UP IN THE U.P.! A Musical Tribute to the Upper Peninsula

Michigan based historian Bill Jamerson will perform a program of songs and stories about Michigan's Upper Peninsula at the Northfield Senior Center on Wednesday June 12  at 3 pm.  The program is presented by the Northfield Public Library and co-sponsored by the Northfield Senior Center, and is free and open to the public.

With guitar in hand, Jamerson tells stories and performs original songs about iron miners, early immigrants, ski jumpers, pasties, thimble berries and the Finnish people. Many of the stories he tells are based on interviews with iron miners and other longtime residents of the Upper Peninsula. The songs range from heart-warming ballads to foot stomping jigs. Many of the nostalgic stories happened during The Great Depression and appeal to older children and adults.

The Upper Peninsula was originally acquired by the state of Michigan in 1837. At the time, many thought it was uninhabitable and too remote to be of any value. However, the discovery of iron ore in 1847 changed the course of history.  Within two decades, iron mines were in operation across the Upper Peninsula in three distinct ranges. The Upper Peninsula produced over half of America’s iron ore until the Mesabi Range in Minnesota became the leading producer in 1904. Today, the Upper Peninsula is home to two open pit iron mining operation with several new mines slated to open in the coming years.

Due to its geographic isolation, many ethnic traditions have been preserved in the U.P., from pasty shops, public sauna’s and ski jumping. In Jamerson’s program he performs original songs includingThe Flying Bietila’s which is about six Finnish ski jumping brothers from Ishpeming. Born to be a Miner tells the story a youth growing up in Negaunee during The Great Depression. Thimbleberry Jam is about two brothers who visit their grandmother’s boarding house in Republic. New Americans describes the different immigrant groups that settled in the iron ranges and Miners Lunch tells how children brought pasties to their fathers at the iron mines at lunchtime.

The songs and stories are as entertaining as they are important, as honest as they are fun. They are about people both ordinary and extraordinary and include stories of wit, charm, and strength. The Ontonagon Herald called Bill, “The Upper Peninsula’s troubadour.” Jamerson also wrote a novel about the Civilian Conservation Corps, produced eleven PBS films on Michigan history and has recorded three CD’s of songs about Midwest history. For more information about his performance, call the library at 645-1802 orvisit his website at billjamerson.com.  Funding for the program is provided with Legacy funds through a grant from SELCO.