Music in Ecorse Schools

by Kathy Warnes

Mr. Sweet, Miss Burr, and Miss Tyler

An Ecorse Advertiser story of Thursday, May 11, 1950, noted that the music department of the Ecorse Public Schools, under the direction of Charles Sweet, greatly expanded its program during the past year in an effort to give more children a greater opportunity to develop instrumental or vocal talents.

Administration of the program rested in the hands of Mr. Sweet, ably assisted by Miss Arlyne Burr and Miss Virginia Tyler, supervisors of vocal music in the grade schools, and Herbert Saylor, director of the bands and supervisor of wind instrument instructor in the Ecorse Schools. Mr. Sweet, Miss Tyler, and Miss Burr supervised the instruction in stringed instruments.

Many new instruments were purchased during the past year, including two field drums, 4 trombones, 4 flutes, 12 clarinets, one bell, lyre, and a sousaphone. A number of string instruments were also purchased. Additional equipment purchased by the Board of Education included 27 new band uniforms, 6 majorette uniforms, and drum major’s uniform, and a band leader’s uniform.

Under the present systems a child could discover whether he or she was destined to become a future Benny Goodman or a Jeanette McDonald without any expense to the parent. All musical instruction was free and instruments were provided for those who are interested in this phase of musical instruction.

Instrumental students were first given an opportunity of learning the fundamentals of this art in the various training groups. Those who showed suitable proficiency were advanced to the junior high band and later to the senior high organization. Students who displayed exceptional ability were given opportunities as soloists and as members of small instrumental groups.

The Ecorse High School Band – Mr. Saylor and Mr. Campbell

The emergence of the Ecorse band as a marching unit in the fall of 1949 inspired much favorable comment. Ecorse citizens were given the opportunity of seeing a much improved and more colorful edition of the band when it appeared in the 1950 Memorial Day Parade.

An October story in The Ecorse Advertiser said that the Ecorse High School marching band had been invited to participate in a “monster parade” in Dearborn. The parade was called The Cavalcade of Dearborn and took the form of a pageant parade with colorful floats and costumed performers providing moving stages for the animated story of the development of the Dearborn area since Indian days. It highlighted a three day celebration in Dearborn in conjunction with the dedication of the new city museum.

The Ecorse High School band was one of ten bands invited to the parade. The band, directed by Herbert Saylor, now had 65 members, six majorettes, and a drum major. It had been a colorful feature of the home football games for the past two years and participated in a number of civic affairs in Ecorse and in neighboring cities.

In 1950, Richard Smith was the drum major. The majorettes were Barbara Lunsford, Sharon Stafford, Betty Baines, Loretta McKenzie, Nancy Fought and Jewel Sanders.

Music Was A Family Matter for the Campbells

Two years after he graduated, Alexander Campbell returned to Ecorse High School on Thursday May 7, 1953, when he was the guest soloist at the annual spring Ecorse High School Band concert. He was completing his second year as member of the University of Michigan marching band and was also a member of the University’s R.O.T.C. Band.  He had just returned from a tour with the University of Michigan concert band.

While at Ecorse High School Alexander Campbell studied music under the director of Herbert Saylor and was a member of the Ecorse High School Marching B and for four years.  He was also one of the outstanding students in the class of 1951. At the University of Michigan he studied in the Department of Music with the intention of becoming a band director after graduation. His favorite instrument was the tenor saxophone and he played three numbers in the Ecorse High School Band program. They were:  “Concerto No. 1,” by “Singeless, “Concertina” by Guilhaud and “Tambourin” by Rameau.  Mrs. Doris Green accompanied him at the piano.

Both the Ecorse Senior High Band and the sixty piece Junior High Band appeared in the musical program which featured both standard music and popular numbers.

After playing with his old band, Alexander returned to the University of Michigan and played more solos. In 1954 he and other students competed in the annual Gulantics talent show in Hill Auditorium. His trio, headed by Anceo Franciso on piano with Jimmie Williams on bass took the $25 third place prize.

“I played in the Michigan Band under William Revelli – who was a great man, he made me sweat blood-but I also led a popular jazz sextet,” Alexander later recalled. He graduated from the School of Music with a B.A. in 1955 and a Masters Degree in 1960. He once again returned to Ecorse High School where he directed the band for thirty years until he retired to California with his wife Barbara in 1986.

Alexander Campbell, his wife, and their sons Alexander T. Campbell and Garland and David were also musicians. Alexander T. Campbell played sax in the University of Michigan Band from 1975-1977 and David the youngest played percussion while getting his BA in fine arts in 1980. Garland earned his University of Michigan degree in political science and communications and was an Emmy winning producer of children’s TV programs before becoming a college band director.

Garland said that having a band director for a father meant he and his brothers “always had all sorts of instruments at home – violins, guitars, trombones. We learned something aabout all of them because they were sitting around the house. My mom was a musician too, but she became an occupational therapist.”

“We didn’t cram anything down their throats, but we exposed them to opportunities I wish I’d had. I used to pack them up, leave home and take them to Ann Arbor to listen to the Michigan Band practice,”  Alexander Sr. said.

The Ecorse High School Band marched in the Mardi Gras Parade in New Orleans on February 29, 1976. The appearance of the 79 member band in the 4 ½ hour parade marked the first time that a unit from Michigan or from the North appeared in the parade which is the final celebration before Lent.

The band members and their director Alexander Campbell and Assistant Director Jerry Copeland and thirteen chaperones boarded three buses from Ecorse High School the Friday before the parade. Many Ecorse residents gathered at the School to see them off.

Mrs. Marie Salisbury, an Ecorse resident for 23 years and mother of Larry Salisbury, a school board member at the time, obtained the invitation for the band to participate in the parade. Mrs. Salisbury had attended the Mardi Gras for the past 17 years and had “never seen a Michigan group participate.”

A family friend, Arthur Daure, was chairman of the Krewe of Thoth parade and it was from him  that she received the invitation to invite any group she wished. “I could have invited any civic group of older people but I thought it would be better to give those youngsters a chance to make good on the invitation.”

The band members and their families and friends raised $13,000 through various projects, including bake sales, a spaghetti dinner and lunch, a hockey benefit, a card party, paper drive, band concert, student dance, candle sale and medallion sale. Many civic organizations, business leaders and private citizens also assisted. The largest contribution came from the city of Ecorse who gave $2,600 for a bus rental.

Co-chairman of the parents’ committee were Mrs. Rhoda Daunter and Mrs. Lorraine Lewis. Student leaders were Pete Martinez, chairman; Sheryl Copeland and Andrea Beard.

Alexander Sr. played sax for Motown records during the company’s heyday for Martha and the Vandellas, the Temptations, the Four Tops and other groups. In the fall of 1996 the Campbells released their first CD from Square 1 produced by their company, Bunk Bed Music and marketed by another family firm, Marquis Records of Wilmington, California. Alexander Sr. was the session director for the recording and three other musicians completed the Campbell Brothers sextet.

If you have any band memories you want to share, please email me at or

A fan club of Ecorse High School graduates fondly remembers Miss Helen Garlington and her Glee Club and Songsters. I would love to have information about the Songsters, history, etc.  If you have any special Songster memories to share please email me and I’ll be glad to publish them.





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Some Ecorse Educational Events of 1958

by Kathy Warnes

The year 1958 began sadly for Ecorse when two long time educators, Francis a. Labadie and Roy W. Seavitt, died.

Francis Labadie Dies of Pneumonia

Francis A.  Labadie, 51. died of pneumonia on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1957 in Outer Drive Hospital. Last rites were held at St. Francis Xavier Church and he was buried in Holy Sepulcher Cemetery.

Mayor Eli Ciungan and members of the city council, Ralph E. Brant, superintendent of schools, school board members, city officials from neighboring communities and county officials attended his funeral.

Twelve Ecorse firemen and policemen formed an honor guard, and the pallbearers were Ecorse school teachers with whom he had been closely associated. They were Glen Hunt, William Weeber, Ralph McNaughton, David Hochrein, Omar Vogt, and Donald Draper.

A member of the faculty of Ecorse High School for 28 years, he had also served on the city council for 18 years. He resigned the post in August to run unsuccessfully for city assessor. At the time of his death he was head of the Ecorse High School mathematics department.

A member of a pioneer Downriver family, Labadie was born July 13, 1906, in Ecorse. His family lived at 61 Labadie, a street named for his ancestors. He compiled the tenth grade at Ecorse high school in 1921, and was graduated from Western High School, Detroit, in 1923. He attended the University of Detroit for two years and transferred to Michigan State Normal College, graduating in 1929.

An outstanding athlete, Labadie played professional baseball for a year before starting his teaching carrier at Ecorse High School. He coached baseball, football, and basketball at the High School. As mentor of the Great Lakes Steel Post 314 American Legion Baseball team, he developed a quintet that never bowed to defeat and eventually won a state championship.

He was appointed as Ecorse’s first mayor pro tempore in 1942, and held his post several times for polling the highest number of voices as a council candidate. He at one time served as a member of the Wayne County Board of Supervisors.

