I received a request from 5th graders in a coastal town, doing research on ghost towns in Michigan. They’d read my book, THE TOWN THAT DISAPPEARED, and wanted me to come to their school so they could interview me. But as they live ninety minutes away, I suggested they email me their questions. I thought I’d share the Q&A with you.
1.Where did you get most of your information from? Various forms: books, newspaper articles, online articles, pamphlets, brochures, Douglas-Saugatuck Historical Society Museum, people who live or lived in the area, and visiting the area numerous times to get “the feel of the land”.
2.Did the burying happen slowly or faster? It took about 4 years for the entire location to be buried under sand dunes.
3.How large was the town? If you’re talking population, I can’t remember. I’m thinking hundreds v.s. thousands. (Research it) If you talking area, it was only a few miles along the Kalamazoo River.
4.Was the story about the man that kept moving to the next floor of the hotel once the sand reached the floor true? Yes, this is a true story. Not sure that it was a hotel. I’m thinking it was a house, although it might have been the boarding house.
5.What was the population? (see question 3)
6.Who started the town/main people? Once upon a time (8 years ago?) I knew this answer. It never came into my story, so wasn’t information I retained.
7.Did everyone evacuate before the town was buried? Yes.
8. Is the town still being buried? Yes and no. Most of the buildings were moved, board by board, window pane by window pane. The few remaining buildings are exposed and reburied with the blowing wind and rain.
Why haven’t they tried to uncover more of it? Imagine uncovering a town buried by a mountain avalanche. Now imagine that mountain being sand which is pushed and blown daily by wind and rain. Even if the remaining buildings were uncovered, they would soon be buried again by the shifting sand dunes.
9.Where there any deaths? None caused by the shifting sand.
10.What was Oshea Wilder’s lumber company called? I don’t know. (Research it.)
11. Who, do you feel, were the most influential members of the town? In any town there are influential members for various reasons, politicians, bankers, merchants, the sawmill owners and manager. My favorite historical townsman was the violin-maker. Was he influential? He is to me — more interesting than influential — but I changed his name in my book because he had descendants, and as I was making up things about the man, I didn’t want to blur fiction with nonfiction.
Good luck with your project.