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Flores (Pitcher) Ronan often told the story of her older brother, Edward Pitcher, attempting to rescue Norman F. Stamnitz of Sebewaing from exposure on December 18, 1941.  The 27-year-old Stamnitz, a trapper, had broken through the ice on Saginaw Bay into water four feet deep about 2,100 feet from a sandbar. From that sandbar, Ed, also a fisherman and trapper, who would be 45 that Christmas day, walked on the ice and pushed a sled 1,800 feet toward Stamnitz, until the ice broke under him. With an ax, he laboriously chopped through the ice ahead of him and waded to Stamnitz. Upon reaching young Stamnitz, Ed Pitcher had some difficulty calming him but nevertheless Ed waded back toward the bar, towing Stamnitz with him. Reaching the unbroken ice, Ed with the ax, broke through the ice and towed Stamnitz 65 feet farther. Stamnitz by then was limp, and Ed Pitcher lifted him onto the ice. He then repeatedly shoved Stamnitz ahead of him, broke ice, and waded to him, moving Stamnitz 260 feet nearer the bar. In the water for two hours, Ed’s legs had become numb and stiff. Fearing he would be overcome by exposure, Ed Pitcher left Stamnitz on the ice and pushed himself on the sled to the sandbar. Exercising and restoring feeling to his legs, he then walked a mile and three-quarters and obtained help for Stamnitz. Two other men broke ice for 300 feet toward Stamnitz and then pushed a sled to him and got him back to the bar. Unfortunately, even with the help he received, Norm Stamnitz would not survive his ordeal.  Due to his lengthy exposure in the cold water, Ed Pitcher would suffer from rheumatism in his legs for the rest of his life.  He would later receive the Carnegie Hero Medal for his selfless efforts to save a life that day.  Edward George Pitcher, born December 25, 1896, was the fifth child of George and Susan Pitcher, Jr.


Born on March 16, 1865, George Pitcher, Jr., was the last of four children of George and Sarah Pitcher, Sr.  George, Sr. died in Virginia during the Civil War and never saw his last child.  George Pitcher, Jr. was the second generation of Pitcher’s in Huron County, MI.  If fate had dealt George, Jr. a cruel hand at birth, his life and devotion to his family would certainly make the third generation of Pitcher’s in Sebewaing faithful and productive members of the town and a source of pride to their father.


George Jr. grew up in Fairhaven Township by what was once Weale and Tarry, both just south of Bay Port.  His parents, like nearly all the early pioneers of the township, settled along the shore on the old sand road between Bay Port and Sebewaing.  Here were found the Tacks, Hartmans, Helyers, Tarrys, Sharpsteins, Dutchers, and Pitchers. The Pitchers, like their neighbors and relatives, tilled small patches of ground, raised their own corn and potatoes, fished, and since the area abounded with game, hunted and trapped.  George also grew up among the Chippewa Indians, who then numbered several hundred. These peaceful Indians intermingled with the settlers with whom they bartered their furs for clothing when they had an opportunity to do so.  Unfortunately, most of the Indians became victims of alcohol or smallpox.


At the age of 22, George took out a marriage license in November 1887 to marry Katie Schuch whose family owned property that bordered his mother’s in Fairhaven Township.  For whatever reason, they never married and George’s fancy turned to Susan Tarry, daughter of neighbors Edward and Elizabeth (Gingell) Tarry.  They were married on June 25, 1889.  George and Susan were blessed with their first child, Charles Leroy on April 29, 1890.  Tragically, Charles would die on November 6, 1894 from an influenza outbreak.  He is buried in the Old Bay Port Cemetery with this inscription on his headstone:


                   Charley L.                                       

                   Son of G. and S.



                   Nov. 6, 1894

                   Age 4 yrs. 6 months 7 days

                   Our darling Child

                   To part with you

                   Hath racked our

                   Hearts with pain

                   But though our loss

                   Is great we trust

                   ‘Tis your eternal gain.


