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Friday, February 10, 2023

"The Beacon Tree" and the Underground Railroad

Ages ago I began reenacting the story of an Underground Railroad station near Utica, Michigan.  Telling as Liberetta Lerich Green, I used her story recorded in a pamphlet called "The Beacon Tree" produced by the Shelby Township Historical Committee.  That information was rounded out by what I found at the Bentley Historical Library at the University of Michigan, in local newspapers on microfilm, and, of course, members from both the Lerich and Green family.  Among the historical society members I was also helped by Jo Burgess.  She was both a member of their group and a naturalist on staff and founder of what is now called the Burgess-Shadbush Nature Center, which includes the site of the Lerich farm.

I was recently approached by a Utica Community Schools student to participate in a class project about the Beacon Tree.  This is his video, running just under 5 minutes, including brief interviews with Hilary Davis from the Historical Committee and Janice Dobis, a teacher at Beacon Tree Elementary School.  I'm in the center of the interviews appearing first as Liberetta singing the song sung at the planting of the tree and then appearing as myself telling a bit more.  (Personal thoughts to self: I'm beginning to transition to telling more often as the older Liberetta and must get that white wig built up so my own darker hair doesn't show!)

This is a card about the program I do.

Aside from the project done by the student who wishes to remain anonymous, I know this is a bit of history that still needs to be told.  The family were pioneers even before statehood for Michigan and the Lerich boys each were in Michigan Infantry units in the Civil War (although there was nothing Civil about that War!)  This is why the sidebar on this blog has pages about the "Fighting Fifth" Infantry.

Michigan is nearing its bicentennial in 2037.  I like to say my historical storytelling is "as seen by the average person."  I hope the Lerichs and the Greens will continue to have their stories heard.

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