Who was Grace Magnaghi?

Since I began working at the archives a little over one year ago I’ve heard the names of several important patrons and gracious donators hang in the air. Without a doubt, the name I started encountering most often was that of “Grace Magnaghi”, likely because of the association with our Grace H. Magnaghi Visiting Research Grant.

When I was given the task to create an external website to showcase this grant, I was simultaneously given the opportunity to find out more about the infamous “Amazing Grace” Magnaghi. Prior to this project, the only thing I knew was that she was the mother of NMU’s own University Historian and retired professor, Russell Magnaghi.

What I learned is that Grace Magnaghi was a woman who I personally really admire. Beginning with her obituary from March 16, 2011, I got the beginnings of her story. Grace Mendiara was born in San Francisco on February 8, 1911; the daughter of French immigrants. She worked as a bookkeeper before marrying in 1931. The couple then had two sons, and Grace spent much of her time being active in the Catholic Daughters of America, Italian Catholic Federation, St. Anthony’s Guild and the Native Daughters of he Golden West. Grace was said to have had a wonderful sense of humor and enjoyed having a good time. She would go to the Landmark for a burger and a beer, or celebrate Bastille Day (France Independence) with crepes and champagne. Because of our Visiting Research Grant in her name, I had already known Grace Magnaghi was a contributor to the research and promotion of UP History. I learned that she additionally funded the Center for UP Studies; making $500 available each year to the NMU community or other parties to pursue research or create educational activities revolving around UP history. What made me even more fond of this woman, though, was her devotion to exercise.

An article from The Mining Journal published on January 19, 2006 is titled Working to Walk: Woman, 95, Beating the Odds. The story summarizes that Grace, after being bedridden with pneumonia for a year, was told she’d never walk again because her muscles had atrophied. However, when her son took her to personal trainer, Mike Koskiniemi, she was up and using a walker in eight weeks. She worked harder every day and encouraged others to do the same, she said:

“If a 95-year-old woman who has been stuck in a wheelchair can get motivated enough to come to a gym where only ‘fit people’ are supposed to be – what’s that say to someone who’s just sitting on the couch? That’s a big ‘yes, you can.’”grace-profile

So, thank you, Grace Magnaghi, for a multitude of things. I am fortunate to have been able to learn about a fraction of your legacy. And remember, as February is now here and we begin to doubt our resolutions, the words of this amazing woman! I know they will motivate me.

And look forward to a website from the Central Upper Peninsula and NMU Archives in the next two weeks dedicated to the Grace H. Magnaghi Visiting Research Grant.

Written by Kelley Kanon


Collection Spotlight: The John D. Voelker Papers

Remember when we found the bullets from the real murder case that inspired the book  Anatomy of a Murder?


Are you interested in seeing the movie based on Anatomy? You’re in luck! We are pleased to announce that the Archives is partnering with the Beaumier Heritage Center and Campus Cinema for a screening of Anatomy of a Murder! It will be held on February 21 in the main Jamrich auditorium at 6 PM. Doors will open at 5:30. The Beaumier will have an exhibit about the movie and we will be bringing interesting items from Voelker’s papers. The screening is free for students and only $1 for the general public!

John D. Voelker, the author of Anatomy, was an Ishpeming native and graduate of Northern State Normal School (now Northern Michigan University). He was the Prosecuting Attorney for Marquette County from 1935 to 1942 and from 1945 to 1950. From 1956 to 1960, he was a justice on the State of Michigan Supreme Court.

Most famously, Voelker defended Army Lieutenant Coleman Peterson, who was accused of the murder of Mike Chenoweth, owner of the Lumberjack Tavern in Big Bay.  After a six-day trial, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty by reason of temporary insanity. Although the names and some of the details were changed, large swaths of Anatomy of a Murder were taken directly from the court transcripts of the original case.

However, Voelker also wrote other books, both fiction and non-fiction. Besides Anatomy of a Murder and other books about court cases, he wrote about Upper Peninsula characters in books like Danny and the Boys and about his fishing obsession in books like Trout Madness 

The John D. Voelker papers at the Archives contain information about the history of the extended Voelker family, correspondence with Voelker’s family and friends, photographs, documents on his legal career, manuscripts of his books, and records from the making of the Anatomy movie.

