2023 DigMich Newspaper Grant Finalists

Congratulations to the Bellaire Area Historical Society and Capital Area District Library for being named the 2023 Michigan Digital Newspaper Grant Winners! Thank you to all who participated in the 2023 grant competition voting!

Bellaire - 2023 Grant Winner!

Applicant: Bellaire Area Historical Society

Newspaper: The Antrim County News

Dates: 1947-1966

Special Features:

When no established newspaper would hire him, Ken Parker found another way to become a
journlist. He started his own newspaper in Bellaire, Michigan and called his enterprise The Antrim County News. Its first edition was published on June 19, 1947 and was printed on an old flat-bed press. For years Parker had dreamed about the type of newspaper he wanted to publish. It would be folksy and down to earth. People would be more than names in this paper (Parker, 1999.)

Four villages in Antrim County had newspapers when The Antrim County News began. Parker sensed a dissatisfaction in the weeklies already in place. He was told they "lacked character" and were too confining. What made The Antrim County News unique is that Parker lined up several local contributors from all over the county (Parker, 1999.) Each weekly edition was filled with columns of interesting happenings and gossip from many of Antrim County's villages and townships including Alden, Mancelona, Bellaire, Atwood, Elk Rapids, Kewadin, Forest Home, Clam Lake, Central Lake, Ellsworth, South Torch Lake, Mancelona, Custer, and Antrim City. These local connections are very important and provide a first-hand account of area news of the day. They are a "gold mine" for anyone searching for "nuggets" of family and local history.

The favorite column was titled Bell-Airings. It was a weekly snapshot of small-town life in Bellaire (the county seat) where local people could laugh at themselves, and that summer visitors could reconnect to the place they loved best (Parker, 1999.)

Ken Parker sold The Antrim County News in 1959 but continued to be involved with it until 1963. It was published under several different owners until 2009, receiving many press association awards for its writing and reporting.

Parker, K. (1999.) Be Independent! Start Your Own Newspaper. Traverse City, MI: Orchard Heights

Reasons Why These Newspapers Should be Digitized:

Antrim County, Michigan is a unique area with it's picturesque small villages and its Chain-o'­Lakes. It has been a popular resort area since the early 1900's. There are generations of families who have fond memories of vacationing here. There are also generations of people who grew up in Antrim County and moved away as adults. Both groups have interest in the historical events of the area.

In our growing digital world, digital documents like The Antrim County News would provide easy access to this newspaper for a variety of uses: genealogical research, tracing the history of a local park or recreation area, matching demographic statistics to stories of the era or geographical area being studied and much more.

In 1974, Gregg and Dee Smith bought The Antrim County News and offered the collection of local historic newspapers included with the purchase to the Bellaire Area Historical Society. These newspapers go back to 1895 and include the Bellaire Independent (1895-1919, the Antrim County Record (1920-1931) the Bellaire Record (1931-1955) and The Antrim County News (1947-1974.) This collection of physical newspapers has been added to over the years and is available to examine at the Bellaire Area Museum. These physical newspapers do not age well despite our best efforts to protect them. The older ones are very brittle and crumble when disturbed.

The newspapers listed above have been preserved on microfilm, but the entire collection is not available to examine in one place. Some are at the Traverse District Library and others at the State of Michigan Library in Lansing. There are also some at the Bellaire Public Library but the microfilm reader there is in need of repair.

The Bellaire Area Historical Society is currently rising funds to digitize our local historic newspapers and have them hosted on DigMichNews with searchable keywords. We believe that it is not only important to preserve the contents of this historic material, but to also make it accessible online to all who wish to examine and study it. Being awarded this grant would go a long way in helping us reach our goal. Thank-you for your consideration.


Lansing - 2023 Grant Winner!

Applicant: Capital Area District Library

Newspaper: Ingham County News

Dates: 1970-1977

Special Features:

There are special features to the Ingham County News in the era of 1970-1977. Very often political news is among the major headline trends in historic newspapers, and the News is no exception. This paper is the central news outlet of the county seat of Ingham County (Mason), and thus is where press releases, detailed county government news, required notices, and political campaigns and elections were published and covered, more so than any other paper in the region.

In this period, the News had region-specific sections including the Mason Edition and Holt-Delhi Edition, among others. These specific sections made for easy to find stories of interest and highlighted the communities of priority for the paper. This is unique because the broad county newspaper served distinct neighboring communities which did not have independent papers and were only traditionally scarcely covered in the nearby larger city papers such as the Lansing State Journal or the Jackson Citizen- Patriot. It provided a central publication for all Ingham County news in one easily accessible paper for the residents of the county, specializing in countywide stories. The paper documented history in real time.

The News of this era also includes advertisements and inserts from prominent local businesses and activities. These are bound with the paper. There are also sections on marriages, obituaries, births, and other personal news items. There are also classified advertisements, and common human and social interest articles about schools, families, businesses, and farms that would otherwise not have been covered in other area news sources.