Know and respected as a champion of the people during his many years of public service, Francis Labadie sponsored several resolutions for civic improvements.

Roy W. Seavitt, Devoted Ecorse Teacher Dies

A life devoted to his hometown Ecorse and to teaching ended Thursday, February 27, 1958, for 67-year-old Roy W. Seavitt. He died at Outer Drive Hospital after a lengthy illness.

Roy W. Seavitt was born on February 14, 1891, on his maternal grandmother’s farm in Ecorse. His parents were John and Josephine Seavitt.

He attended Ecorse public schools through the tenth grade and completed his twelfth grade education at Detroit McMillan High School. He peddled Detroit newspapers before and after school from the time he was eight until he was 14 years old.

After he graduated from high school, Roy taught two years at Ecorse School One, as one of its first teachers. After two years of teaching, he went into the drug and tobacco business with his brother Louis, for two years. Then Roy decided he wanted to be a teacher. He went to Michigan State Normal College and graduated in 1915.

In August 1914 Roy Seavitt married Elizabeth Labadie. The couple had three sons. Roy Junior, Harold, and Richard were all teachers and Roy Junior taught at Ecorse High School.

In February 1916, Roy became an attendance office in Detroit and then he accepted a teaching position at Carey School. Eventually he was transferred to teach at Southwestern high School. He became principal of the Birdhurst School in September 1925.

Seven months later he was appointed as principal of the then new Clinton School. Recognized as an efficient organizer of schools, school authorities chose him to settle racial trouble. He completed surveys for many of the future Detroit public schools in the Palm Woods and University of Detroit sections.

Eventually, Roy Seavitt was promoted to principal of the Beard School, increasing his experience of handling not only regular school but administering the Beard Open Window School for carrrdiac tubercular and anemic children.In 1934 Roy Seavitt was sent to Thomas School, promoted to  Hanneman School in 1937, and went to Morley School in 1940.

Roy Seavitt was a member of the Ecorse School Board from 1925 to 1949. When he was first elected to the Board of Education candidates were elected by caucus.  Roy advocated voting by ballot and the following year candidates were required to file for office. He also served as a justice of the peace in Ecorse from 1927 to 1935 as well as being a director of the Security Bank from 1934 until his death. He also played football and baseball on local teams.

Funeral services for Roy Seavitt were held from the Gallagher Funeral Home in River Rouge and from St. Francis Xavier Church in Ecorse. He was buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.


March 1958

Ecorse Student Wins Legion Oratory Contest

The annual 16th District American legion oratorical contest was held at River Rouge High School Friday. Contestants were from Lincoln Park, Garden City, and Ecorse high schools.

Joe Montie and Ernestine Gaskin from Ecorse High School took first and second place, respectively, in the contest. Neil Phillips from Garden City was third. Charles Stallman and Rick Sebastian, Lincoln Park, were also in the contest.

Joe Montie received a United States war bond and $50 plus a $15 check. Earnestine Gaskin received a $15 check.

The coaches of the contest were  Jerome Arfa, Ecorse, which has taken first place in the district contest for the years of 1953, 1954, 1956, and 1957; Carol Armey, who coached Neil Phillips of Garden City’ and Robert Wick, coach of the Lincoln Park contestants.

Joe Montie will compete in the zone contest to be held Friday March 7 at Western High School.

October 1958

Ecorse High Hi-Lites

By Larry Justice


Everyone by this time is settled down with going to school and now many things are happening. Like for instance, Jerry Nichols and Susan James or Don Miller and his new girl friend.

Another thing of interest is the school dances. The senior class is giving a dance tomorrow from 9 p.m. until midnight. It will be held in the high school cafeteria.

There are many other items of interest going around Ecorse High so watch next week’s paper for news about them.

Ecorse High Activities

By Gloria Ture and Nancy Thomas

The Ecorse high school student council went into full swing on September 21 with the Principal, Mr. Ruehle, giving the oath of our council to the newly elected officers. The officers for this year’s Student Council are President Frank Wordick; vice president Pat Richards, recording secretary Pat Santoro; corresponding secretary Betty Santoro; and treasurer, Dean Trondle.

In our first article, we would like to state the purpose of our student council. Our council gives the students a chance to voice their opinions and to present any new ideas which might better their school.

To become a member of the student council, you must maintain a C-1 average and you must be elected by the members of your home room.

There are approximately 125 members of the student council elected from grades 7 through 12






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New Blog- Definitely Downriver

Hi everyone,

I wanted to tell you that I am starting a new blog called Definitely Downriver that I hope you will read.  I decided to start a completely new blog instead of just making it a part of my Ecorse blog because it seemed to warrant space of its own.  I am endeavoring to write historical posts about the entire Downriver area in Definitely Downriver, because I want to have a part in preserving Downriver history.  Please be patient as I add to the new blog.  You can find it at:

The Ecorse blog will stay the same.


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Ecorse Obituaries are History Too!

by Kathy Warnes

As I’m sure you know if you’ve done any family history or history, obituaries are a great source of information about a person and his or her family. They are also good starting points to discover more about Ecorse history. These obituaries are arranged alphabetically and I think provide a good research starting point or just interesting reading.  I’ll continue them next week.

Kathy Warnes

Ecorse Advertiser

August 1940

Alex Campau

Centenarian of Ecorse Lies Down at Last to Rest

“For some we loved, the loveliest and best,

That from his vintage rolling Time hath prest,

Have drunk their cup a round or two before,

And one by one crept silently to rest.”

And into that world of yesterdays which flowed from the pen of the Persian poet and philosopher, Omar Kyayham, today has “crept silently to rest,” a well-loved old man- pioneer of the downriver area who closed his tired eyes at last from the shifting scenes of almost 100 years.

For today, at rest in Ecorse cemetery, very close to the place of his birth, Alex Campau has closed a lifetime of activity – a lifetime that in two short weeks would have numbered exactly 97 years.

Back in the days when Ecorse and the neighboring lands were Indian inhabited vastness, when the stagecoach was making its first run between Detroit and Monroe, Alex Campau was born – the second child and oldest son of Mr. And Mrs. Alexis Campau. The first wail of the man who was to live almost a century was heard from behind the hobnailed walls of a small frame house that today still stands on the lot next to the home in which he died, 3859 West Jefferson Avenue.

Tuesday morning a solemn requiem high mass at St. Francis Xavier church in which the Reverend Fathers John Kenna, Arthur Toussaint and A. DeCneudt officiated was chanted as last respects to the pioneer. He suffered a paralytic stroke last Monday and never regained consciousness until Saturday when, with the same spirit of peace and tranquility with which he lived, he “crept silently to rest” into the land of the shadows.

As a child he attended a little frame school house on Salliotte road, where a mere handful of boys gathered to learn the “three R’s” as taught by the one long-suffering teacher. But Alex was only a little fellow, eight years old, when the first shadow of sorrow crossed his life and death took the hard-working, generous-hearted man who was his father. After that, he did his bit in the fields and helped his mother in the house where she rented rooms to men who came to work on the laying of the first railroad line through this territory – the old Lakeshore railroad.

He was still a little fellow when he sometimes made the exciting ride to Monroe from Detroit and back again on a stagecoach which was driven by a distant cousin. It was as thrilling as a present day trip to New York to the youngster to ride, hot and dusty and thoroughly weary into Monroe at night-watch the lengthening shadows as he listened to tales spun by old and seasoned travelers and then crept to bed- to arise with the first pale streaks of dawn, to be ready, behind fresh horses, for that homeward trek. And, it was in Alex’s childhood that he learned the true friendly nature of the American Indian, for there was one – a stalwart fellow, who was helping to lay the railroad -, who roomed at Mrs. Campau’s house. The Indian took an instant liking to the active boy and went so far as to share his bed most of the time he stayed at the Campau home.

Married in Wyandotte

And so Alex grew to manhood working a little her an there with his brother – taking his threshing machine to neighboring farmers who had none-doing a little trucking business, taking the produce he grew on the farm to market, and delighting in making a good deal for it. The founding of the Tecumseh Salt Works in Ecorse found Campau one of its first workers clearing away the marshlands and the oncoming years never found him idle.

At the age of 23, he hitched up his horse and buggy one bright day – the twenty-fourth of July – and he and pretty Adis Salliotte, who lived a scant half-mile away, drove all the way to Wyandotte to be married according to their faith. They returned to Ecorse, however, and worked together with the land and the stock that constituted Alex’s farm.

Five children were born to them; one – a little boy, dying in infancy. The four other children are living today, mourning the death of a father they always knew to be kind, just and devoted to them. Two of his daughters, Lillian and Agnes, never married, and it was in the home with them that he shared his last few years – almost blind and totally deaf.

Another daughter, Florence Drouillard, married but is still living in the town near her father’s home. His son, Ernest, lives but a few doors away from the home site. Also left to mourn is a sister, Mrs. Mathilda Grant, who lives at Ernest’s home.

