Scanning through history

January 12, 2024

Dr. Margaret Gustafson, right, talks about a photograph with Amber Valentine, Mason County Historical Society collections manager.

Scanning through history

By Rob Alway, Editor-in-Chief

LUDINGTON — The Mason County Historical Society held its premiere Scanner Night event Thursday evening at its Mason County Research Center in downtown Ludington. The event was one of two evenings scheduled to give local residents a chance to digitize their historical documents and photographs.

Participation was light, only one person showed up. However, the items submitted were invaluable. Dr. Margaret Gustafson’s Mason County roots run back to the late 19th century. She is a descendent of Scandinavian immigrants who came to Mason County to start a new life. Her family originally lived on “the island”, which is the area now known as the Buttersville Peninsula, more specifically the area that is now Crosswinds Condominiums. Since that area is in the city limits, her mother would take a ferry across the channel every day to attend school at Lakeview School (First Ward School). In the winter, she would walk across the ice. Gustafson’s descendants eventually moved across the channel.

This ferry would transport passengers from the end of Ferry Street to Buttersville Peninsula, known as The Island.

Gustafson brought several photographs of various historical relevance including two photos of the Pere Marquette No. 3 carferry sunk in the ice. Written on the back of one image is “1919.” The other image of the same scene, is dated 1920 with a handwritten note from Margaret’s father, George Gustafson: “I walked out to this boat. I was about 8 yrs. old. Skipped school, caught hell from my mother. People wouldn’t let us kids go in the boat. Mrs. Emil Grams was there and had a tub full of cold cuts she dragged home on a sled.”

Other images included the Ludington Life Saving Station and also family photographs, many of which Gustafson is able to identify. Gustafson also has a large collection of family correspondence that the historical society will also digitize.

“Items like these are invaluable to our county’s history,” said Rebecca Berringer, executive director of Mason County Historical Society. “Our organization is the keeper of our heritage. Digitizing these items will preserve them for generations to come.”

The next Scanner Night will take place on Thursday, Feb. 8 beginning at 6 p.m. There is no charge for scanning but RSVP is requested by contacting MCHS Collections Manager Amber Valentine by email at or by calling the Mason County Research Center at 231-843-4808. Donors who bring USB drive with them can receive digital copies of their contributions. Those who cannot make Scanner Night can also make arrangements for other times.

There is no cost for the event, but the Historical Society asks that participants consider a monetary donation.

Pere Marquette 21 sinking, 1919 or 1920

Pere Marquette No. 3 sinking, 1919 or 1920

Note from George Gustafson discussing visiting the sinking boat.

A group of fishermen on The Island. Back of post card states: Charles Wilson, third from left; Oscar Wilson, far right.

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