Civil War veteran receives honors 130 years later

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe with Virginia Mongreig

It isn’t easy to locate and identify an unmarked grave in a small cemetery, but Virginia Mongreig, Schoolcraft township clerk, and Jane Crist, local volunteer, made it their mission to locate the grave of Enoch Robinson, an African American Civil War veteran.

As Crist worked her way through the various veteran’s graves last spring — cleaning and noting the absence or presence of appropriate flag holders and symbols — she was unable to locate Enoch Robinson’s site. Crist called Mongreig and the two began their research, scouring township records.

Mongreig remembered a very old book stored in the vault: Vicksburg Cemetery Schoolcraft Township Burial Records 1874-1935. This book documented the grave purchase and location.

The two then began searching for any information about the soldier: Crist obtained the obituary through census records at the Vicksburg Historical Society; Mongreig reviewed Dr. Arle Schneider’s book, “A Tale of One Village,” and found evidence of Enoch’s involvement in the community.

Crist met Mongreig and her husband, Chip, who measured, reviewed burials from township records, and probed the area, and Robinson’s gravesite was located. The next step: securing a veteran’s headstone. The markers are provided at government expense.

Mongreig contacted Gary Swain of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, whose group has made repairs in the old cemetery. Swain completed the application for a marker and forwarded the application along with a letter from Mongreig.

Swain last year provided more information about Robinson to station WMUK. Private Robinson served in the 15th U.S Colored Infantry Regiment. He was born in 1835, grew up in southern Ohio, enlisted in northern Tennessee and spent most of his enlistment in the Tennessee area. He died in 1891.

The marker arrived about 130 years later: October 13, 2021.

Mongreig and Crist are thrilled with the outcome: Enoch Robinson’s grave is now identified with a veteran’s marker, and Enoch Robinson will be honored with a traditional Civil War Memorial Service by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War on September 17, 2022 at 11 a.m. in the north portion of the Schoolcraft Township Cemetery.

The community is invited to attend.

Community corner: Helping families in crisis

By Drew Johnson

Welcome back to our new column—explaining South County Community Services. I’m only sort of kidding… of course this is still the Community Corner, I just didn’t realize how much there was to explain about SCCS until I got a few months into this series!

Emergency financial assistance is one of the bigger things that we do at SCCS—it’s certainly the most expensive. When they are in financial crisis, we help people pay for services that are connected to their basic needs — food, housing, transportation, and medication. That ends up looking different for each family, but usually it involves some sort of payment of bills for services that are in imminent danger of disconnection. We do not give people money directly. We instead pay their provider

We often work with the Fred’s Pharmacy for medication, the villages of Schoolcraft and Vicksburg for water, Indiana Michigan Power and Consumer’s Energy for power and gas, and several distributors for deliverable fuel. Most of the time, we are helping families get through short-term issues with employment, health insurance coverage, or large and unexpected expenses. This is important because more than half of households in America live paycheck to paycheck, and many cannot afford even a single large shock to their monthly budget.

We do have an annual cap for assistance for families but work hard to get them connected to local churches or other basic needs agencies if we are unable to tackle the problem on our own—as our former Director Danna Downing says, “We want to help build a ten-foot bridge for a ten-foot gorge.” Eight feet doesn’t cut it.

A big part of what our emergency assistance coordinator, Austin Wiggins, does when he meets with families is make sure that they are receiving all assistance that they are entitled to from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services — a notoriously difficult agency to work with. He helps people apply for food stamps, Medicaid, and assistance on utility bills. So far in 2022, he has helped clients apply for and receive over $10,000 in utility assistance from the State of Michigan — money that is going directly to low-income residents of our service area. With his help, SCCS also applied for and received a federal grant for Emergency Financial Assistance that has allowed us to distribute an additional $25,000 in basic needs assistance this year.