Goes Deaf, Blind

Always a devotee of hunting, fishing, hiking an vigorous outdoor sports in his youth, the advancing years left the pioneer lonely and not a little bewildered as hie steps slowed and his eyesight failed. And when he hearing went completely he turned to the vivid memories within his heart for consolation. And so the last long twilight days found him, a solitary figure sitting in the window of his home – gazing not upon the busy street that is now West Jefferson Avenue – but back down the muddy lane of his childhood-past the milestones that took away the pristine liveliness of the land that he had tilled with his own hands – and turned it into the noisy paths upon which industry today travels swiftly forward.

“How do you feel today, dad?”

“Fine – just fine.”

And those were the last words ever spoken by the grand old man of Ecorse – Alex Campau. A few moments after they were uttered last Monday, he collapsed on the floor of his home, and a few days later quietly passed on into the land in which his memories – his loves of yesterday-were awaiting him.

Descendant of Pioneer, Mrs. Drouillard Dies

Florence Campau Drouillard

The Detroit News

Sunday, December 18, 1960

Services were held Monday morning for Mrs. Florence Campau Drouillard, 86, a lifetime resident of Ecorse and member of a pioneer Downriver family, who died Thursday in the old family homestead where she was born, at 3859 West Jefferson.

Burial in Ecorse Cemetery followed a requiem mass Monday in St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.

Mrs. Drouillard was the last descendant of one branch of the Campau family, which was one of the first to settle in the Downriver area. She was one of four children born to the late Alexander and Ades (Salliotte) Campau. The Salliottes also were among the early settlers in the area.

Mrs. Drouillard had lived alone in the shadow of the Great Lakes Steel Corporation since the death of a brother Ernest, six months ago. Two sisters, Lillian and Agnes, died some time ago.

Much of the land on which her ancestors settled was still in her possession. She owned 650 feet of frontage on Jefferson directly south of the steel company’s main entrance.

The land, once woods and farm fields, is now occupied by used car lots, parking areas and buildings. Part of it is still cultivated as truck gardens, but the Campau family itself long ago gave up farming.

The house she died in is still a farmhouse. An old barn at the rear of the house was torn down only a few months ago. In the near future, 1 ½ acres of the southerly portion of the property will become the site of a proposed new police station and municipal court building. At a special meeting last week, the Ecorse city council agreed to purchase the land for $55,000.

Earl E. Montie, a himself a member of a pioneer Downriver family, and a longtime Ecorse resident, was Mrs. Drouillard’s attorney. In this capacity and from close association with the Campaus, Drouillards and descendants of the area’s other early settlers, he acquired a treasure trove of historical lore.

Montie said Mrs. Drouillard’s mother was Ades Salliotte, another pioneer name in the downriver area. During her marriage to Frank L. Drouillard, Mrs. Drouillard had a home on Salliotte Street in Ecorse. But she returned to the family home after her husband’s death many years ago.

Her father, Alexander, died in 1939 at the age of 96, Montie said. He was born in a log cabin not 50 feet from the present home.

Alexander could recall first hand the Indians who hunted and fished in the region. He could remember when he shot deer where the steel plant is now, when Jefferson was a mud trail called the River Road.

He passed on to his children the stories he heard from the participants of skirmishes on Fighting Island during the War of 1812.

The recollections died with Mrs. Drouillard who had no children of her own, or nieces or nephews to pick up the thread of history.

The body is at the Frank Gallagher Funeral Home, 10750 Jefferson west, Ecorse.





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Ecorse Celebrates a New Playground, Brotherhood Week, and the New St. Francis Church

by Kathy Warnes

Celebrating a New Playground

On July 31, 1958, a new playfield for Ecorse children became the newest addition to the city’s recreational facilities last week when it was officially opened by Mayor Eli Ciungan, Councilman Peter Johnson, and John Ghindia, recreation department director. The photo is by John Duguay.

Located on Pepper Road at Tenth Street, the playground is one of the best equipped recreation centers in the Downriver area. Miniature glider swings, hobby horses, climbers, monkey bars, whirls, baby swings, merry-go-rounds and Jack and Jull slides have been installed to provide a variety of amusement for the children.

The new playground provides for the recreational needs of children living in the area, which in is some distance from other playfields in the city.

“The opening of the playground marks another step forward in the administration’s program for improvement and expansion of city facilities,” Mayor Ciungan said.

Continuously Celebrating Brotherhood

Since the first celebration in 1956, Ecorse usually celebrated Brotherhood Week the third week of February. Some of the early Brotherhood Week programs were held in the Leonard Duckett Center of the Ecorse Presbyterian Church.

The purpose of Brotherhood Week was to promote friendship and understanding between persons of all races, creeds and colors.

The second annual celebration of Brotherhood Week took place on Wednesday, February 20, 1957 at the Leonard Duckett Center of the Ecorse Presbyterian Church.

B.E. Loveland, chairman of the committee gave the welcoming address.

After dinner, served by the Womens Fellowship of the Ecorse Presbyterian Church, the guests joined in a community sing.

Louis L. Friedland, professor at Wayne State University, the main speaker, discussed municipal government and community organization structure. He defined the nature of municipal government and its role in the lives of the people, and suggested how various organizations functioned to support the political life of a community in a non partisan way.

When Professor Friedland finished speaking, the audience broke into small groups, each with a leading citizen as spokesman and discussed municipal government and how citizens can work together for the betterment of the community.

Several weeks before the banquet, the Community Relations Committee contacted organizations in Ecorse and suggested that they devote an evening to promote the spirit of Brotherhood.

Tickets for the dinner were $1.50 and were offered for purchase from Benjamin Goodell, Miller School Principal, and at Loveland’s Pharmacy at 4030 West Jefferson.

On Saturday, February 21, 1959, the program took place in the Ecorse High School auditorium with 650 attending. The program consisted of a pageant of nationality groups to observe Brotherhood Week.

More than 125 adults and young people took active parts in the presentation of the pageant which included folk dances and songs of Romania, Poland, Mexico, Italy, and Czechoslovakia, Negro cultural activities and country music.

Another highlight of the program praised as the most successful ever presented in Ecorse was a panel discussion on brotherhood by local, civic, industrial and church leaders.

The first annual presentation of the Burton E. Loveland Brotherhood Award climaxed the program. King D. Schwayder, general manager of Schwayder Brothers, Inc., an Ecorse firm, was selected by the Ecorse Brotherhood Committee to receive the award. It was presented to Schwayder by Ecorse Councilman Peter Johnson, a member of the committee.

The committee chose Schwayder as the individual who has made the greatest contribution during the past year toward the promotion of brotherhood and better human relations in Ecorse.

Schwayder is an executive board member of the Detroit Roundtable of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. He has been Downriver chairman of the United Foundation’s campaign for two years, and has for several years been active in the Boy Scout movement.

He was cited for instituting an employment policy at Schwayder Brothers based on the premise that an applicant’s character and ability to adequately perform his job are the only standards that determine eligibility for employment with the company. Religion, race, creed, or ancestry are not of importance to determining fitness for either employment or progress with the company.

Among the speakers were Circuit Judge Horace Gilmore who brought greetings from Governor Williams and the Reverend Orion Hopper, editor director of the Institute of Church In Corporate Society of the Presbytery of Detroit. He was formerly a minister at the Ecorse Presbyterian Church.

Governor Williams sent a telegram commending the brotherhood committee and the Ecorse Community Relations Committee for presenting the program.

The colorful pageant of nationality groups with the participants wearing native costumes was an impressive part of the program. Tribute was paid to Miss Helen Garlington, vocal music and drama instructor of Ecorse High School for her outstanding role in directing the pageant. Ecorse Judge Alexander Barbour narrated the program.

Father George Van Antwerp of St. Francis Xavier Church was master of ceremonies. Betty Mayea and Mrs. Carrie Williams were co-chairmen of the program. Mrs. Beryl Manley was in charge of refreshments.

Celebrating the New St. Francis Xavier

The Ecorse Advertiser of Thursday, August 27, 1953, reported that the festival committee of St. Francis Xavier Church was scheduled to meet in the school auditorium that evening, including all booth workers and everyone interested in the “Help Us Build” Fall Festival scheduled for September 26-28, 1953.

The story said that the new St. Francis Xavier Church will be ready for use about September 15, as was announced by the pastor, Monsignior Tobias G. Morin. The new rectory has been occupied since July 23, which also was the date of the Monsignor’s 30th Anniversary as pastor of this parish.

This will be the first time in the 105 year history of St. Francis Xavier Parish that all the parish buildings now stand on the same site, the new church and rectory facing West Jefferson and the school and convent on West Outer Drive.

The church, which is Gothic in design, will accommodate between 850 and 900 parishioners. It was designed by Arthur Des Rosiers. Edward R. Monahan was the builder and Joseph McCrea the engineer.

The altars and Communion railing will be made of marble and some of the statues which graced the old church and the Stations of the Cross are now being renovated.

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Events Around Ecorse, 1955

By Kathy Warnes

January 1955

Police Open Second Precinct Police Station at 13th and Salliotte

History was made this week as Ecorse opened its ultra-modern second precinct police station at 13th and Salliotte roads.

Although the new building will be officially dedicated with appropriate ceremonies on February 2nd. It was put into use as an addition to the police department Monday at midnight.