You can learn more about the Anatomy of a Murder case at our Fiftieth Anniversary website. To learn more about the whole John D. Voelker collection, you can check out the finding aid or visit the Archives!

Written by Annika Peterson

Collection Spotlight: City of Ishpeming Cemetery Records

Life was precarious in the early part of the twentieth century. Many babies were either stillborn or premature, and children died young from scarlet fever, whooping cough, influenza, and infantile paralysis, better known as polio. Pneumonia was a huge killer in adults, as was tuberculosis, diabetes, heart diseases and cerebral hemorrhage.  Alzheimer’s was not known, but people did die from senility.

Death also came from suicide, accident and workplace hazards, which in mining towns such as Ishpeming were the result of falling rocks, cage malfunctions and other causes. In February of 1911, an explosion of powder, probably from the Hercules powder plant, killed some of the workers.  

Last summer, workers from the archives ventured into the dank, dusty depths of Ishpeming’s City Hall to rescue most of their old records. These records are now being processed, beginning with the Ishpeming Cemetery Records, which gives information about causes of death such as those described above. Some of the records are not very legible, as they are copies and the city clerks did not always change the carbon paper when it was needed. Reading the handwriting is often challenging. Damp conditions damaged many of the records.

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The City of Ishpeming records shortly after retrieval from the basement of City Hall.

The cemetery records can give such information (if known) as name, date of birth, date of death, cause of death, where the deceased lived and names of parents. This information can be helpful to genealogists. There are gaps in the records, as some of the books may have been tossed out at an earlier date.  The archives also has coroner’s inquest records and CCI mining accident records which may have death dates and causes of death. If coming to the archives to look at the cemetery records, it is best to have a death date.

If looking for a burial site in the Ishpeming cemetery there are two additional places to go for information, the sexton’s office, which has records and maps of the cemetery and the Ishpeming Carnegie Public Library. To contact the city sexton, go to the City of Ishpeming website, which has a map of all the blocks in the city cemetery.

In addition to the cemetery records, there are voter registration records from the 1890s through the mid-1930s, which give a voter’s name and address. They are organized by ward, however, and we have so far been unable to find useful descriptions of the boundaries of the wards. For someone looking for an address of where an ancestor lived, they may be helpful. Census records were usually organized by wards and may be of help to determine which ledgers to look through. Because women were not allowed to vote until 1919 (in Michigan and 1920 nationwide), they aren’t listed until that year. There are separate ledgers for female voters through the year 1927.

Other ledgers contain minutes of the City Council, committee minutes, payroll details, and more. The assessments for the first sewer and water lines are there (these records may also contain names, but not addresses),  and there are also several boxes full of loose documents which will be processed.   

Interested in learning more about the City of Ishpeming records? Come in and check them out or email us for more information at archives@nmu.edu.

Written by Karen Kasper

Winter 2016 – Welcome Back!

A new semester has started and we are happy to have the same group of dedicated staff working here at the Archives. We are also constantly acquiring and processing new collections to bring more of the history of the Central Upper Peninsula to the masses. Keep up on the goings-on at the Archives by following our Social Media sites.

Office Hours:

Monday through Thursday: 10 AM-8 PM

Friday: 10 AM-5 PM

Saturdays: 11AM-3PM

Sundays: Closed

The Archives reading room will be open for walk-in patron support and the Archives Staff will continue to respond to email requests, phone requests, and document retrievals. You may schedule time to meet with our genealogy researcher, Karen Kasper, discuss institutional records with our Records Manager, Sara Kiska, or to consult with the University Archivist, Marcus Robyns, by emailing archives@nmu.edu or by calling us at 906-227-1225.


What you will see if you come to visit the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives!


We are located on the 1st floor of the LRC in room 126, near Fiera’s, the elevator, and the tunnel leading to West Science.