Reasons Why These Newspapers Should be Digitized:

The Ingham County News period of 1970-1977 should be made available online because of its many historical topics covered during these years. For example, in this period, and covered in the pages of the News, Ingham County became the first county in the State of Michigan to appoint a Select Committee on History to prepare for the 1976 American Bicentennial. This committee was formed in 1971, made permanent in 1974, and remains today as the oldest county historical commission in Michigan. Reflecting on the Bicentennial commemoration is and will continue to be an important topic for consideration over the next five years while the nation contemplates its 250th birthday in 2026. How did locales commemorate fifty years ago? The News covers all that and more in the years proposed here for digitization.

Michigan is the only state in the United States in which the state capitol is not the county seat of the county in which it sits. Mason, the home of the Ingham County News, is the county seat of Ingham, while the state capital is elsewhere in the same county, in the city of Lansing. This paper, over all its years, covered the county government in Mason and state government in Lansing - a fascinating juxtaposition, which has statewide and national relevance. While local, state, and national government are covered thoroughly in the News, the government of Ingham County made regular headlines over the decades. In 1974-75, Ingham County saw the rise of young politician Debbie Stabenow, now a United States Senator, who became the first woman to chair the Ingham County Board of Commissioners in 1977. Her first stint in public office will soon reach its fiftieth anniversary in 2024-25 and is sure to catch public attention, especially given that she announced her intention not to run for office again. The papers bearing so much of this rich political history are not yet digitally available but should be.

In the “out county” communities of Ingham, often dwarfed in local news coverage to the state capital of Lansing, the News covered the stories that meant something to locals and had larger implications. There were numerous notable events which occurred in this era. The 1970s saw a building and development boom in this region. Covered in the News are the people, events, tragedies, obituaries, and headlines of a generation. Presently one of the most intriguing decades in nostalgia, design, and historical research, the 1970s will see endless fiftieth anniversaries over the next decade and a peak in interest in the culture and news of the 1970s. Additionally, this paper is useful and of interest to multiple Michigan communities, and therefore has a wider range of use and impact.


Applicant: Ionia County Historical Society

Newspapers: Ionia Sentinel or Ionia Sentinel Standard

Dates: 1901-1950

Special Features:

As president of the historical society, I feel that the Ionia Sentinel Standard newspapers are our most prized possession. Historical information such as births, deaths, illness, marriages, arrests, accidents, graduations, awards and achievements can be found in the newspaper. A few years ago, the superintendent of Ionia Public Schools asked about details of two of our elementary schools that were built in the same year (1922). I was not able to view the paper on micro-phish because the machine at the library has not been working but recently we inherited bound copies of the Ionia Sentinel Standard dating back to the late 1800's to present day. Because of these newspapers, I discovered that the buildings were not complete in 1922 as it clearly reads in the facade. Jefferson Elementary was started first and grades 1st through 4th attended in 1922. It wasn't until September 4, 1923 that both Jefferson and Emerson Elementary Schools were able to house grades Kindergarten through 6th grade. This is only part of the story. In the beginning of 1921, it was believed that both buildings would be occupied in the fall of 1922. When September 1922 rolled around, the students that were scheduled to go to Emerson Elementary were put up in a make-shift classroom at another location. They were hoping to move into the new school by January 1923 but the brick layers went on strike in November 1922 delaying the construction. The newspaper offers "the written word" and it tells a story about a specific time and place.

Ionia is the County seat and we hold the history for all the small towns that do not have a museum.

Reasons why it should be digitized:

Ionia is the County seat and our newspapers contain more than just city news. However, to access this most information, one must do so in person. Clarke Historic Library currently places the Ionia Sentinel Standard on micro-phish for the Ionia Community Library. However, the machine itself has not been working for several years now. Finding parts for it has been difficult so we are only able to view the few Ionia newspapers that have been digitized already. However, to view those, it must be done in person at the library during their hours. They are not available online. Many patrons are directed to the historical society for further assistance.

The Ionia County Historical Society was formed in 1974 as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. We are completely run by volunteers. Along with caring for and maintaining the John C. Blanchard House, the organization's mission is to preserve artifacts and documents and sharing lonia's fascinating heritage with the public. Some of the things that Ionia is known for include the State Asylum (Hospital), Department of Corrections (we have had up to 7 in our small town), we are home to Fred W. Green, Michigan's 3P1 Governor, the Ionia Free Fair, and the factory that made Ypsilanti Reed Furniture and automobiles such as the Shelby Cobra ad the Corvette Stingray, just to name a few. This factory also played a major role in WWII, winning the "E" for Excellence Award for producing vital war materials. Local newspapers such as the Ionia Sentinel Standard are a terrific source for historic records. As mentioned in the previous essay, the newspaper shouldn't be accessible to just a select few. People shouldn't be at the mercy of a few local volunteers to gather information for them. It would be wonderful to have our local newspapers available on line for all those seeking, to view them.