Chief of Police Alvin Gillman revealed that twelve men would be assigned to the precinct although other officers from main headquarters would work out of the new station from time to time.

At a meeting of the Police and Fire Commission Monday night a veteran officers was promised to sign and will be assigned to the station.

Promoted to a higher rank was Sgt. Peter Johnson, a veteran of nearly twenty years service. Rosco Bobo, veteran detective lieutenant, asked to be transferred back into uniform.

Chief Alvin Gillman named the following me to operate the new station for the time being: Lieutenant Willie Campbell, Rosco Bobo and Peter Johnson; and Patrolman Maynard Wallace, Joseph Smith, LeRoy Lawson, Rufus Underwood, Charles Taylor, Ernest Molnar, Fermon Fleming, Rosco Simmons, and James Cosbey.

The building, designed to give the heavily populated west side of Ecorse additional police protection, was built entirely by city workers, saving the taxpayers a considerable sum.

Constructed of block and face brick, the new station is equipped with the latest types of furnishings for a police building.

Telephone communication is provided by means of phones connected with the switchboard at headquarters where all calls are received and then relayed. A remote control transmitter permits the officer in charge of desk operations at the new station to broadcast messages to any car in the downriver police network.

Inspector Woodrow Dameron has been working for several weeks ironing out problems found in the opening of the precinct and is expected to remain at the new building until it is in full operation.

Ecorse’s new precinct station is the first of its kind in this area. Other municipalities operate out of old and cramped main headquarters.

Mayor William W. Voisine Adds Ecorse to Cities Asking Mill Study Ordinances

Great Lakes Steel officials this week will be asked to study model smoke ordinances drafted for use by cities plagued with smoke and fly ash blown into the atmosphere from large industrial furnaces.

Mayor William W. Voisine last Wednesday instructed City Attorney Victor T. Mitea to forward the ordinances to company officials asking for an opinion regarding them – one in general use throughout the nation and another adopted by Pittsburgh. They will be used as guides in the drafting of a smoke ordinance to be adopted by Ecorse within the next two weeks.

“Cooperation with the mill should result in our drafting one of the best smoke ordinances in the country,” Voisine said, “one that will prove workable for the steel mill and still give the people of Ecorse the protection to which they are entitled.

“Although Number Two Bessemer has been closed down, the smoke laden air from the other furnace is still creating a bad situation. Something must be done to correct this and we have hopes the mill will take steps to remedy the condition.”

Last month council passed a resolution ordering the steel company to take steps to curb dust, soot and dirt emanating from its furnaces.

February 1955

VFW Presents Award to Monks

The citizenship award presented annually to an outstanding citizen of Ecorse by Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 5709 was awarded to Harry Monks, Jr. of  53 West Westfield, last Saturday night.

An engraved plaque was presented to Monks, secretary of the Police and Fire Commission by Judge W. Newton Hawkins, master of ceremonies at the post’s ninth anniversary dinner.

Mayor William W. Voisine was principal speaker, and Councilman Robert G. Neal was an honored guest at the affair attended by some 250 members and friends.

Traverse draperies for the post hall were presented to the post on the occasion of its anniversary by the women’s auxiliary.

Father-Son Banquet at Presbyterian Church

With a program designed to please all boys from six to sixty, the Ecorse Presbyterian Church was the scene of the annual Father and Son Banquet on Thursday, February 17, 1955.

The Woman’s Bible Class staged the big affair which was held in the Youth Center building, President Ruth Robson was in charge of the decorations and named the following committee to assist her: Mrs. Wm. Thomas and Mrs. Mattie Strohm, kitchen; Mrs. Beverly DuHadway, dining room.

William Jones and Eric Urich of the Men’s Group have arranged for a varied program. The Rev. Leonard Duckett addressed the assembled fathers, while the youngsters were entertained by two Disney cartoons and a troupe of six giant boxer dogs, trained by Fay Saysnider.

As in past y ears, various prizes were awarded for the youngest and oldest father present as well as the father with the most sons present.

March 1955

Stork Shower

Mrs. Duwain Larkin of 4260 Sixth, Ecorse, was honored at a stork shower on Sunday at 2 p.m. given by Jo Anne Schmitt of 41 Cora for 35 guests. They played bunco and won prizes and later served a buffet luncheon.

Private First Class Harry C. Wiggins Returns to Duty

Fort Campbell, Kentucky. March 8, 1955.

Private First Class Harry C. Wiggins, son of Mrs. Jessie Gills of Ecorse, has just returned to duty after a well earned seven day leave.

Pfc. Wiggins is serving a third hitch in the army. He took his basic training at Fort Knox and served overseas in Germany with the 1st Infantry Division. Pfc. Wiggins having volunteered for the airborne, was sent to Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where he received his “Wings” in June of 1953.

At the present he is assigned to Headquarters Company, Third Battalion, 188th Airborne Infantry Regiment of the famous 11th Airborne Division.

April 1955

School Three Wins Eighth Safety Award

For the eighth year the School Three Safety Patrol has won the annual safety award in Ecorse presented by the Automobile Club of Michigan for school safety patrol activity.

Miss Alma Tourangeau, School Three sixth grade senior teacher, has won repeated praise or her excellent work as director of the school’s safety patrol from the Automobile Club, the Ecorse Police Department and Ecorse public school authorities.

Frank Kennedy, Ecorse School Three principal, credits the outstanding safety record of the school to the excellent cooperation of the teachers. Ecorse police, pupils, parents, and to Miss Irene Lowney, director of the girls’ safety service squad and William Fine, boys’ safety playground patrol director.

Frank Macalello, 14 year old captain of the school’s safety patrol, has been selected to join 120 Michigan patrollers on an Automobile Club sponsored trip to Washington D.C. May 5-8.

The son of Mr. and Mrs. Nick Macalello of 4267 Sixth, Frank, a sixth grader, has been on the patrol for two years. He was elected captain by his fellow patroller.

May 1955

St. Anne Rosary Altar Society of St. Francis Xavier Church Celebrates 70th Birthday

It will be a happy birthday time for members of the St. Anne Rosary Altar Society as they celebrated their 70th anniversary at their annual Mother and Daughter Banquet on Thursday, May 12, 1955, at 6 o’clock in St. Francis School auditorium. At this time past presidents of the organization will be honored. A brief history written by the society’s president, Mrs. Mary Ann Price, will be reviewed by the program chairman, Mrs. Mildred Wieging.

The society was founded in 1885 by a mere four or five members. Today it numbers a total of 530 members.

Past president who will be honored will include Mrs. Rank Burke of Wyandotte, Mrs. C.J. Miller and Martha Law of Lincoln Park, Mrs. Uila Farley of California, Mrs. Agnes Goodell, Mrs. Eleanor Dufour, Bertha Goodell, Ruth LeBlanc, Irene Montry, Constance Lesner, Grace Maurice and Beatrice Kilenow.

June 1955

Janice Hoffman Chosen 17eenth Rowing Queen on 17teenth Birthday

Coincidence played a major role in making what would have been a memorable day under any circumstances, doubly so for Janice Hoffman. A willowy, honey blonde beauty, she was chosen last Friday, June 23, 1955, on her seventeenth birthday as Ecorse’s seventeenth Rowing Queen.

One look at her radiant smile and sparkling eyes and a latecomer to the judging in Ecorse High School auditorium would have spotted Janice as the winning contestant. She has lived all of her 17 years in Ecorse and in September will be a senior at Ecorse High.

The 1955 Rowing Queen is a winner scholastically also. In her junior year she was inducted into the National Honor Society. Proof that she is not lacking in the personality category is the fact that she’s a cheerleader at Ecorse High. Janice is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Leonard Hoffman of 25 Knox.

At an informal ceremony following the judging, Janice was crowned queen to reign over Ecorse Days by Mayor William W. Voisine. On July Fourth, Governor G. Mennen Williams will preside at the official crowning ceremony.

The two runners-up in the judging will comprise the Queens Court of Honor. They are Mary Toth, 17, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Andrew Toth of 30 W. Goodell, and Kathleen Durocher, 18, daughter of Mrs. Jack Taylor of 3975 High, and Dr. N.E. Durocher of Pontiac.

Mary, a senior at St. Francis Xavier High School, came from Czechoslovakia to Ecorse in 1946 with her parents and brother. Throughout high school she has earned a place on the honor roll every quarter. She, too, is a cheerleader.

Kathleen graduated from St. Francis Xavier in June. Her plans include going to work, but she has not decided upon a definite career as yet.

The trio of beauties will be taken, via American Airlines, to New York on an all expense paid weekend trip. They will be accompanied by Corky Poppa, president of the Ecorse Merchants Association and Mrs. Poppa.

 July 1955

Ecorse Patrolman Rufus Underwood Tracks Down FBI Fugitive

Because of the memory of Rufus Underwood, 26, Ecorse patrolman, Willie James Hawkins, 29, wanted by the FBI on suspicion of murdering a policeman in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, last January 13, is being held in Wayne County jail in default of $50,000 bond set by Federal Judge Arthur a. Koscinski Monday afternoon.

