On This Day

Life on the Leelanau Peninsula, winter, 167 years ago
Transcription and commentary by Mark Smith, Secretary, OHS


Jan 26th, 1857
Walter Lowrie, Esq

Grove Hill

Dear Sir,

I enclose to you the vouchers [bills and receipts] for the past six months. The weather has been unusually stormy and a large quantity of snow has fallen making it difficult to get around with the team to get wooden rails. We have had trouble to get our mail but hope we will have crossing on the ice in a day or two.[1] The weather has not been as cold as last winter the coldest has been 50 below zero [last year]. It has been uniformly low for two weeks past down to zero or a few degrees above all the time.

We are all enjoying our usual health and our school is going on as well as might be expected. Such winters make all the duties more laborious. The worst we hope is already past. My hand is gaining but will not probably be well till spring so that I can do much with it. [2]

I will enclose with this a statement of the produce of the farm the past year. Although crops on account of the dry weather were very light in this region, ours would more than pay all of the hire for its cultivation although much of the labor was expended in clearing & fencing which will not have to be repeated next year. It also covers some 20 acres of wheat put in last fall and the digging and stoning of the well. [3] It shows that farm is not a loss to the Board while it affords appropriate employment to the boys and makes them instrumental in aiding to provide their own food. [4]

I sent back the papers and a survey of the old mission lots some time since, also a report of expenses which I hope you have received before this. [5] Our kind regards to all.
Respectfully yours,
P. Dougherty

#1 At this time the mail came to Omena from Old Mission. Once the ice formed across the bay the mail delivery became possible.
#2 In a letter dated Dec. 5th, 1856, Rev. Dougherty relates how he injured his left hand during the gathering of crops under the snow. He apparently suffered an infection (Erysipelas) and the swelling went up his arm.
#3 The original well, located conveniently in the back courtyard of the school building, caved in within two years of its digging in 1853.
#4 Dougherty was constantly reminding Peter Lowrie, his boss and head of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, that his school was largely self-financing. Funds were always scarce. Eventually the school would close in 1870 due to lack of funding.
#5 At this time the Board was in the process of re-surveying and eventually selling off properties at Old Mission