Applicant: Clare County Historical Society

Newspaper: Marion Press

Dates: 1903-1938

Special Features:


The overwhelming aspect that this newspaper would bring is a complete history of the area, as there are no gaps in coverage.

From 1903 to 1944, The Marion Press had only one editor, a man by the name of Charles Sadler. Charles Sadler was a multi-talented musician, writer and community-minded businessman who bought the Marion Dispatch in 1899, survived the fire of 1904 under The Marion Press without missing an issue, and after a lengthy, distinguished career, left the paper in 1944.  He wrote with amusement of the mundane, discussed divisive topics objectively, did not mince words of argumentation, and refrained from the judgmental preaching and lecturing characterizing newsprint at the time. Marion is lucky to have a journalistic pillar such as Charles Sadler, and his legacy alone is worthy of digitization.

Pre-1903 history of the area has already been covered in multiple venues, including J. August Lithen’s 2019 book, The Road to Marion Town.  The book ends with the town’s 1904 fire, which is where the microfilmed newspapers and the online newspapers will pick up.


Reasons Why This Newspapers Should be Digitized:


There is an historical void in the northwestern portion of Clare county.  That portion of the county is now, and was especially historically, isolated from the main body of the county due to the course of the Muskegon River.  There are no more bridges today crossing the Muskegon River in the county then there were 125 years ago; two at Temple (a railroad bridge and conventional), one in Winterfield township known as the Church bridge, and one at Leota, which in old days doubled as a dam.  Those living on the north side of the river were therefore very isolated in respect to the southern portions of Clare county, and naturally felt more connected to Marion, where the majority of the communities news ended up.

Take the community of Temple for example.  The community has a very long and rich history.  Temple actually had a big enough population for a good number of decades to have both a high school and elementary school, yet very little is known about these schools.  Even a known photograph of these schools in operation are not known to exist, though 1,000’s of children passed through their doors.

Temple is perhaps the best example of the historical void in news, but this void can be easily multiplied by the many other smaller communities in the three Clare county townships on the north side of the Muskegon River.

The bigger communities are as follows;

            In Redding township: Temple, Clarence and Pennocks

            In Summerfield township: Leota, Upton, Floodwood

            In Winterfield township: Grandon, Winterfield, Austa

In addition to these communities, most of them actually big enough to support a post office, church and schools, there were easily just as many smaller communities that may have been writing their news items into the Marion newspapers.



Diocese of Saginaw

Applicant: Saginaw

Newspaper: Catholic Weekly

Dates: 1942-1958

Special Features:


The Catholic Weekly newspaper was one of the earliest regional newspapers to report on current events and Catholic-based news in the Mid-Michigan, Great Lakes Bay area region of the state. The paper started as an “authorized publication” for the Diocese of Saginaw, along with its sister paper the Catholic Times, which reported for the Diocese of Lansing. The Catholic Weekly’s mission was to “spread teachings of Jesus, report official information of the church at all levels, and to report other news of importance to Catholic [Americans].” The paper began publishing in early 1942, not long after the first US troops landed in Europe to fight in World War II. Saginaw was one of many Midwestern, industrial cities that saw a boom of workers during the war, as well as an initial rise post-WWII, which meant a greater population for the paper to publicize to. The Catholic Weekly has been around since the early years of the Diocese of Saginaw, which officially established in 1938, and was around during the creation of the Diocese of Gaylord in 1971, which was formed out of counties between the Diocese of Grand Rapids and the Diocese of Saginaw, though the DoS did acquire Clare and Isabella counties in the arrangement. Shrinking from 16 counties to 11, the Diocese of Saginaw still utilized the Catholic Weekly as an authorized publication to report on Catholic news in the Great Lakes Bay region. The paper also managed as an authorized publication for the Diocese of Gaylord, after its inception.

Reasons Why This Newspapers Should be Digitized:

The Catholic Weekly newspapers should be available online because access to these papers has become limited, in recent years. The non-profit corporation behind the paper, as well as Catholic Times, closed in 2016 due to financial difficulties, and their materials were sold to the Diocese of Saginaw. The diocese may have recently started an archives department within the Diocesan Center’s walls, but the timeframe, funds, people power, and technical capabilities for the office to digitize and have them available for a wide audience is a lot further down the line than we would like to admit. Access to these papers not only provides a unique perspective on the region’s history, but it also provides the religious aspect of the area as well. Michigan has, historically, been interlinked with Catholicism in its roots, both during its territorial times and in its current statehood. Catholic history in Michigan is just as relevant and important as any other specified history. In addition, the paper covers over thirty counties in Michigan over its seventy-four-year history, many of which do not have their local news digitized through the Digital Michigan Newspaper Portal.

This grant is made possible by the Robert and Susan Clarke Endowment with additional funding provided in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through the Library of Michigan.