Hawkins was arraigned on an Alabama fugitive warrant charging him with the murder of the police officer. Examination is set for August 18.

The arrest was made Saturday at 10:30 front of the Elks Club, 599 Elliott, River Rouge, by FBI agents, Underwood and Patrolman Joseph smith. The Ecorse patrolman handcuffed Hawkins who was working as a doorman, and brought him to the Ecorse Police Department and booked him as a fugitive. When arrested, he was carrying two knives.

August 1955

School Nurse, Teresa Murphy, Retires After 32 Years Service

Ecorse was a village and teenage students were acquiring their high school educations in what is now School One when Miss Teresa Murphy was hired in 1923 by the Ecorse Public School system as a classroom teacher.

Shortly afterwards she became Ecorse’s first public school nurse, and eventually as school enrollments grew, relinquished her teaching duties and served solely as school nurse until her retirement on June 30, 1955.

Thousands of young people who benefitted from her experience and training during her 32 years as a school nurse remember Miss Murphy as a counselor, consultant and friend.

Known throughout the Downriver area for her interest and participation in all phases of social service work, Miss Murphy was instrumental in the organization of the Downriver Council of Social Agencies, the dental clinic that served so many Ecorse children and a variety of health and social service clinics.

In cooperation with city, county, and state departments of health, she rendered outstanding service to multitudes of needy persons in Ecorse.

When she announced her intention to sever her connection with Ecorse Public Schools, she received many offers to continue her nursing services. Miss Murphy on July 11 elected to join, temporarily, the staff at Mt. Carmel Mercy Hospital in Detroit.

September 1955

City Officials Inspect Anti-Aircraft Battery

Just how an antiaircraft battery would go into action during an enemy air attack was demonstrated for a group of officials headed by Mayor William W. Voisine Friday at the anti-aircraft installation, 100 E. Westfield. The location of an Army anti-aircraft battery for several years, the defense of the area is now in the hands of the Michigan National Guard. The unit of 50 men is commanded by Lt. William P. Shelton.

The part that radar plays in the defense of this section and in the operation of anti-aircraft guns was brought out during the inspection. The inspection started during a heavy rain, but Mayor Voisine decided against postponing it, asked man questions, and was much impressed by the equipment and training of the unit. He said that despite the rain, he felt that the inspection should continue since the defense of the community and the entire country is on a 24 hour per day basis.

Mayor Voisine as a result of his recent Fort Knox visit with a group of other mayors is familiar with defense installations, said that he was pleased with the situation here. He said that Ecorse and nearby places are well represented in the overall defense and readiness program.

October 1955

Ann Starr Operates Dancing School and Participates in Community Activities

Starting her eleventh year as a teacher of dancing in the Downriver area, Ann Starr has not only provided instruction for hundreds of youngsters, but she has contributed a great deal to community activities. Operating the Ann Starr School of Dancing on West Jefferson Avenue near Southfield Highway, Ecorse, Miss Starr has two big scrap books of clippings and printed programs of community affairs in which she and her students have taken part as entertainment features.

During the more than a decade she has operated the school, Miss Starr has trained over 1,500 children in tap, ballet or acrobatic dancing. Many of these pupils have gone on to win recognition for themselves in the entertainment field. She had extensive experience as a dancing instructor both of children and adults before opening the school.

Many of her students have appeared on television programs. Joanne Frankhouse is one of the better known dancers who have been on TV programs while Mary Ann Lajoie is making good as an entertainer in California. Miss Lajoie, a niece of Mr. and Mrs. William Lajoie of Ecorse, credits much of her success for getting started in the entertainment field to her old dancing instructor, Miss Starr.

Recent students who have been making good as entertainers in the Detroit field are Bonnie Priest and Delores Molner.

Her students have entertained VFW and American legion, Kiwanis Club, Ecorse Boat Club, Eagles and other fraternal groups in addition to many other organizations.

Miss Starr is a member of the advisory board of the National Association of Dance and Affiliated Artists. She spent some time on the stage appearing in dancing acts prior to entering the field of dancing instruction

November 1955

Grade Three Pupils at School Two in Rosy Haze

When 28 third graders at School Two grow up and turn their memories back to cherished moments of childhood, one eventful day will be recalled above all others…the day they received a thank you card from President Eisenhower and his wife, Mamie.

Their teacher, Miss Lugenia Richards will also not soon forget the occasion when she read the message on the engraved card and watched the expression on the well scrubbed, shining faces of her pupils.

When the President was in the hospital each children sent him a get well card. Last Wednesday, the mailman delivered the President’s thank you message.

After each child had held the card and examined it closely, Miss Richards placed it on the bulletin board. For several days traffic was heavy in the third grade homeroom as children in other classes trekked to the board to see the impressive piece of pasteboard.

The card will remain on display throughout the school year, Miss Richards said, but she doesn’t know yet what she will do when June rolls around…perhaps the pupil with the very best citizenship record will be privileged to keep the card.

December 1955

Carry On Good Work Says Chief

Police Chief Alvin Gillman said Tuesday he has instructed his police officers to follow through on the “excellent job by State Police” who conducted a raid early Sunday morning on an alleged gambling room at 4480 West Jefferson.

“I was not aware the place was being used for gambling purposes,” the chief said. “It’s closed now and we’ll make certain it stays that way.”

“Just last week I announced a “get tough” policy is in effect at both precincts. We’re cracking down on vice in Ecorse and the city will be cleaned up and kept clean.”

Gillman has ordered nightly checks by patrolling policemen of all buildings where gambling games have been operated in the past. Reports that illegal games are being run will be checked, he said, and the premises investigated.

“I did not know they were operating a game in that spot,” Mayor Voisine said following the raid. “It was a complete surprise to me. Chief Gillman is on the move now, and woe befall illegal operators if they’re caught,” he said.


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A Few Adventures of Ecorse Civil War Veterans

by Kathy Warnes

The Ecorse Advertiser of Thursday, May 10, 1951, contained a story about Ecorse Civil War soldiers in Company F of the 24th Michigan Infantry Volunteers.  It said that when Ecorse and River Rouge patriotic and civic organizations pay tribute to the nation’s war heroes on Memorial Day, Company F of the 24th Michigan Infantry Volunteers should come in for its share of homage.

Few if any persons today ever heard of Company F, but during the Civil War when Company F became known throughout the Union Army as the “Iron Brigade,” it was the toast of the North.

Company F was mustered into service on August 15, 1862, and was made up of volunteers from Wayne County. At least 11 of the Company were Ecorse (Township) men whose names and descendants are still well known in this area.

The information was secured last week when State Representative Karl Hebert after searching the records in Lansing came up with a complete history of both Company F and the 24th Michigan Infantry. The information was secured at the request of Frank X. LeBlanc, a member of one of Ecorse’s oldest families, and whose father had volunteered and served with this famous outfit.

There was no “boot” training in the Civil War. Volunteers joined the army and they were immediately started for what is now known as the front.

Leaving Detroit a week after being mustered into service the outfit made many long marches and on December 12, 1862, crossed the Rappahannock at Fredericksburg and during the next three days saw its first action. For three days the regiment was under constant fire by the enemy and lost heavily in killed and wounded. Its next important engagement was at Port Royal on April 23, 1863, when the regiment made a brilliant attack, capturing a number of prisoners and driving the enemy from their position.

Shortly after this engagement the 24th entered upon the Pennsylvania campaign and was soon to experience all the horrors and glory of one of the most desperate conflicts of the war. It was during this campaign that the outfit became known as the Iron Brigade and that honorable distinction was accorded it during the war and has passed as such into history.

The 24th arrived at Gettysburg on July 1, 1863, and was immediately engaged. It was one of the first infantry commands to come into action in the three day battle. The first order was to charge and the 24th with the rest of the brigade dashed forward and captured part of Confederate General Archer’s army.

Following this success, the 24th changed front and formed a line of battle in McPherson’s Woods. The Confederates advanced in double line, their numbers being sufficient to overlap and flank the Union forces, poured a murderous fire into the line of Blue and forced a retreat to new positions. The ground was covered with dead and wounded. Four other bearers were killed and three wounded in holding the flag aloft.

The 24th went into this action with 28 officers and 468 men. During the first day of the battle, 22 officers were killed or wounded and 71 enlisted men were killed and223 wounded for a total loss of 316.

In all the 24th took part in 21 major engagements finally being returned to Springfield, Illinois, and while there was escort at the funeral of President Lincoln.

It was mustered out of service in Detroit, June 30, 1865, after nearly three years of brilliant service.

Ecorse Township men serving in Company F included Abram Akey, August Albrecht, Louis L. Beaubien, John B. Beyette, Anthony Bondy, Daniel Bourassa, Charles Cicotte, John B, Cicotte, Charles Gochy, Antoine LeBlanc, and Anthony Reno.

The Ecorse Advertiser of July 1, 1959, printed a story of a “booboo” pulled by some of the Union boys of the 24th Michigan in camp at Jackson, Mississippi, during the Civil War. They cheerfully dubbed themselves ‘The Gallant Charge of the Log Heaps.”

