Dave Petersen knows a thing or two about Mason County history. Over the years, he’s compiled an extensive collection of photos and “stuff”  that stuffs a barn.

He so wants local history preserved, he’ll go out the local communities’ cleanup days and cull treasures before they’re lost to time in a landfill.

 “I would encourage people, if they are cleaning out a house or an estate, do not throw out any paper, newspaper, ephemera … we want to save it all,” Petersen said.

“I hear those stories all the time,” he said of anecdotes of people who burned or trashed scrapbooks, old programs, advertising material, political campaign ... and so on.

“That’s why I go out on junk day, at least I can save it, maybe,” Petersen said.

Another way of saving photos, he said, is to publish them, and he’s published hundreds on the Saturday history page in this newspaper. A new book will again help preserve and share images it contains, and sharing history is important to him.

On Oct. 26, Petersen’s latest book in Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series will be released. “Mason County: 1850-1950” touches on the history of the county from about the time settlers began arriving to the start of the more modern era, Petersen said.

“We’re looking at vintage photos so it’s a good span of time to take a look at,” Petersen said.

The Images of America series is a pictorial approach and Petersen has combed his collection, shared photos from others and filled out the 130-page, $21.99 trade paperback book with images he felt he needed from the collection of the Mason County Historical Society.

“I tried to touch on everything I could in Mason County,” he said. “It was very hard to find information on our smaller townships. There’s not a lot of material on them.

See MASON COUNTY: 1850-1950, A5

Mason County

From page A1

“It has been difficult to find any photos of old Free Soil and Benita Eddy Hurd really came through,” he said.

This is the third Images of America volume Petersen has produced for Arcadia’s series and he said he was surprised it turned out to be the most time-consuming and difficult of the three.

The other two volumes were “Carferries” and “Oceana County 1850-1950.”

In addition, Petersen has produced three self-published books through his Black Creek Press, two on carferries and one on Leland. Petersen maintains a history webpage, www.blackcreekpress.com, and is active on genealogy web sites and Facebook pages dedicated to local history such as Vanished Ludington.

“I always learn something when I’m researching an area, especially some of the other townships from the eastern side of the county,” Petersen said of the project. “Every time I find a new image, I learn something ... finding the details and when it was taken,

Clues can include the type of print — whether it’s a sepia print, a silver gelatin, print or some other print that was popular at a given time. On photo postcards, the style of the stamp box  on the addressing side can give clues.

“If you’re really lucky someone wrote on the back of the card or dated it or mailed it,” he said. “What’s nice about the real photo postcards is sometimes they are the only one printed.”

Petersen said people would have a photo printed as a photo postcard so they could mail it to family or friends elsewhere to keep in contact — the image share social media method of its day.

The state and town of the postmark on such photo postcards also can give clues to what the origins are,” he said.

Affordable cameras became available after 1906, so people began using them. “Those are some of the most valuable post cards,” Petersen said of such images taken by people with their own cameras.

After 1920, photo postcards waned, and snap shots became more common. More professional companies took over the postcard business.

“It changed, like everything does,” Petersen said.

While Arcadia has a 15,000 word limit, the new book has over 19,000 words. “I managed to fit more information in,” Petersen said.

“I hope readers learn something a little bit more about Mason County history,” Petersen said of those who read the book. “I hope it gets people more enthused and excited about Mason County history. Maybe it will get them to  pull the shoeboxes out from beneath the bed and look for some photographs no one has seen before.”

Petersen is a Ludington native who has been interested in local history since he was 12 years old and began digging for old bottles in an old city dump.

There is a growing interest in local history here, he said, noting sometimes when he posts an old photo to one of the local Facebook sites, he’ll get scores of comments.

“That’s one of the neat things about Mason County,” he said “there’s always been an interest in preserving local interest.”

Former Ludington Daily News editor Don Wing was publishing local history articles in the paper as early as the 1920s, Petersen said.

Interest in local history, he said, is growing.

“I think this is an exciting time for local history. Paul Peterson’s recent book about Ludington and the new book about Justus Stearns by Mike Nagle helps to add so much to our collective knowledge of our history and I am happy to be a part of preserving and sharing the history of our area,” Petersen said.

 “Overall the communities here have been supportive of preserving our history for generations, but we seem to be on the verge of achieving a critical mass where the development of our historical resources will become a draw to bring in more people to enjoy what we have to share and I am proud to be a small part of that initiative.”

 He’s eyeing future projects. He’s considering redoing his Leland book as an Arcadia Publish Images of America volume. He’s also planning republish old local histories now in the public domain, such as the Joyce Brother Pictorial 1890 Ludington and Manistee and the Mason County chapter out of an 1892 book.  Few intact 1890s pictorials remain. They were sold in nine installments and were put it together at the end into a book. Purchasers were encouraged to take the book it apart and frame individual images. Pages were printed only on one side to make it more suitable for framing.

He’s also gathering photos for several townships sesquicentennials that are coming.

But that’s all down the road a bit. Now, he’s awaiting the Oct. 26 release of “Mason County: 1850 to 1950,” adding proceeds from the sale of the new book could help fund future projects.


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