Archives Staff:

The Archives boasts fourteen of the most dedicated team members you will find. Leading the pack is Marcus Robyns, University Archivist, and Sara Kiska, Records Manager/Analyst. The Lydia M. Olson Library provides support for the Archives by sharing the knowledge and expertise of Metadata and Cataloging Services Librarian, Catherine Oliver; Cataloging Assistant, Keith Greising; and Library Systems Specialist, John S. Hambleton.

The rest of our team is made up of student employees and volunteers, all here to help. The multi-talented student staff is represented by Annika Peterson, Senior Student Assistant; Peter Dewan, Marketing and Public Outreach Specialist; Anne Krohn, Digitization Specialist; Kelley Kanon, Web Design Specialist; Stefan Nelson, Records Center Coordinator; Prince Parker, Accessioning Specialist; and Glenda K. Ward, Arrangement and Description Specialist. Our two dedicated volunteers are Karen Kasper, Genealogy Specialist and Research Consultant, and Dr. Steven Peters, Volunteer Project Archivist.

For more information about our staff and to watch short videos explaining what they actually do, visit the About Us section of our website http://www.nmu.edu/archives.

Archival Collections:

The Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives houses the historical records of Northern Michigan University and historical materials documenting the history of the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This includes the counties of Alger, Delta, Dickinson, Marquette, Menominee, and Schoolcraft.

The archives houses extensive collections, including labor, government, and political files; items from Cleveland Cliffs Iron Mining Co.; the John D. Voelker papers; the Moses Coit Tyler collection of rare books (American history, theology, and literature); genealogical resources; and many other collections from community organizations, the university, and prominent historical figures. Materials include manuscripts, maps, photographs, film and video, oral histories, newspapers, and periodicals.

The Archives is now utilizing a new catalog for its finding aids, ArchivesSpace. ArchivesSpace allows you to browse our collections by title, name of person or institution, or subject, and to search our descriptions of them by keyword.

Social Media:

The Archives leaves its social media footprint on Facebook (Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University), Twitter (@nmuarchives), YouTube (Central Upper Peninsula and NMU Archives); FlickR (https://www.flickr.com/photos/nmu_archives), and our weekly blog (https://northerntradition.wordpress.com). Keep current on the goings-on at the Archives by following us, subscribing to us, and reading our blog.

Written by Glenda K. Ward

Arrangement and Description Specialist

How and Why I Became an Archivist

In her usual forthright, stern, and disapproving manner, Sara Kiszka reminded me last Thursday (12/17) that I was responsible for the last post of the year to The Northern Tradition. For most of Friday, I diddled around trying to conjure up an interesting and useful topic. By late afternoon, I had nothing. Each Archives staff member is responsible for at least one blog post each semester, and they generally write about one of the historical manuscript collections. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks of being the “big Kahuna,” “Big Cheese,” or “Dude that Makes the Big Bucks” is that I don’t get much time, if any, to actually work on the collections (Glenda Ward might disagree). Faculty responsibilities, instructional sessions, largely useless committee meetings, and a litany of problems threatening to end all life on the planet unless I resolve them immediately, dominate most of my days (time to take a deep breath!). At the end of the week, I generally appear unkempt and slightly unstable.


A typical Friday afternoon in the Archives.

I like to believe that I am a fairly decent archivist but not a very good records manager, which is why we have Sara Kiszka. Records managers are responsible for the day-to-day use of institutional records with short-term value. They rarely concern themselves with the “permanent,” archival stuff. Records managers love to work in the institution’s bureaucratic fray and lurk about like KGB agents ready to pounce on unsuspecting office workers who fail to follow the approved records disposition schedules dogma. They are possessed by a genetic code infused with a deep desire to control the Universe and everything but without the towel.


Sara Kiszka all excited about some silly records management thing (Fall, 2015).