Daniel Cobb, a young soldier, wrote his brother of the humorous incident. His letter is in The University of Michigan Historical Collections.

March 15, 1862: Two weeks last night it commenced to rain about four o’clock and continued to rain till midnight.

While we were preparing to get into our beds we were ordered to saddle up. We were soon in the saddle and rode 15 miles through the mud. We then came in sight of fires which we supposed to be guerilla camp fires as there were 50 seen in that neighborhood at dark and they were what we were after.

We formed line of battle and marched toward the fires, but soon came to a swamp. We dismounted and every fourth man held four homes, while the rest formed line of foot and marched on, half a leg deep in mud, all the time wondering why we were not fired upon.

We soon came on hard land and found the fires were log heaps where they were clearing a new place. This amused us considerably and our venture is known at the camp as “The Gallant Charge of the Log Heaps.”

We then walked until daylight when we began to hunt for guerillas but they had the start on us and we got into camp at three in the afternoon as tired a set as you often see.

Three weeks ago, three companies of our regiment crossed the Tennessee River at Clifton and captured the colonel, four captains and about 60 privates without the loss of a single man.

Captain Newel, the commander of the expedition, was wounded in the leg but not seriously. The guerillas had but one picket out and one of the Company L’s men took him prisoner in the following way:

After finding just where he stood by skulking around, he got between the camp and the picket and advanced toward him. The picket hailed him and asked, “Who goes there?”

He answered, “Relief Guard.”

He was then told to advance.

He advanced, revolver in hand, and placing his revolver to the picket’s breast, ordered a surrender before the guard could comprehend the Yankee trick.

But it was no use for if the guard had moved toward resistance, he would have been a dead man.

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Ecorse Mourns Mayor Wilfred William Voisine- July, 1959

by Kathy Warnes

Death Halts Return Bid of Former Mayor

An Era Ends, and a City Mourns ‘Master’ Politician

Ecorse Advertiser Story, Wednesday, July 1, 1959

An era of turbulent, rough-and-tumble politics in Ecorse and the Downriver area ended Saturday morning June 27, 1959, with the death of William W. – Bill- Voisine two days after he had announced that he would seek to regain the office of Ecorse Mayor. He had held the office of mayor seven terms, dating back to 1933 when he was first elected village president of Ecorse.

On Wednesday, July 1, 1959, former Mayor Voisine was laid to rest after a solemn service and fitting farewell from a saddened city to which he devoted more than a quarter of a century of his life.

The body of the former mayor was in state Wednesday morning in the city hall for two hours before the casket was moved to St. Francis Xavier Church where a solemn requiem high mass was offered at 10 a.m. Ecorse police and firemen formed an honor guard in the city hall and at the funeral, which was expected to be one of the largest ever held in the Downriver area.

The funeral cortege consisting of some 100 cars moved slowly from the church to the Mt. Carmel section of Michigan Memorial Park in Flat Rock, where he was buried.

Hundreds of mourners, including scores of dignitaries, had filed before his bier in the H.F. Thon Funeral Home in Wyandotte to pay their final respects. Numerous floral tributes were banked around the room, and many friends contributed in his name to the Ecorse Memorial Educational Grant Association, which Voisine helped establish to provide scholarships for Ecorse Young people.

Flags at the city hall and other public buildings will fly at half staff during a period of official mourning. City offices were closed Wednesday morning to permit officials and municipal employees to attend the funeral services.

Typical of the political strategy that won him the title of ‘old master’ of Downriver politics, Voisine against doctor’s orders, attended a comeback rally Thursday night.

Some 75 fanatically loyal supporters, who were to form the nucleus of his political organization in this fall’s election, heard ‘the boss’ outline a typical Voisine campaign months in advance of the October primary.

After the rally he returned to his home at 4000 High, tired and exhausted, and retired about 3 a.m. About thirty minutes later his wife Helen found him stretched out on the Davenport. She called his sister, Mrs. Gertrude Neal, who lives next door.

They summoned the doctor who rushed him to the Outer Drive Hospital. He was in good spirits Friday, and was even able to walk around. Early Saturday morning he lapsed into a comma from which he never gained full consciousness. Voisine died about six hours later, at 9:10 a.m. With him were his brother, Edward, and a nephew Robert Neal, a former Ecorse councilman. Voisine’s brother is a former street commissioner and held the post of incinerator superintendent and assistant engineer for a year.

In October 1957, Voisine was stricken with the first of several diabetic attacks which required rest and checkups at hospitals here and in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where he had a winter home for 20 years.

Voisine, 61, had been under medical care for diabetes and high blood pressure for years, but he was a man who believed in living every moment, and frequently disregarded doctors’ orders. This condition was complicated by a stroke in December, 1957.

Voisine’s colorful, controversial public career began over a quarter of a century ago during Prohibition years, when he was elected village trustee in 1930, and took over as village president the following term.

In 1936, he ran a dead heat with W. Newton Hawkins, now an Ecorse municipal judge, which led to two years of court litigation. Voisine held the office during the interim. The issue finally was decided by the state supreme court, which awarded the office to Hawkins.

After losing to Hawkins in 1936, Voisine retaliated with a resounding victory over his political foe in the 1940 election. He later played a leading role in Ecorses’ battle for incorporation as a home rule city.

(Ecorse was incorporated as a city in 1942 and the mayor-council form of government was created then.

After winning the incorporation fight, Voisine was disappointed in the contest to select the new city’s first mayor. Hawkins won.

Voisine bounced back in 1945, but was again defeated by Hawkins in 1947 in another dead heat. Rather than dragging the issue through two years of litigation as before, the matter was settled in a straw-drawing contest held by the local officials. Hawkins drew the long straw and became mayor.

Voisine returned in 1949, but three days after the filing deadline for candidates had passed, Voisine withdrew, leaving Hawkins unopposed.

Less than a year later, Voisine was convicted of perjury by a federal jury and served eight months in prison. He had resigned the mayor’s post in 1951 after he was cited for contempt by a congressional committee probing gray steel market activities.

He entered the campaign in 1953, and surprised old time political foes by the unseating of incumbent mayor, Louis S. Parker (now a city councilman) who had defeated Hawkins in 1951. Carrying every precinct, he piled up 3,735 votes to Parker’s 2,908. When told of his triumph, Voisine said, “I have lived through a nightmare the last five years. All that time I have wondered what the people in Ecorse who were my friends thought. This is the answer and I am simply overwhelmed.”

In 1955 he won reelection defeating Eli Ciungan, then city assessor, by 563 votes in a bitter, hotly contested campaign. In 1957, Ciungan ended Voisine’s 27 year career as the dominant power in Ecorse politics.

The new young mayor paid high tribute to the old political warrior, stating, “Bill Voisine is the toughest man I ever ran against. I’m just glad there is only one of him.”

After hearing about the death of his political rival Saturday, Ciungan said:

“Ecorse has lost one of the most colorful public figures in its history with the death of Bill Voisine whose name was a legend even when I was a boy. He contributed a lot to the community and the Downriver area during the many years he served as chief executive, and will be greatly missed by many.”

He was a solidly built man of medium height, with a suave, debonair attitude that belied the warmhearted, protective manner in which he regarded ‘his people.’

From the beginning of his public life, no one who came to him for a job, a hand out, or help with a personal problem was ever turned away. Seated behind his huge mahogany desk he would welcome as many as 50 persons in a day, most of them asking for some kind of assistance.

During the Depression many an Ecorse family was given a helping hand by Voisine, who at first saw that food baskets were delivered to families suffering hardships. When money became scarcer during the final days of the Depression, he and Judge John Riopelle set up a food distribution center in Riopelle’s combined court and legal offices, where every Friday fish was made available to needy families.

The Ecorse Goodfellows organization stemmed from this practice and Voisine took an active part in the annual newspaper sale to raise funds for the needy at Christmas time.

One year while he was mayor, Voisine contributed his entire $1,500 salary to local churches, and another time he gave an organ to a West Side church.

Voisine could always be counted on to find a job for anyone who needed it, and to dip into his own pocket when money was sorely needed for medical expenses for a loan of coal or clothing for youngsters.

He loved children and could never turn down a request for help when he learned they were in need. They, in turn, responded to his show of affection, and hundreds of Ecorse youngsters called him “Uncle Bill.” Many still do although they now have children of their own.

The deepest sorrow of his life, from which he never fully recovered, was the death of his only son, Robert, 32, on July 3, 1953. Victim of a heart attack, he left a wife and two children.

During his 1955-1957 term as mayor, Voisine entered into what was perhaps the stormiest period of his career. The Bohn one-man grand jury charged that his administration had conspired with gamblers to permit gambling in Ecorse. In February, 1953, a circuit court jury was unable to agree on a verdict in the conspiracy case against him. A retrial was scheduled for June 15, but was postponed because of the illness of the judge. It was rescheduled for October.

Just last week Voisine said he hoped further postponements would not be necessary.

‘I am innocent of the charges and the only way I can be cleared once and for all is by a jury in court. Until this happens I can have no relief from these totally undeserved charges hanging over me like a spectre.”

