Woman enjoys celebrating her Ojibwa heritage; will speak on culture, collection


One of the first pieces to become part of Judy Conrad’s collection of Native American items is a headdress she received as a child in the 1940s. It was crafted at small village made up of several teepees along the lakeshore near St. Ignace. She will participate in a presentation titled “History of the Ojibwa People,” which will be held Saturday, April 27, at 1 p.m. at the Ishpeming Carnegie Library. The public event is free and includes refreshments. (Photo by Joseph Zyble)

By Larry Chabot
When Judy Conrad, like millions of other Americans, launched a genealogy search to fill out her family tree, she learned that other family members were also searching, and that she was looking in the wrong place for her Native American ancestors. And like everyone who discovers a previously unknown family history, she was overwhelmed by the results.
“I was looking in Michigan at first,” she said, “when I should have been in Wisconsin. My search led me to Madeline Island (in the Apostle Islands). The first time I stepped on ancestral ground on the island, I felt like I was coming home!”
Over the years, Judy not only learned much more about her Native American heritage but also collected original artifacts relating to her Ojibwa people. As a member of the Friends of the Library at Ishpeming Carnegie Library, Judy will discuss her findings and display some of the artifacts at a lyceum on Saturday, April 27, at 1 p.m. in the library. She will be joined by one of two of her cousins, Dan Garceau and Jeff Carlson. All three are seasoned researchers, with Jeff compiling all of their research on a computer.
Much of the Native American lore was found on the internet. “I belonged to like forever,” she said. She will display items like baskets and beadwork, and plans to wear and explain her new powwow dress, made for her in California. Judy has attended and danced at powwows all over the United States. (A powwow is a Native American event where people meet to dance, sing, socialize, and honor their culture.) Because Judy’s late husband Corky Conrad was an auctioneer in the area, she had access to many items on the auction block.
Judy compiled her findings in a book written for family members; the volume is in its second printing. She has presented her findings at several venues in the area, like programs at summer schools.
“The kids just love these things,” she said. “We put on a play for the kids. They enjoyed acting as turtles and eagles.”
She also appeared at a Sons of the Civil War sessions a few years ago at the Marquette Regional History Center, and reports that “the place was packed.”
After the Ishpeming presentation, the research and artifacts will be on display at the library. Organizations which would like to have a presentation as one of their programs may contact Judy Conrad through the library.
The Friends of the Library hope for a good turnout on Saturday, April 27, so people can learn more about the native peoples of the U.P. and see their handiwork first-hand. Judy noted that not everyone is aware of native culture and history, like the discovery of iron ore on the Marquette Range was through the efforts of Ojibwa chief Marji Gesick, whose village was on the shore of Teal Lake (near the present Teal Lake Estates). He is credited with showing William Burt and his company the location of iron ore deposits near Negaunee in 1844. Several speculators claim credit for the discovery but legend has it that area Indians knew of the deposit as early as 1836.
“We hope that we have a good attendance at the lyceum,” said Marilyn Andrew of the Friends, whose group is active in raising funds and presenting special programs of cultural interest. Librarian Kelsey Boldt said the Friends hold book sales, bake sales, and offer several programs during the year, as a supplement to the library’s own weekly events.
Ishpeming has one of the original libraries funded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Of over 2,500 Carnegie libraries built between 1883 and 1929, 1,689 were in the United States. Very few communities which requested a facility were refused one. By the time the last grant was made, the U.S. had 3,500 libraries, nearly half of them paid for by Carnegie.
The U.P. had seven of them. Still operating are Escanaba, Iron Mountain, Ironwood, and Ishpeming. Houghton’s is now a museum, and those in Sault Ste. Marie and Stambaugh house offices of school districts.
None are more famous than Ishpeming’s facility. It was here that actors Jimmy Stewart and Arthur O’Connell are shown going through court records in the movie Anatomy Of A Murder.

Judy’s mom was a Yooper

By Larry Chabot
How many know that entertainer Judy Garland’s mother was born in the house at 509 West Washington Street in Marquette in 1893? She was Ethel Milne, and her dad John was a fireman and engineer on the Duluth South Shore & Atlantic Railroad from 1886 until the family moved to Superior, Wis., in 1911. Ethel married Frank Gumm and settled in northern Minnesota where Frank managed theaters. Here, Ethel gave birth to three daughters. The youngest, Frances, changed her name to Judy Garland and became one of the 20th century’s superstar entertainers.
The yellow Milne house on West Washington is still there, next to a service station. It was home to other families after the Milnes left Marquette, and has housed several businesses in recent years.

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