Page 8-A — THE ROMEO OBSERVER — Wednesday, April 14, 2010 _________________________________________________________
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“The idea is for people to come in and spend the time, looking at the evidence,” he said. “As long as people are respectful and sensitive in their writing, they can put their opinions in these books and they’ll be kept.” The six homes in question are known as the James Starkweather home, the Peter and Sarah Lerrich home, the Robert McKay home, the Oratus Hulett home, the Rev. Philo Hurd home and the Octagon House (AKA the Loren Andrus home). Of them, five reside in the local area. Beringer said the topic is a passionate one for people in Romeo, whether it’s believing their homes were a part of it to wanting to explore history. “I think we all want to be connected with the past, we all have a past whether we’re related to a criminal or a king it doesn’t matter. . . we all want to see our roots,” he said. “And it is very romantic to hide slaves, but, whether or not it happened that’s up to the investigators.” In 1793 and 1850, fugitive slave laws were passed by Congress, making it illegal to assist runaway slaves. Because of this, most had to flee through Michigan, sometimes through Romeo, in order to escape to Canada. Beringer said this made it difficult to locate records or
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using Jewell Road. The current station, number two, is located in a residential area near the Township Municipal Building. “There were times that I didn’t think this was going to come true,” he said. “There was a lot of variables, things that had to take place.” One of those variables was the awarding of a $1.5 million grant from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which was written by Assistant Chief John Clark. He said there were 6,200 grant applica-
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Above, a bullet hole and slug in a mailbox that belonged to the Burke family shows some people had a violent attitude toward residents who were against segregation in Romeo. artifacts about Underground Railroad activity. “It was an illegal activity,” he said. “They didn’t want records around that would show they were involved.” Despite this, some of the evidence can be pretty convincing, like the published diary of a woman whose home was involved, a letter written by Robert McKay and pictures of excavated yards that reveal tunnels. Beringer made it clear, though, that the Romeo Historical Society is not declaring whether or not a home was a part of the Underground Railroad. “(The archives center) was a police station, so all these houses have been ‘arrested’ and are on trial,” he said. “We are only supplying the evidence, each visitor has to decide on their own.” The idea is to keep the display going for about two years with the hope that people will come in and provide further evidence or opinions
that support or debunk the claims. “When the display goes down the notebooks will go on the shelves in the archives, so anybody that wants to find out about it can pick up the notebook about that house and see what other people have said,” he said. Aside the local connections to the railroad, the display features information about segregation in Romeo, from possible segregated seating in the Palace Theater to a local family’s run-in that resulted in gunfire. That family’s mailbox is currently at the display, complete with
a story, a bullet-hole and the bullet that made it. “That helped get the town awakened when they found out bullets were fired at people’s houses,” he said. Information about famous abolitionists such as Harriet Tubman and Fredrick Douglass is also on hand, including Henry Bibb, who spoke in Romeo on May 5, 1845. The exhibit even goes hands-on, with a replica of shackles to try on or a box that matches the crate that Henry “Box” Brown used to ship himself to freedom. “We’re trying to get the truth out, and that’s why you are the jury,” said Beringer.
tions, but only 127 were awarded. It will fund half of the $3 million cost. “These grants are meant to help us respond to the public that pay these taxes and pay the bills to the federal government,” Clark said. “We’re very pleased that the DHS approved our grant, we’re going to give them the best bang for their buck.” As a way of honoring his 50-year career, Poterek said the new fire station — number one — will be named after former fire chief Gerald Alward. “You’re giving me too much credit, it wasn’t me that built the fire station, it was the community and all the people that put their effort into starting the department,” said Alward. Poterek said the 16,000 square-foot facility will include a number of amenities that the smaller station can’t house, such as four bays for housing vehicles, a training room, better sleeping facilities, a decontamination room and storage for water and ice rescue equipment. “We’re making this to anticipate the next 30 to 40 years,” Poterek said. “Hope-
fully the manpower and equipment and service we offer is going to grow, so that’s going to take space.” Supervisor Dan O’Leary said the issue of building a new station was on the table since the new board took office, but at the time couldn’t address it due to financial concerns. He said alternative measures were sought for making it possible, such as union concessions and, of course, the grant. He also contributed the lowered costs of construction and land purchases as factors, calling all these circumstances the “perfect storm.” “Every one of those things had to happen for this to work,” he said. “A lot of things had to come together, and if any one of them had fallen off we might not be here, but fortunately every one of them came together.” He lauded Township Treasurer Linda Verellen for her constant vigilance on working to make the new station possible. The 26-year board member has served on committees for advanced life services and for the new station.
Verellen, though, said it was thanks to the efforts of previous boards being prudent in addressing the future as well as the fire department and community. “That’s what community does in a time of need, to band together even stronger, you look at the reality of what you’re facing and just take a solid, serious look at what direction we’re going,” she said. “We may not always agree, but we still, as a board, look at what’s best for the community as a whole.” She said it certainly wasn’t an overnight occurrence, but said it was the federal grant that tipped the scale to make it possible. “(The fire station is) a jewel to the township, in my opinion, it’s been a long time coming and much deserved, and the community needs this jewel,” she said. “It’s a grant that is so well received and appreciated.” Fire station two will eventually be shut down. O’Leary said the township will consider all options for the station, whether it’s selling the land or converting it for another use.
Library’s importance topic of story contest As the economy continues its slump, libraries nationwide continue to play an important role in communities everywhere, as people turn to them for free entertainment, to connect to the Internet and look for jobs. This spring, the Romeo District Library, the American Library Association (ALA) and Woman’s Day magazine want to hear women’s thoughts on why the library is important in their community.
FREE to the public! This notice paid for with public donations
Weight Loss & Stop Smoking Hypnotherapy
Health Awareness Clinics is providing therapists to administer weight loss, stop smoking, and stress relief group hypnotic therapy. For many people, this therapy reduces 2 to 3 clothing sizes and/or stops smoking. Funding for this project comes from public donations. Anyone who wants treatment will receive professional hypnotherapy free from charge.
An appointment is not necessary. Sign in and immediately receive treatment. Health Awareness Clinics is a nonprofit organization. They rely on donations to make treatment available to those in need. A modest $5.00 donation when signing in is appreciated. Only one 2 hour session is needed for desirable results. Sign in 30 min. early
UNDERGROUND EVIDENCE? Above, Romeo resident Chris Collins examines what could be the remains of a secret tunnel in his home’s basement that could’ve been a part of the Underground Railroad. Collins said a man visited his home one day and pointed it out to him, saying he found it when he used to come over and play. So far the story has not been corroborated, though Collins pointed out that Dickinson Street was historically a central location for the black community in Romeo. (Observer photos by Chris Gray)
Tuesday April 20, 7:30pm Lions Club Hall 222 Waters St.
ALMONT Thursday April 22, 7:30pm Capital Banquet Center 12350 31 Mile Rd.
Friday April 23, 7:30pm Knights of Columbus Hall 1405 N. Van Dyke
HealthAwarenessClinics.org (713) 927-3364
From now until May 9, women ages 18 and over can submit their story in 700 words or less to email@example.com. Up to four stories will be featured in the March 2011 issue of Woman’s Day or on womansday.com. Official rules are available at womansday.com/ala. “People of all ages and backgrounds come to the library to work on resumes, gather for book discussions, attend storytime with their
children, get help with homework, check out books, movies or games, or just spend time together,” said Dr. Mary Elizabeth Harper, Romeo District Library director. “With so many resources for everyone, the library is truly the heart of the community.” For information on free resources at the Romeo District Library, visit www.libcoop.net/romeo/
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