This is all good news, because we are finding that families are in a much more precarious situation than they were in 2019, or even 2020 and 2021. Many more people are having issues with housing, which affects everything in their lives, and even if people can get housed and are able to work, 10-day isolations due to COVID can wreck even the most careful budget for hourly workers. We work hard to marshal all resources available in these cases to make sure that families in the Vicksburg, Schoolcraft and Climax-Scotts areas have a safety net when the worst happens.

I hope you all are enjoying learning about what we do here at SCCS. Next month I’ll write about some of the programming that we host for South County residents, and then we’ll be back to our regular columns. Thanks for following along!

Drew Johnson lives in Kalamazoo and is the director at South County Community Services. He has a small quarter acre homestead with chickens, bees, and hops (and more!), a wonderful wife, and three energetic children. He can be reached at 649-2901 or ajohnson@southcountycs.com.

For more information on South County Community Services, please check out our Facebook page at facebook.com/southcountycs or visit our website: southcountycs.com.

Collector’s corner: An avalanche of Snowbabies

Nita Wolf amid her Snowbabies collection.

By Jef Rietsma

Collector? Nita Wolf.

Collection? Department 56 Snowbabies.

How did your collection begin? “It was the 1980s and I saw what ended up being my first piece when I was in Frankenmuth. There was just something simple and beautiful about it that just struck me. It was cute; I liked the face. Snowbabies were pretty new back then and I had never seen a piece or even knew about Snowbabies until then. But I enjoy looking at them. Their little faces are so cute.”

The piece Wolf described is called “I’m Making Snowballs” and was manufactured in 1988.

Did you intend to become a collector of Snowbabies? “No. I may have bought a couple more since that first piece, but most of them my kids have bought for me. One year, it was Christmas morning, all the kids were home and I made the comment that I hoped I wouldn’t get any more Snowbabies because I’ve got enough. Wouldn’t you know it? Each of my three kids at the time had bought me one … they all looked at each other and burst out laughing. My one son would usually buy larger pieces, the other son was into sports and would almost always buy something depicting a sports scene. My daughter would always buy the cute pieces, so I can tell just by looking at each one who most likely gave it to me.”

How many pieces do you own? Thirty-three. Most are from between 2003 to 2006. There is one from 2013 and that is probably the last piece … I finally had to tell the kids ‘No more!’ I was running out of room and it just kind of takes the fun out of it when you start having to keep them in boxes and there’s no room left to set them out. So, I have them all out on display throughout the house.”

Do you know anything about the value of your collection? “Well, I didn’t save the boxes they originally came in because I didn’t see any of these as being collectibles. So, not having those original boxes really lowers the value in the eyes of an avid collector. The most expensive one I own that I’ve found on eBay was for sale for about $50. It’s a two-piece horse and carriage.”

What will eventually happen to the collection? “I’ll tell the kids – I only have two now – to pick what they want. I’ll probably ask the grandkids if they have any interest and let them choose. Any that are left? I don’t know, maybe I will sell them. We’re contemplating selling our house and trailering it for a few years, so we’re going to have to start getting rid of things if that’s what we end up doing.”

Aside from that first piece, do you have other favorites? “There are three pieces, they’re bunnies, given separately quite a while ago by my favorite boss. Peggy was my boss when I worked at Upjohn. She’s gone now, so I always think of her when I look at that those pieces.”

Wolf said she is also fond of a piece called “When the Bough Breaks.” The sports-theme pieces are special, too, she said, because they were given by her son, who passed away in December.

Do you wish you still collected Snowbabies? “No. We were in the U.P. a few weeks ago, in Sault Ste. Marie, and I saw a little gift shop advertising Snowbabies. Out of curiosity but with no intention of buying, I went in to have a look and they now look completely different. I was not impressed at all. They look cheap and they have too much color. I realized then how glad I am I stopped getting pieces when I did.

Are you involved with groups or clubs whose members are collectors of Snowbabies? “No. In fact, I don’t of anybody else who collects them.”

Footnotes: Wolf, whose maiden name was Kershner, is a lifelong Vicksburg-area resident and a Vicksburg High School alumna. She is 75 years old.