Aerial view of the Dowagiac campus

SMC students tour Michigan history

05/15/2017 - 10am

Nine Southwestern Michigan College students — Emily Ford, Victoria Hughes, Lillian Rumley, Lillian Haines, Brittany Lewis, Brianna Uriostegui, Kira Holloway, Elise Loucks and Ian White — toured Grand Rapids, Lansing, Dearborn and Alpena April 7-9 with History Professor Dr. Jeff Dennis and Educational Talent Search Director Kim Luthringer.

“Choosing to go on the trip was one of the best decisions I’ve made. I loved every bit of the experience,” Rumley said. “I learned a lot about the history of Michigan. I enjoyed it more than I can convey. A million thanks to the sponsors!”

They left SMC Friday, April 7, for Grand Rapids and their first stop, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum.

Michigan’s only president was first to reach the Oval Office without running in a national election.

Under the 25th Amendment, Congressman Ford was appointed vice president when Spiro Agnew resigned in October 1973.

Ford became the 38th president upon Richard Nixon’s Aug. 9, 1974, resignation.

After lunch at Flanagan’s Irish pub, they continued to the three-level Grand Rapids Public Museum.

Traveling an hour east to Lansing, they visited the Michigan State Capitol.

“The tour was superb,” Dennis said. “Our guide was exceptionally well-informed and accompanied us well past the normal 5 p.m. closing time.”

Architect Elijah E. Meyers designed the Capitol completed in 1878

as the third edifice housing Michigan government.

The first was in Detroit, the second a temporary two-story Lansing structure. Michigan became a state in 1837.

Fear over possible British invasion incentivized legislators to remove the state seat further from Canada in 1848.

The present Capitol with a Renaissance motif was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992, capping a five-year, award-winning restoration. Its dome can be viewed from three levels.

The former Supreme Court chamber now houses the Senate Appropriations Committee and has been christened in honor of southwest Michigan’s longtime public servant, Harry Gast.
They finished the first day journeying to Dearborn for Comfort Inn accommodations two miles from Greenfield Village and Mexican cuisine downtown.

Their principal destination on Saturday, April 8, was Henry Ford Museum. They viewed a documentary film by James Cameron. “Deep Sea Challenge” narrates his 2012 expedition to the lowest point on Earth, the Mariana Trench.

Nearly seven miles of sea water above the floor of the trench heightens pressure to more than 15,000 psi — more than 1,000 times normal surface conditions.

They rode a shuttle to the Ford River Rouge plant which builds F-150 trucks.

Returning to Ford Museum, the group spent hours marveling at President Kennedy’s Dallas limousine, the bus Rosa Parks rode in Montgomery, George Washington’s Revolution camp gear, Abraham Lincoln’s Ford’s Theatre rocking chair and Thomas Edison’s final breath sealed in glass.

“Getting to sit on the bus Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on at Ford Museum was its own one-of-a-kind experience,” Hughes said. “I thoroughly enjoyed the Grand Rapids museum. I also loved getting to walk along the water’s edge as we visited a shipwreck and lighthouses. The maritime museum was neat as well, with its full-sized ship and life boat you could explore. Thank you for making this amazing historical trip possible!”

Before departing Dearborn, they ate Detroit-style square pizza at Buddy’s.

Ranging 250 miles north, the group arrived that evening in Alpena on Thunder Bay, supping at a Culver’s and lodging at Best Western.

Early Sunday morning, April 9, they drove 40 miles north to Rogers City.

Two miles beyond town rest the remains of the Joseph S. Fay from a 1905 shipwreck.

Sinking in a monstrous October gale, the wooden steamer ran aground less than 100 yards from 40 Mile Point Lighthouse.

Today, 150 feet of the vessel’s starboard side remain well-preserved along the Lake Huron shoreline.

South of Rogers City they frequented two historic lighthouses on Presque Isle. The first was completed in 1840, the second, much larger, lit in 1871.

Exhibits include a bell salvaged from Lansing City Hall visitors can ring and restraining stocks.

By popular demand, they ate at Culver’s again, then visited Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center administered by Thunder Bay National Sanctuary — the sole National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration installation within the U.S. interior.

Its interactive displays share Great Lakes shipwrecks research.

The group saw a documentary on the Nov. 18, 1958, wreck of the Carl D. Bradley, which only two of 35 men survived.

After a scenic river walk, they ate at BC Pizza in Cadillac, arriving at SMC soon after 11 p.m.

“I had never gone on anything like it before and didn’t really know what to expect,” Ford said. “All the same, I signed up, excited. Sure enough, by the time it was over, I was already missing it. There was something new, interesting and even beautiful everyplace we went. This Michigan history trip was an experience I thoroughly enjoyed and shall not soon forget.”