carl Gottlieb; Vollmer, George, translator; Hock, Albert L., translator. “Letters of Carl Gottlieb Ammann: the first settler in Frankenhilf, 1851.” Typescript, n.d., FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 17 July 2014), Family History Books.