2017-01-29 / Insight

LAPEER COUNTY HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Showcasing community’s rich heritage
BY KRYSTAL MORALEE
810-452-2609 •


The Lapeer County Historical Museum is located at 518 W. Nepessing St. in downtown Lapeer. Top center, volunteer docent Jim Davis sells one of the Historical Society’s fundraising calendars to Mary Ahlgren. Top right, a steam engine is visible in one of the buildings that stands at the Davis Brothers Farm Shop Museum. 
Photos by Krystal Moralee The Lapeer County Historical Museum is located at 518 W. Nepessing St. in downtown Lapeer. Top center, volunteer docent Jim Davis sells one of the Historical Society’s fundraising calendars to Mary Ahlgren. Top right, a steam engine is visible in one of the buildings that stands at the Davis Brothers Farm Shop Museum. Photos by Krystal Moralee LAPEER — Because the world has changed so dramatically in his lifetime, Jim Davis, 83, has experienced a lifestyle young people today would have a hard time imagining. He was born at home and grew up on a dairy farm. He attended the one-room rural Reamer School. There were only six in his class, which was actually a lot for that time, and only three of them are left. He had to pump water with a hand pump, and when he had to go, well, the outhouse was, you know, out of the house.

It was his desire to help preserve the memories of the time in which he was growing up that prompted Davis to donate the farm shop his father and uncle ran at their farm on Davis Lake Road, which he had inherited, to the Lapeer County Historical Society.


This is part of the Vietnam War display that can currently be seen in the Lapeer County Historical Museum. 
Photo by Krystal Moralee This is part of the Vietnam War display that can currently be seen in the Lapeer County Historical Museum. Photo by Krystal Moralee “I was so proud of how Dad and Uncle Kenyon did that shop,” he said. “They built everything in there, and I didn’t want to see that lost.”

Davis has worked in agriculture all his life. He attended Michigan State University and had plans to be a dairy farmer, but a serious automobile accident in 1955 left him with a plate in his leg, and on crutches for a year. He went back to school, and has spent his life so far working in agriculture. He got a job with the Farm Bureau and worked in marketing for 47 years. His donation to the Historical Society was his way to make sure the public, and especially youth, could see how a farm operated in the 1930s, 40s and 50s.

“I’m so pleased that we can take kids out there and they can see a line shaft, a steam engine, a forge, a sawmill,” he said.

The farm shop is also the site of the annual Davis Brothers Farm Fest, which is held every August on the fourth Saturday, and features fun, old-fashioned farm-related activities. The popular event will be held for the thirteenth time this year, and while Davis said it wasn’t started to make money, it does act as a fundraiser of sorts for the Historical Society.

Davis is also one of a handful of dedicated local people who make up the Lapeer County Historical Society, and he can be found in the regular rotation of volunteer docents at the Historical Society’s Museum, which also houses the Lapeer County Genealogical Society’s research center. The museum’s doors are open to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesdays and Saturdays (however, it is not open on Wednesdays in January and February) and there is no charge to look at the displays.

Currently, there is a Vietnam War display featuring information and artifacts from local men who served in the Vietnam War. There are other displays too, for example, one featuring John T. Rich, the only Lapeer County resident to serve as governor of Michigan, and one featuring the Jordan Horse, a once-popular hobbyhorse that was manufactured by John Jordan at a home at the corner of Court and Howard streets. A large three-dimensional map on the wall shows the location of all the buildings that once stood out at the Lapeer State Home in its heyday. Old copies of The Clarion — Lapeer’s original newspaper — can be read there, and the genealogy room offers many resources for people who are looking to trace their family’s roots. In fact, Davis said, the Genealogy Society’s visitors make up much of the traffic that comes through the museum, and volunteers like Al Hart and Sara Bates are often on hand to help people with their searches.

The museum also features items of local historical significance for sale. They have T-shirts, note cards, and a variety of books, including Marguerite deAngeli’s Copper-Toed Boots and the Images of America books about Oakdale, Vernors Ginger Ale, and Eastern Lapeer County. One of the Historical Society’s main fundraisers is its annual calendar, featuring plenty of photos and lots of historical information. This year’s calendar features local sports teams and individuals through the years. Past years’ calendars are also available for purchase.

The museum is located at 518 W. Nepessing St. in Lapeer, across from the post office, in the former State Mutual Cyclone Insurance Company building. It can be reached by calling 810-245-5808.

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