Historical skeletons offer a look back in time

By: Julie Snyder | Mount Clemens - Clinton - Harrison Journal | Published November 1, 2018

  Iconic comedian W.C. Fields entertains outside Ardis Music as part of the Mount Clemens Beautification Committee’s Legendary Bones Bicentennial event. Residents voted for their favorite skeletons, and the winner will be in this year’s Macomb County Santa Parade on Nov. 17.

Iconic comedian W.C. Fields entertains outside Ardis Music as part of the Mount Clemens Beautification Committee’s Legendary Bones Bicentennial event. Residents voted for their favorite skeletons, and the winner will be in this year’s Macomb County Santa Parade on Nov. 17.

Photo by Erin Sanchez

MOUNT CLEMENS — During the 1870s, attempts to develop salt wells in Mount Clemens had proved unsuccessful, but resulted in the discovery of the famed mineral waters.  

Dorr Kellogg, who was originally from Vermont, came to the then-fledgling city in 1870 just after the local salt mill closed.

Kim Parr, director of the Macomb County Historical Society and Crocker House Museum, said Kellogg noticed that bitter water dripped from the well of the mine. Since he remembered that swimming in the saltwater ocean was healing for his eczema problem, he decided to ask the owner of the mine if he could collect the water to bathe in.

“The owner said, ‘Go ahead, but it’s not good for anything,’” Parr paraphrased.

Kellogg put the water in a vat, bathed in the water every day, and after about 15 baths, his eczema had cleared up.

“He claimed himself to be the Christopher Columbus of our mineral water,” Parr explained.

During the Mount Clemens Beautification Committee’s Legendary Bones Bicentennial event, 17 skeletons, dressed as prominent Mount Clemens residents and visitors, were on display throughout downtown.

Kellogg sat, fittingly, in a vintage tub at the Crocker House Museum.

“Since we have an old tub in our garden and a reproduction bathing costume from his day, we decided to portray him,” Parr said.

According to Beautification Committee Chair Sherri Gavie, shortly after Kellogg’s discovery, the local mineral bath industry flourished, making Mount Clemens famous throughout the world as a health spa.

“During the heyday of the mineral bath era, 23 major hotels and bath houses along with many smaller hotels and rooming houses prospered,” she said. “Many celebrities, including Babe Ruth, Clark Gable and Mae West, came to partake in the healing waters. Sadly, around World War II, this thriving industry began to decline due to the manufacture of aspirin and other medicinal advances.”

As the mineral baths were bringing fame to the city, another industry was developing that brought national attention to Mount Clemens. Beginning in 1880, and for two decades after World War I, there were 10 major rose growers with over 30 acres under glass. No surprise, Mount Clemens was once known as the rose capital of the United States.

Mount Clemens Pottery began production in January 1915, and reached the level of 3,000 dozen dishes per week by the end of the first year. S.S. Kresge was a major distributor of Mount Clemens Pottery nationwide, according to the city’s historical records.

There’s yet more to the city. For the past 32 years, Mount Clemens been named a Tree City USA by the Arbor Day Foundation. The Tree City USA program, sponsored by the Arbor Day Foundation, is a nonprofit, environmental and education organization, in cooperation with the National Association of State Foresters and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service.

“These are just some of the highlights (of) Mount Clemens’ past 200 years,” Gavie said. “However, we also are always looking ahead with innovation and optimism.”

During the Legendary Bones Bicentennial, which started on Oct. 19 and continued through Halloween, residents and visitors were able to vote for their favorite displays. The announcement of the winner would come after Halloween, and the winner will be featured in this year’s Macomb County Santa Parade on Nov. 17, Gavie said.

Other iconic figures on display were Honeyboy Willard, from the Purple Gang (located at Three Blind Mice); former Mount Clemens Fire Chief Edward Sawitzky (Mount Clemens Fire Department); Mae West (Max and Ollie’s); Mae McKenna (Mae’s restaurant and deli); Babe Ruth (Orleans Sports Cafe); Jack Dempsey (O’Halloran’s Public House); W.C. Fields (Ardis Music); Helena Rubinstein (Gumbo’s); Christian Clemens (Gus’ Coney Island); Katherine Dickinson Crocker (Mount Clemens City Hall); Millie Price (Bath City Bistro); Thomas Edison (Madison’s Pub); Clark Gable (Abbibo); Izzy Bernstein, from the Purple Gang (Weirdsville Records/Paperback Writer); and William Burton Hubbard (Alleycat Junktiques).