Their second child, Grover Cleveland Pitcher, was born on September 22, 1891.  Their third child and first daughter was Amy Agnes Pitcher, born on February 20, 1894.  A fourth child would follow on September 29, 1895.  Her name was Violette Honora Pitcher.  Her middle name was derived from her great-grandmother on the maternal side, Honor Anna Gingell.  They would have one more child in Fairhaven Township, Owen Marvel Pitcher born May 20, 1898.


With their five children, George and Susan Pitcher moved to Sebewaing and made their home was on the corner of E. Sebewaing and Beck.  His widowed mother, Sarah Quick Pitcher, lived with her son.  George purchased other property near the present day streets named “Pitcher” and “Grover” in Sebewaing.  These acquisitions would prove an aid in developing a commercial fishing operation.  In addition, if you follow Dutcher Rd. directly west into Saginaw Bay, you are likely to find the remnants of Pitchers Reef.  Little more than a sandbar at the end of the19th century, George Pitcher swam horses out to the sandbar to build it into a Reef.  He added a small cabin on the Reef thus providing him fishing rights in the area.  This would expand the fledgling commercial fishing business he had with his older brother, John.  Pitchers Reef would also be used for duck hunting.  The coming of the Saginaw, Tuscola & Huron Rail Road, which reached Sebewaing by 1882, opened up a trade route toward larger cities south such as Detroit and Chicago.  This boosted fishing as a viable business venture.  George and John Pitcher initially began the Pitcher Brothers Fish Co. in a town listed in the “1897 Michigan State Gazetteer” as Tarry which was a Post Office and railroad stop and was also named after Susan (Tarry) Pitcher’s family.  Her brother, John Tarry, was the Postmaster and operated a general store.  In the 1899 Gazetteer, the Pitcher Brothers Fish Co. is listed in both Sebewaing and Tarry.  Because Fish Point and Wild Fowl Bay border Sebewaing and lie in the migratory path of thousands of birds, it made the area a sportsman's paradise for waterfowl hunting.  During the winter, George supplemented his family’s income by guiding hunters from other parts of the State to enjoy small game, pheasant and deer hunting.  It was while guiding a party of hunters that George Pitcher lost his right eye.  One of his own hunting party would fire a shot that pierced through George’s nose and clipped his right eye.  He narrowly escaped death in this freak accident.


Susan and George Pitcher’s family continued to grow.  John Henry Pitcher was born in March 27, 1900 followed by Sarah Elizabeth Pitcher in February 23, 1902.  Sarah Elizabeth was named after her paternal grandmother and her maternal grandmother. Their ninth child, Merle Iva Pitcher, was born on October 4, 1903.  On May 6, 1905, Flores Ellen Pitcher was born.  Susan (Tarry) Pitcher experienced her first stillborn child on September 1, 1908.  On July 11, 1910 Ida Wave Pitcher became George and Susan’s 11th child.  Another stillborn child would occur on May 4, 1912.  Charlotte Faye Pitcher was born on July 13, 1913 and their thirteenth child Terry Earl Pitcher was born on August 17, 1915.  Of all their children, it would be the majority of their daughters who left the immediate area and settled elsewhere.  Violette, Merle, Flores and Charlotte (Faye) would make their lives in Detroit and the surrounding suburbs.  Amy would settle in the Flint area and Sarah Elizabeth (Sally) would live outside of Pigeon.  Only Ida (Wave) would make her home in Sebewaing with her brothers.


Tragedy struck in the early 1920s.  Susan (Tarry) Pitcher died October 16, 1923 just shy of her 52nd birthday.  She had hypertension in an era where there was little one could do to treat it. Her obituary from that time indicates “Mrs. George Pitcher died at about 10 o’clock this morning, following a stroke of apoplexy suffered at 5 o’clock.  She had been in poor health for some time… funeral will be held Sunday afternoon…from the Latter Day Saints church, Bay Port.  Among those that offered flowers were Gleaners Lodge, Hennings Co. of Saginaw, Faye and Terry’s Room from school, Wave’s Freshman Class, the Sugar Factory Office, and the Ladies Aid.  Susan Tarry had been known for her charitableness throughout Sebewaing.  She would be buried next to her first born, Charles Leroy, in the Old Bay Port Cemetery.  Faye and Terry were only 10 and 8 when their mother passed away. 


