Diver finds 97-year-old message in bottle buried in Lake St. Clair

David Leander finds note from 2 women enjoying their day on then Tashmoo Park on Harsens Island

By Lauren Podell - Reporter


This isn't any ordinary bottle, it's one David Leander of Washington Township has come to cherish, complete with a message he never expected to find.

"This is the type of thing that gives divers bragging rights," said Leander. "I find bottles all the time, but never bottles with a message."

David owns Great Lakes Dive Center in Shelby Township for a reason: he's a scuba diving pro.

Last June, he went on a hunt for treasure at the bottom of Lake St. Clair, a part of the lake where the historicTashmoo once sailed -- and that's the area where something in the sand caught his eye.

"It was by chance I found this," said Leander. "Sometimes you see a piece of glass sticking up and you start moving sand around and you get lucky."

It was tucked in four to six inches of dirt in about 30 feet of water where the Tashmoo steamship once docked daily.

This discovery was a first: he had unburied a true message in a bottle, and with it came 97 years of history.

"Their names Selina and Tillie were written on the paper," said Leander.

Those two ladies were aboard the Tashmoo, visiting Harsens Island on June 30, 1915.

They wrote the date, their names and addresses in scrolling cursive with pencil on the back of a White Star Line ticket.

"These tickets used to be for drinks, food and glasses and passengers would have their ticket punched when on the ship," said Leander.

Selina and Tillie included a simple message on the ticket before throwing into Lake St. Clair. It read, "Having Fun at Tashmoo."

"I know they never intended someone to find this 97 years later," said Leander. "But the bottle is so heavy it sunk right to the bottom, probably in the same spot where they tossed it."

Even though this treasure was discovered in 2012, this year Harsens Island is sending people back to the 1900's to relive the days on the Tashmoo. The island is hosting a one day celebration on July 20th, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Leander and his wife, Pam, will be bringing the message in a bottle to go on display in the Harsens Island Historic Museum.

"This is going to be a great event, for a few hours people will be able to experience fun from the 1930's and see a piece of history too," said Pam Leander. "The people on the Tashmoo used to wear elaborate dresses, fancy dresses, they would go dancing," he said.

The Leadners took their treasure one step further.

They had friend and fellow diver Michael Brodzik of Roseville, the president of the Metropolitan Detroit Antique Bottle Club, along with his twin brother Joe, complete genealogy searches on the message writers, Selina and Tillie.

The brothers combed through city directories and census records and discovered when the writers were born, their parents, their marriages and their occupations.

Genealogy report:

Selina J. Pramstaller: Born Jan. 18, 1898, daughter of John P. and Elizabeth Pramstaller.
Lived at 377 Wabash in 1915.
Had several occupations through the years, including stenographer at the Caille Perfection Motor Co. in 1917 and clerk at Standard Computing Scale Co. in 1921. Later in 1921, she worked with her older sister, Irene.
Married Stanley L. Kellum, a switchman for the railroad, in 1921; she is a Dictaphone operator. They reside at 4515 Larchmont in 1923 and Kellum now is a conductor.
Listed as divorced in the 1930 census and living at her parents' house with her 8-year-old daughter, Elizabeth (Marie). She is a drain clerk at the county office. By the 1940 census, she is living with her widowed father and her daughter, 17. She is a private family nurse.
Nothing further was found on her history.

Tillie (Matilda) Esper: Born in September 1893 to Mathias (Matthew) and Caroline Esper, youngest of nine children with her eldest sister, Mary, being 23 years older.
Lived at 141 Maybury Grand until marrying Joseph J. Schaefer, a saloon-keeper, in 1917. She was a milliner or ladies' hat maker.
By the 1930 census, Schaefer is vice president of the Schaefer Lunch Co. and the couple lives in Dearborn with their seven children. They have two more children by the 1940 census and live at 7823 Bingham in Dearborn. Schaefer is manager of the Factory Lunch Corp. and two of their children, Joseph J. and Rita, have completed three years and one year of college, respectively.
Last listing for Matilda is an obituary for Tillie Schaefer, who died at age 91 on Jan. 26, 1984 in Wayne.
Source: Michael Brodzik's article in the October 2012 issue of Antique Bottle & Glass Collector Magazin

Copyright 2013 by ClickOnDetroit.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.