Father Marquette’s archives find a new home


PLYMOUTH, Michigan – The Plymouth Historical Museum has signed an agreement to bring the archives of the Pere Marquette Historical Society, Inc. to the museum. The agreement was signed on August 6.

“As a member of the company from the very beginning and has been fortunate enough to know several of the founders of the company who have since passed away, it’s wonderful to know that we finally have a home for all the material they worked, then difficult to preserve, “says Thomas J. Gaffney, president of the Pere Marquette Historical Society.” As we enter our 26th year of existence, we can begin to envision a much more stable and rewarding future that encompasses not only the legacy of Father Marquette himself, but encourages the preservation of the material of the successor companies which continued to exploit his old lines. The fact that we now have a home for this heritage in one of the most important communities of crossroads served by Father Marquette is a huge victory for all involved.

The Father Marquette archives were created in 2001 thanks to the donation of several collections from its members. In 2003, the archives made their first major expansion with the donation of the Henry J. Walhout collection of negatives, and were significantly expanded in 2006 with the acquisition of the personal collection of Art Million. The archives were officially named “Arthur B. Million Memorial Archives of the Historical Society of Father Marquette”, following his death that year.

Originally housed in the Joint Archives of the Netherlands at Hope College, the collection was withdrawn in 2011 and has been in storage ever since, with limited accessibility to researchers or the public. A renewed effort began in 2019 to find the archives a permanent home, culminating in the agreement with the Plymouth Museum.

“We are delighted to welcome this wonderful addition to the PHM archives,” said Liz Kerstens, Executive Director of the Plymouth Historical Museum. “Plymouth was a hub for Pere Marquette, as the north-south and east-west tracks crossed here. Once the collection is processed, researchers will be able to delve into the rich history of the Plymouth and Michigan railways. “

The museum is located at 155 S. Main Street in Plymouth. The hours are from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The archives are currently available by appointment only on Saturdays and Sundays. Processing of the railway records will take time, so please call 734-455-8940 x3 before making the trip. More information is available on the museum website.

The Historical Railway Society was founded in 1995. Members are made up of historians, former employees and their families, model makers and railway enthusiasts. Its subject, the Pere Marquette Railroad Co., was formed in 1900 by the amalgamation of many Michigan railways. Over the years, the Chesapeake & Ohio took more and more control until on June 6, 1947, the Pere Marquette was officially merged with the Chesapeake & Ohio. Almost all of the tracks CSX operates in Michigan today are old Pere Marquette tracks.

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