With his brother John’s death in 1924, the Pitcher Brothers Fishing Co. would fully transition to the children of George Pitcher.  George had been fishing for about 35 years.  At the age of 94, Sarah (Quick) Pitcher succumbed on September 26, 1925.  Her great adventure to North America had ended and she had been lucky enough to see great-grandchildren.


Grover Pitcher would eventually join with his younger brothers Ed and Owen in commercial fishing.  By 1923, Grover owned a 35-foot gas powered Fish Tug called the “Wave” after his younger sister and he was supporting his family by trapnetting for whitefish between Sebewaing and Alpena, Michigan where he and his brothers would fish about 2 months out of the year.  By 1939, Ed Pitcher would have a 19-foot fish boat named the “Squalus”.  Grover and his brothers would also buy up catches from other individuals and send their fish to Detroit or Chicago via the railroad. For years, they caught perch, sturgeon, herring, and lake trout.  Their brother-in-law, Charles Tredup, would also be involved with the fishing business until he became the Sebewaing Marshall in 1940.  Norm Dutcher, their cousin, would also participate in the fishing business.  Owen would supplement his income by working at Fisher Body in Flint, MI during the winter.  Even their youngest brother Terry would work part-time with them.


George, Jr., unlike his father, was never called to service in an armed conflict.  If George Pitcher, Sr. would have had $400.00, he could have bought a replacement for himself in the Civil War.  This practice ceased after the Civil War and both Edward Pitcher (World War I) and Owen Pitcher (World War II) would serve a short time in the Army.   Three grandchildren would also serve in World War II: Howard Gross, Paul Gross and J. C. Pitcher.  But far more interesting was that George and Susan’s daughter, Merle Pitcher, would be a pioneer in her day by joining the Women's Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC) on September 1, 1943.  The WAAC was established in May 1942 to allow uniformed service for women that could supply the additional resources so desperately needed in the military and free up men for combat roles.  Merle Pitcher had been married but her husband, Thomas Roberts, died before the war began.  After being sworn into service at Detroit’s Federal Building, Merle went through 4 weeks of basic training at Fort Des Moines, Iowa.  When the Women’s Army Corps (WAC) was formed, Merle continued her service.  She rose to the rank of Sergeant and spent the majority of her time as a Surgical Technician at Camp Hale, Colorado treating men with severe limb injuries suffered in combat.  Merle Pitcher Roberts served 2 years, 1 month and 1 day and was honorably discharged on October 3, 1945.  She would talk sparingly about the tragic cases of servicemen she treated who were crippled by the loss of limbs and the great suffering they endured.


John Pitcher, known as Jack to his family, would not follow his brothers into the fish business - instead he apprenticed as a butcher at Stark Market in Sebewaing.  He eventually set up his own butcher shop that was next to his wife’s Ben Franklin store in Sebewaing.  In 1932 an explosion at the bakery store next to the family businesses would result in Jack’s butcher shop and the Ben Franklin store merging for easy access by customers to both either enterprise.  By 1945, Jack would dissolve his butcher shop and participate full-time in the Ben Franklin store.


Wave Pitcher would stay in Sebewaing and marry Charles Tredup.  She worked as a secretary at the Michigan Sugar Company while she raised her family.  Sarah Elizabeth (Sally) Pitcher would marry Charles Fisher and return to her family’s original roots of farming near Pigeon.  Terry Pitcher worked at the Sebewaing Brewing Company for many years.  When that closed he worked at the Caro State Home until he retired.


In March 1952, the children and grandchildren of George Pitcher, Jr. would gather to celebrate his 87th birthday.  On January 13, 1954 just shy of his 89th birthday, George Pitcher died.  He has left an amazing legacy of fortitude and diversity among his children who continued to participate fully wherever they have established themselves.  Today his grandchildren and great-grandchildren live in a number of states including Arizona, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida, and Washington.



To Marc Edward, Catherine Ann, Susan Ellen and Elizabeth Ann Ronan----this is your heritage.


For my aunt, Violette Honora (Pitcher) Gross, who while living, encouraged me to press forward to learn about my own heritage.


                                      Patricia Ann Ronan-Redding