The memories and stories that fellow Time Travelers share are amazing. These stories connect us in a very personal way to our shared Copper Country history. Our new ‘Story of the Week’ column will celebrate some of the special stories shared on the Explore App.
This week’s story comes from an anonymous Time Traveler who found an interesting clipping from the Detroit Free Press from the 29th of June 1934. The clipping relays the story of a young woman by the name of Jane Elliott who, while spending the day on Lake Medora, noticed a small rowboat had capsized in the high winds on the lake. Twenty two year old Jane jumped in a boat with her two teen aged friends Bert Strucel and Louis Semanski and rowed half a mile out into the lake to rescue the men clinging to the boat. Thanks to her actions Harold Bastian, and Edward Warth were both saved. Unfortunately, Nicholas Gresnick, who was also on the boat, drowned while attempting to swim to shore.
This story is something special and by posting it on the Explore App we can now learn so much more about everyone involved in this heroic rescue. The explore app holds records for every single person that appears in this story.
A simple search for our hero, Jane Elliot, reveals that in 1930 she was living in a small apartment on the corner of Portland and 5th Street in Calumet with her father (a janitor at a local office), mother and brother. The apartment also housed 24 other renters! The Time Traveler also has Jane’s school records. We can see that in 1918 Jane at the age of seven attended Webster school and had Edna M. Cormick as her teacher.
We also know quite a bit about the unfortunate Nicholas Gresnick. In 1920 at the age of 10 Nicholas was living with his father, mother and five brothers and sisters in a small house about a block away from the Hancock & Pewabic boiler house, the ruins of which can still be seen today. His dad supported his family working at the mine as a timberman, a dangerous job that involved supporting the hanging walls of the mine with large timbers harvested from the surrounding forests keeping the mine from collapsing on the men working within it. In 1930 the family still lived on Calumet Street, but his father is not recorded in this census. Did he pass away doing his dangerous work leaving Nicolas’ mother the widowed head of the family? With his father gone, Nicolas was now working in the mine as an electrician, supporting his mother and his five other siblings along with his sister who was working as a waitress. His death in 1934 must have been a devastating blow to his family after recently losing their father.
The Time Traveler also gives us insight into the life of one of the men Jane Eliot saved that day. In 1940 we can see Harold Bastian is alive and well, renting in Laurium and working as a WPA painter. Harold is happily married to a young woman named Bertha and they have two young children.
This story, a simple story about a windy day on a lake, is special in so many ways. It connects us to the heroism of a janitor’s daughter on a windy day on Lake Medora and how that act of bravery shaped the lives of so many. It also reveals the devastating impact of Nicholas’ tragic death on a family already struggling under the grief of losing their father. Without the contribution of this story to the Time Traveler we would never know how that fateful day on Lake Medora shaped the lives of so many.
You too can help bring Copper Country history to life by sharing your story! Learn how in this blog post from last week, or just click on the ‘Share a Story’ button in the lower right-hand corner of the Explore app to contribute your memories!