Sadly, my genetic code is a mess of mutations, and I have trouble controlling anything. Not surprisingly, in her first year, Sara had a particularly vexing time trying to fix problems and errors in my records management program (I like to think that what did not kill her made her stronger). I do, however, have a very nice towel (so there, Sara!). I am simply predisposed to working with archives and love to acquire and develop regional historical manuscript collections. Manuscript collections are the personal papers (letters, diaries, FB posts, photographs, etc.) or organizational records (correspondence, memorandum, meeting minutes, financial) created by individuals, civic groups, local government entities, and businesses. Archivists call these collections “manuscripts” because they are unpublished, unique, and what historians call primary sources. These records and papers are the traces left behind that become our collective memory. Archivists are the professionals who find and save them for posterity. It’s a heady and awesome responsibility.

Over the last year, Archives’ staff members have contributed a number of excellent posts to this blog, highlighting some of our more interesting historical manuscript collections. However, these collections just don’t miraculously appear at the Archives’ doorstep. Unlike librarians, we don’t have an acquisition budget to purchase the latest and greatest information databases (librarians don’t really collect or work with books anymore) or primary sources (even if there were such things). While they wile away the time in their comfy offices, I have to leave campus and go out among the unwashed masses, sometimes facing nameless dangers, to find manuscript collections. I often spend years negotiating with donors and confronting untold horrors in dang basements and sweltering attics (in Texas, I once was nearly bitten by a deadly water moccasin snake while retrieving a valuable manuscript collection from a farm house out building.)


Me pulling archival records out of the Ishpeming City Hall basement. There’s a desiccated rat carcass about three feet above my head and mold spores in the air (Summer, 2015).

Like the house cat with its latest kill (mouse, bird, lizard, whatever), I tend to drag cool historical manuscript collections into the Archives, play around with them for a few minutes, and then leave the stuff to someone else to clean-up. “Processing” a collection is what archivists do to make primary sources available and useful to historians and others. The fancy term is “arrangement and description.” Some archivists believe that the work is one of the most fascinating and satisfying aspects of archival management and is often the main reason they entered the profession. I once processed the papers of a beloved music teacher that started with a picture of her as a small child and ended with one on her death bed. In between, were all the memories of her life on this planet. It was very solemn and humbling work.


Part of a historical manuscript collection upon arrival in the Archives.


One box of a historical manuscript collection after processing.

Just the other day, I realized that I haven’t processed a collection in 15 years – far too long. I’ve worked as a professional archivist for the last 25 years, 19 at NMU. In the fall of 1986 (almost 30 years ago!), I was an undergraduate history major at the University of Oregon. Like many history majors, I had no idea what I would do with my degree upon graduation. For a time, I dabbled in secondary education but that was a disastrous and dismal affair. One day, my good friend, Matt Faatz (ironically, a secondary education teacher in Salem, Oregon), and I met with the undergraduate history club’s faculty advisor, Dr. Lang (Matt enjoyed calling him “Dr. Lung,” and I can’t remember why). We were having difficulty developing an exciting list of club activities for the year. At some point, I remember, Lang suddenly recommended a visit to the University Archives. The what? I thought. Matt and I gave each other a perplexed look, since neither of us had any idea that the University had an archives and only a very vague idea of what an archives was!

A rather pathetic response for a pair of history majors, but one that was, and to some extent still is, indicative of an undergraduate education in history (not at NMU, I am very proud to state!). I subsequently called the University Archivist, Keith Richard (not the Rolling Stone dude), and he graciously gave the history club a tour of the Archives the following week. It was a wonderful and revelatory experience. Although a classically doddering old archivist by this time, Keith went through the whole process of archival management with enthusiasm and showed us some really cool old documents and photographs. Moreover, his reading room was crammed with all sorts of artifacts (somewhat unusual in archives). Since the University didn’t have a museum, Keith would gather and accept all sorts of stuff from alumni and campus offices. At times, one might even see him dumpster diving.