Although he was facing the trial when defeated by Cuingan in 1957, most political observers believed that the grand jury indictments had little effect on the election.

The Voisine defeat was attributed to the fact that a $20 million urban renewal program, which he sponsored in hopes of “making Ecorse a garden spot with fine, clean homes for everyone,” had met with disapproval.

Voisine envisioned whole new areas of new business places, homes and play areas in Ecorse. His campaign workers however, blamed misunderstanding and erroneous information spread throughout the west side as reasons for his defeat.

Word of Voisine’s death spread through the city like wildfire and many of Old Bill’s friends, stunned by the news, gathered at city hall as though expecting, somehow, to find him there.

Everywhere Voisine’s political foes and supporters were already discussing “the good old days” of hectic, exciting campaigns that reached their heyday during Voisine’s political career.

A general election in Ecorse was tantamount to a July Fourth celebration in other communities with practically the entire adult population taking some part in the campaign – if only to post political placards on their homes and in their car windows, and distribute campaign literature.

As election days neared, rallies and block parties were held every night and sound cars blared forth, urging the election of someone for public office.

Also recalled were the “old days” when workers for political aspirants would “stack” the ballot boxes and anecdotes about how bedridden voters were brought to the polls on stretchers, and the historic verbal and written exchanges between candidates.

Hopes were expressed that the colorful political era of which Voisine was so much a part will not die entirely – that the pre-election parties and banquets and the victory celebrations will continue with their decorated cars, free lunches and liquid refreshments and milling crowds congratulating the winners, and second guessing about how the unsuccessful candidates lot.

Just last week in announcing he would ran for mayor in the October primary election, Voisine cited a number of civic improvements and improved municipal operations instituted during his administrations. Among these he listed the Voisine Terraces, a $1,106,340 project of 20 buildings containing 100 low rent units; construction of the Wet Side Community Center; installation of the artificial ice skating rink at municipal field; garage addition to the public works building for storage of city equipment.

Other improvements listed by the former mayor included a fluorescent street lighting program and paving and resurfacing of most of the city’s streets, alleys and sidewalks.

A slum clearance program designed to eradicate slum and blight conditions throughout the city was also instituted during his last term in office.

The municipal building, incinerator, public library, number two fire station and several other municipal buildings were erected during his administrations.

Born November 20, 1897, in Bay City, Voisine was the son of a Great Lakes ship captain, whose name appears in several books about the history of lakes shipping.

Although as a youngster he had sailed many times with his father, Voisine decided against sailing as a career and took a job as stenographer for a railroad company.

He married the former Helen Friebe in Bay City 41 years ago and they moved to the Downriver area when Voisine was hired as a car salesman for a Wyandotte automobile dealer.

The young couple lived in Ecorse, and in 1931, Voisine opened his own auto agency in the community he was later to term many times, “the greatest little town in the world.”

For two years during World War II, Voisine owned and operated a tool and die factory on McKinstry Street in Detroit. After the war he formed the Voisine Steel Company, and the Wayne Sheet Steel Company, both in Detroit. None of the three companies are in existence today.

Both Voisine and his wife enjoyed their winter holidays in Florida and the summer weekends they would spend at their 40 acre farm in Howell. Besides the many years she shared with him as a loving wife, she was always one of his staunchest supporters.

Pallbearers were City Treasurer Paul Vollmar, Giles Reeve, Police Inspector Alvin Gillman, Edward L. McGee, Morris Blakeman, Robert Young and Earl Montie.

Surviving besides his wife, sister Gertrude and brother, Edward, are three other sisters, Mrs. Eva Moshier and Mrs. Beatrice Southerland, of Ecorse and sister Mary Bertille, mother superior at Immaculate Heart of Mary Convent in Detroit; and two grandchildren, Pamela8 and Diane, 10.

Voisine’s Brother-in-law Dies Same Day

Tragedy struck the Voisine family twice within a 12 hour period Saturday, with the death of George W. Neal, 61, brother-in-law of former Ecorse Mayor William W. Voisine, who also died Saturday.

Neal, husband of Voisine’s sister Gertrude, died of a heart attack at 7:10 p.m.. He was found unconscious in the bathtub of his home, 4002 High, which is adjacent to the Voisine residence. He was rushed to Delray General Hospital where he was pronounced dead on admittance.

The two families were very close, and were neighbors for 18 years.

Funeral services for Neal, a retired engineer for the Detroit, Toledo and Ironton Railroad, will be conducted today at 2:30 p.m. at the H.F. Thon Funeral Home, in Wyandotte. Both Neal and Voisine will be buried in the Mt. Carmel section of Michigan Memorial Park.

The Political Graveyard.

The Political Graveyard

Entry for Major Wilfred William Voisine of Ecorse

Voisine William W. (1897-1959) — also known as Wilfred William Voisine — of Ecorse, Wayne County, Mich. Born in Michigan, November 20, 1897. Son of Abel Voisine (1859-1930) and Eugenia Jennie (Blais) Voisine (1870-1909); married, August 1, 1918, to Helen Pearl O’Brien. Steel executive; village president of Ecorse, Michigan,1936-37; members of a steelworker terrorist group, the Black Legion, repeatedly attempted to kill him in 1936; Jesse Pettijohn and Lawrence Madden were later convicted of conspiracy to commit murder; mayor of Ecorse, Mich.,1948-49, 1954-57. French Canadian ancestry. Convicted in April, 1950, of falsely testifying to a Congressional committee in 1948 that he had received only the regular price for steel; sentenced to two years in federal prison. In October, 1956, a warrant was issued for his arrest, along with several members of the city council, for knowingly permitting illegal gambling in Ecorse, in return for bribes and gratuities; Gov. G. Mennen Williams initiated removal proceedings against the officials. Died in 1959 (age about 61 years.) Burial location unknown.

The Maritime History of the Great Lakes has an extensive entry for Mayor Voisine’s father, Captain Abel Voisine.

Some other references to Mayor Voisine

Detroit Newspaper




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Some Ecorse Events in June 1964

by Kathy Warnes

Second Polio Feeding Sunday

The second Operation Sugar Cube or V for Vaccination Day will take place Sunday, June 14, 1964. The polio vaccine will be fed in sugar cubes to 2 ½ million or more persons in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties.

The first dose of vaccine was administered to the 2/12 million in April. The second dose is essential for full protection against dread poliomyelitis.

Plans for the second feeding are going forward rapidly. Essentially, they are the same as those for the April feeding, with most of the feeding sites in schools throughout the three counties.

In Ecorse the vaccine will be available at all Ecorse schools and school personnel-teachers, principals, supervisory employees, maintenance employees-again will play a major role in the feeding.

A donation of 50 cents per dose is requested, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds.

Parker Convalesces

Ecorse Councilman Louis Parker, who was released last week from Seaway Hospital, Trenton, plans to spend the next month at home convalescing. Councilman Parker, now on the road to recovery, was seriously ill for many weeks, following abdominal surgery.

Ecorse Water Festival to Host Regatta

The Ecorse Water Festival this year will be celebrated on July 4th and 5th. The schedule for the gala two day event is nearing completion. The committee for the annual affair has worked diligently to make sure this long-awaited Festival is one of the biggest and most exciting ever held in Ecorse.

Committee members for the 1964 Festival are Harry Miller, chairman; Joe Levesque, secretary; Kurt Kromrei, treasurer; Richardo Meza; Charles Hunter; Lou McQuiston; Melvin Meyers; John Ghindia; Fregus Judge; Harvey Kromrei; Dick Miller; and Max Barber.

The Festival this year will host the Central States Regatta on July 5. Invitations have been extended to 21 cities, among them the Chicago, Lincoln Park, Minneapolis, Detroit, Buffalo, New York; Washington D.C. and West Virginia.

Light Vote Shows Voter Disinterest

Despite favorable weather, less than one third of the registered Ecorse voters turned out to cast ballots in the School Board election Monday.

Incumbent Johnnie B. Jones tallied the most votes, 1,300; Nick Pappas with 651 votes upset incumbent Dr. Robert McQuiston who tallied 571 votes.

Voting was the heaviest in precincts eleven through fourteen.

Jones                                 Pappas            McQuiston

Prect. 1                             120                              58                    39

Prect. 2                                    28                                70                    46

Prect. 3                                    33                                52                    57

Prect. 4                                    25                                52                    53

Prect. 5                                    14                                40                    41

Prect. 6 Not used in School Board Elections

Prect. 7                                    23                                24                    53

Prect. 8                                    59                                97                    83

Prect.. 9                                   54                                111                  67

Prect. 10                                  52                                108                  45

Prect. 11                                  358                              18                    42

Prect. 12                                  220                              7                      16

Prect. 13                                  231                              6                      14

Prect. 14                                  213                              8                      16

Jones, now completing his fourth year on the Board, is at the present time serving as president. At Ford Motor Company for 23 years, Jones has resided in Ecorse for the past 21 years. He and his wife live at 4160 15th Street and are the parents of three children, all graduates of Ecorse high School.