By the end of the tour, I was apoplectic with joy and practically jumping up and down unable to control myself! Finally, I thought, a history-type job that doesn’t involve teaching snotty nosed and drug altered adolescents (apologies, Matt)! In that instant, I was teleported back to 1983 and was once again the young soldier on leave in Paris, sitting in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles and contemplating Bismarck declaring the establishment of the Germany Empire after the Franco-Prussian War (1872) or watching the signing of the infamous Treaty of Versailles (1919). History was suddenly very real again. “Are there jobs in this field,” I loudly blurted out before anyone else had a chance to ask a question. And that’s how I became an archivist – not a premeditated or very well-thought out choice, just a gut reaction to a moment of joy that I don’t regret.

I went on to graduate school, completing my MA in history with a concentration in archival management (1990). I told friends that I would go anywhere for my first archival job except the South. The Universe dislikes a tempter of fate, so I soon found myself as the first professional archivist for the Tyrrell Historical Library in Beaumont, Texas, just about as south as one can get. It was a great first archival job despite the snakes, fleas, and cockroaches. The rest, as we say, is history. Now, I am an old, tired, and doddering archivist trying to avoid becoming a caricature and wondering if there is anything more. Ah, yes, of course. Sara just reminded me (for the umpteenth time) to do the copier counts and check the email. Sigh, time marches on.


Best wishes for a great new year in 2016 from the staff of the Central Upper Peninsula and Northern Michigan University Archives.

Post written by University Archivist Marcus Robyns

Collection Spotlight: Philip Legler Papers

Prior to my graduate studies in Library Science, I was an undergraduate student studying literature (and in particular poetry) at Ball State University. The NMU Archives has many collections which focus on the talents of local authors, but I wanted to focus on one individual in particular – Philip Legler.

During his tenure as an English professor at NMU, Legler established himself as an internationally acclaimed academic and poet. In addition to being listed in prominent academic directories, Legler’s poems were widely published in anthologies, poetry magazines, and newspapers such as the “New York Times.” Legler joined NMU in 1968, earning a Distinguished Faculty Merit Award in 1984, and continued to teach and publish until his death in 1992.


Collection of poetry published in 1964.

The collection includes Legler’s publication A Change of View, assorted literary magazines in which Legler’s poetry was published, and articles which feature Legler and his work. However, of most interest to literary scholars and students of poetry is Legler’s unpublished manuscript titled Earthbound. The manuscript documents poetry written towards the end of Legler’s life, and serves as the culmination of Legler’s work and maturation in the field. The unpublished manuscript includes a draft with extensive notes and comments regarding revision.


A page from Earthbound.

If you are interested in the papers of other authors from the Central Upper Peninsula, please see the NMU Archives’ additional holdings here. For more on the Philip Legler Papers, (MSS-327) please check out the resource record.


During the holidays, the NMU Archives will be open Monday – Friday from 8:00am to 5:00pm. We will be closed December 24th to January 3rd, but will resume services on Monday, January 4th. For more, please see our website.

Post written by Sara Kiszka.



A Little Bit of Hockey History

Since it’s now hockey season, we thought we would share some images with you from a particularly exciting episode in the NMU hockey team’s history.

In 1991, Northern won the NCAA hockey title for the first time. We played against Boston University and won 8-7. The game went back and forth between the two teams several times, and almost ended in the last second of play. However, the goalkeeper saved a shot, sending the game into overtime. It eventually went into three overtimes, making it the second-longest championship game ever. The game was won by “an unlikely hero,” Darryl Plandowski. The North Wind declared the victory an “epic struggle.” NMU’s Head Coach, Rick Comley described the game as “emotional.”

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When the team returned to Marquette, they were greeted by a crowd of 1000 people at the airport. Public Safety, the Marquette City Police, the Marquette County sheriffs, and the Michigan State Police escorted them back to Marquette. A North Wind article described the scene:

A Marquette fire truck led the horn-honking caravan back to Marquette down US 41, and the fans followed in their cars, making for a wild, exuberant victory parade. Once at Lakeview Arena, the players held up the trophy to the roar of 1000 fans. On the way into the locker room, several players thanked the crowd from a raised rear-end of a truck. They signed autographs, gave youngsters some of their sticks, and talked to reporters.


Interested in the history of hockey at NMU? Come visit the Archives and learn more about it with scrapbooks, news articles, and photographs!

Written by Prince Parker