Nick Pappas, 43, his wife and three school aged children, reside at 56 La Blanc. Pappas, a veteran of World War II, is well known as head coach of the Ecorse Boat Club. Last year he served on the Ecorse Charter Commission.

Salliotte Post Elects Officers

Roy B. Salliotte Post 319, American Legion, held its election of officers on Wednesday, June 3 at the post hall.

Officers elected to serve for the coming year are: commander, Walter J. Horn; finance officer, Gerald E. Sauve; chaplain; Joseph J. Darliek; historian; John Van Court; and sergeant at arms, Cesare Maddalena.

Executive Committee members are Gilbert N. Adams, Jr.; Leon J. Miller, and Albert M. Brandon.

Memorial Home Committee members are: Gilbert Adams, Daniel O’Brian, Robert J. Casey, John Van Court, George B. Carr, Albert Brandon and Leo Navarre.

Delegate members to the Tenth District will be James W. Lewis, Charles Stein, Robert Marhesic and Robert Casey.

Convention delegates who will attend the State Convention in Grand Rapids July 17 through 19 are James Lewis, Charles Miller, Gilbert Adams, and Charles Stein.

Commander Lewis appointed Charles Stein as adjutant for the year 1964-1965.

Marine Patrol to Include Area

The Marine Enforcement Division of Wayne County will be available to all cities, villages and townships of Wayne County. The Marine Enforcement Division consists of patrolmen who are specially trained and have attended various water patrol schools and received diplomas. They graduated with full honors in the use of diving equipment: in scuba and skin diving, in the handling of small crafts and first aid, as well as all types of underwater recovery work and life saving. They are instructed to enforce the laws pertaining to the waters of the state.

One properly equipped craft and a two man crew will be stationed in the Ecorse area. This craft will patrol from Riverview to the Detroit City limits, including the following cities: Riverview, Wyandotte, Ecorse, River Rouge and the Detroit City limits.

Chamber of Commerce Cites Tax Figures

According to figures recently released by the Downriver Chamber of Commerce, business and industry in River Rouge accounted for 96.5 percent of the city’s taxes. The figures released for the city of Ecorse was 86 percent.

Other figures are as follows:

Gibraltar, 68 percent; Grosse Ile, 5 percent; Southgate, 25 percent; Trenton, 88 percent; Woodhaven, 85 percent and Wyandotte, 58 percent.

Ecorse Businessman Succumbs

Clarence De Wallot, 67 of Delray Beach, Florida, a former Ecorse businessman, died June 10 in Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit. During the 1920s and 1930s he owned a business block on West Jefferson called the De Wallot block.

Mr. DeWallot will lie in state at the Edward Girrbach Sons Funeral Home Thursday, June 11, between the hours of 3:00 and 8:00 p.m.

Funeral services will be held from the Scobee Funeral Home in Boynton Beach, Florida.

In addition to his wife, Ruth, the deceased is survived by one son, Donald.

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A Few of the Outstanding Ecorse Young People of 1955

Ray Sablosky, 5, Roger Held 11, and Michigan State Patrol Supervisor Martin J. Blied discuss Roger’s upcoming trip to Washington D.C.

by Kathy Warnes

The front page of the Ecorse Advertiser of Thursday, April 14, 1955, announced a week to honor Ecorse and Wayne County young people and told the story of a brave Ecorse boy. The Advertiser printed a proclamation announcing that the Week of April 17-23, 1955, had been designated as Youth Week throughout Wayne County and that the city of Ecorse schools, groups, and private citizens joined wholeheartedly in celebrating the youth of Ecorse.

Juvenile Officer Lt. John Cicotte attributed the low juvenile crime rate in Ecorse to the outstanding work being done with young people by local organizations. “These groups are greatly responsible for keeping our young people occupied with healthful, safe activities,” Officer Cicotte said.

The Advertiser also recognized the outstanding work of Traffic Safety Sergeant Al Zukonik or”Big Zuke” as the children of Ecorse called him, in Ecorse grade schools. Ecorse Mayor William Voisine credited “Big Zuke” and his efficient safety patrol system for the several accident free years that the city of Ecorse enjoyed.

Roger Held is one of the Outstanding Young People of Ecorse

A front page story in the same Advertiser edition reports the heroism of Roger Held, 11, who received a Safety medal from the Automobile Club of Michigan.

The story begins on Wednesday, January 12, 1955, in front of Ecorse School No. One at High and Labadie Streets in Ecorse. The School One Safety Patrol always stationed a patrol boy or girl at the crosswalk that crossed High Street to School One. School One pupils from kindergarten to sixth grade knew and appreciated the crossing guards who were fellow pupils, chosen for their scholarship and character.

Roger Held, 11, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Ludwig Held of 4428 High Street, stood in the crosswalk on duty that Wednesday. A kindergartener Ray Sablosky, 5, of 4420 High Street, stepped off the curb and suddenly a fast moving car made a quick turn into the intersection. Disregarding his own safely, Roger leaped out, grabbed Ray Sablosky, and managed to pull him to safety.

The thoughtless motorist sped away and Roger dismissed the incident as a routine safety patrol matter. Then Sergeant Al Zukonik and Patrolman Richard Enright of the Police Traffic Bureau heard of Roger’s heroic act and arranged to present a medal to Roger. The presentation ceremony was held at School One on the morning of Friday, February 18, 1955. Roger’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Ludwig Held attended the ceremony as did Ralph Brandt, superintendent of schools, Magnus Meier, School One Principal, and Nick Stroia of the Ecorse Police and Fire Commission.

Roger modestly accepted the award at a special School One assembly, but that wasn’t the end of the matter. The Ecorse Advertiser of Thursday, April 14, 1955 told the story of Roger’s heroism and informed him that he would be the Automobile Club of Michigan’s guest at the AAA Safety Patrol rally in Washington D.C. from May 5-8 1955.

The May 12, 1955 Ecorse Advertiser reported that Roger, two other boys from Michigan, went to Washington D.C. for four days as guests of the Automobile Club of Michigan. Roger, the two other Michigan boys, and ten boys from other states received the AAA Gold Lifesaver Medal from Vice-President Richard M. Nixon in the Senate Office Building in Washington D.C.  Only 56 Gold Lifesaver Medals have been awarded in the thirty year history of the Safety Patrol.

Vice-President Richard M. Nixon pins the AAA Gold Lifesave Medal on Roger Held of Ecorse, while AAA President Andrew J. Sordoni watches.

Rosalie Palazzolo Is Another Outstanding Ecorse Young Person

Rosalie Palazzolo, the daughter of Mrs. Maria Palazzolo of 4275 Eighth Street, was a senior at Ecorse High School and she won second place in the International Order of Gregg Artists’ Contest for 1955. The New York office of Today’s Secretary, a Gregg publication, announced her award the week of April 18, 1955.

Rosalie Palazzolo’s paper was chosen from thousands of entries submitted from over 5,000 schools across the world that competed annually for prizes in various divisions of the contest.

To qualify for awards, writing had to be artistic and accurate.

Boy Scout Bill Briggs Earns Merit Badge and Impresses Ecorse Mayor William Voisine

Bill Briggs, 13, a member of Boy Scout Troop EC-5, decided that he wanted to earn a “citizenship in the community” merit badge. He reasoned that if he wanted to find out firsthand about citizenship and community, then he should go to the mayor who had the first hand knowledge. He made an appointment to visit Ecorse Mayor William Voisine in his office, explaining to the mayor’s secretary that he wanted to discuss important matters with the mayor.

Bill, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Allan Briggs of 4339 Monroe Street in Ecorse, appeared at the municipal building very early for his appointment with the mayor. His slicked down hair and neatly pressed Boy Scout uniform signified the importance of the meeting.

For nearly an hour, Bill listened intently to Mayor William Voisine and administrative assistant William W. Jones brief him about the nuts and bolts of Ecorse city affairs. Mayor Voisine commented, “I expect Bill to visit me very shortly to show me that merit badge he’s aiming for. Imagine the initiative of a young boy who shows such an interest in city affairs. He asked us most intelligent questions and was so attentive that I’d venture to say he will be a civic leader in the not too distant future.”

According to his parents, Bill did everything conscientiously. “Good enough may do for some boys, but with Bill everything must be as near perfect as possible,” his mother said.

Bill’s marks as an eighth grade student at Ecorse High School were above average and he made a cocktail table in woodshop as a Christmas present for his parents. He was a good swimmer and all around outdoor boy, who especially liked fishing.

Kim Sackenheim Wins $100 Essay Prize 

Kim Sackeheim, 17, of 66 W. Westfield, Ecorse, won the $100 first prize of the Department of Michigan for the best essay submitted in contests sponsored by American Legion auxiliaries in the 16th District.

Her essay about Americanism was entitled, “The Master Link: Our Constitution,” and it will be entered in the national competition for judging at the annual convention in Miami, Florida in October 1955.

The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frank Sackenheim, Kim is a 10A student at Ecorse High School.

These were just a few outstanding young people from Ecorse history that the Ecorse Advertiser recognized. If you have any you want me to feature, please send me the information and hopefully a photo or two.

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