Preserved in a large photograph, he was a mythic presence in the living room of the cabin where Stewart Brand spent his childhood summers. David Shoppenagon was a Chippewa Indian and a popular hunting and fishing guide for the wealthier residents of frontier Saginaw, Michigan, when in 1875 he brought Stewart Brand's great-great-grandfather, former New York congressman Lorenzo Burrows, and his family to Higgins Lake. The lake would soon become the summer gathering spot for four closely knit Saginaw families-the Barnards, Brands, Burrowses, and Morleys.
In a world that was collapsing for his people, Shoppenagon was an anomaly. Most of his compatriots had either been defeated in battle, herded onto reservations, sickened, or starved, but he had managed to coexist with an encroaching white civilization.
Shoppenagon lived more than a century after the period in which James Fenimore Cooper's historical novel The Last of the Mohicans was set, but in many ways, he fit the story line well. A member of a dying race, he was an anachronism who offered the newcomers a window into the world their civilization was obliterating. A journalist who had been invited to tour timber country by the railroads described him as wearing a fur turban topped by a crown of eagle plumes. From his belt hung deer hooves, eagle claws, shells. A band of leather over his shoulder was covered with a rattlesnake skin.
To the white families who encountered him, Shoppenagon represented the "good Indian." He became a fixture at the summer hunting camps, where he sold handcrafted items, including paddles, blankets, and baskets made by his relatives. He gave visitors Chippewa nicknames, and on occasions when he visited the home of Brand's great-grandfather, he slept in front of the fireplace on the living room floor.
AQ: if Lorenzo Burrows is meant, we introduced him as Brand's great-great-grandfather; if you mean Lorenzo's son, George Lord Burrows, he hasn't been introduced yet so this would need some tweaking]
During the summer the Saginaw families would use the lumber trains to escape to the lake from the hot and mosquito-infested city. Established in 1875, the first campsite, known as Lakeside, remained a seasonal encampment for several years. At first they stayed in tents, which were later supplanted by small shacks and then eventually summer homes. Soon other small communities were built adjoining Lakeside, including Cottage Grove, where the Brand family, part owners of Saginaw's flour mill, summered. (The product of a marriage between the two camps, Brand would summer at Lakeside.) Brand's grandfather Ralph Chase Morley, heir to the Saginaw-based Morley Brothers wholesalers, ran what by 1892 had become the nation's second-largest hardware business, as well as one of the largest horse and buggy retailers in the country. The business prospered and expanded through World War I, as the Morley Brothers were major suppliers to the US Army. Soon the Morleys opened a bank as well. They became part of a prosperous, upwardly mobile business class that built Saginaw during the great Michigan timber boom. As the frontier outpost became a thriving city, they prospered, giving their families freedom during holidays to escape to the countryside. And so each summer the Saginaw families would come with an entourage of cooks and nannies to the lake.
The family's role in the horse and carriage business might have blinded them to changing transportation technology. Ralph Morley is said to have turned down a neighbor, Henry Ford, who offered him the opportunity to invest in his new motorcar company. Sometime later, another Morley, AJ, who had been sent to the West Coast to extend the family timber interests, turned down a similar offer to invest in a new airplane company named Boeing.
AQ: George Lord Burrows, son of Lorenzo--change? (only lorenzo has been thus far introduced, and (except for apparently summers at the lake here) he stayed pretty much based in new york. I think you have conflated the two here. It was George who opened the saginaw bank and was the fire chief and water works guy: https://saginawcountyhalloffame3.org/george-lord-burrows, https://history.house.gov/People/Detail/10247)]
Attracted by the Michigan logging boom, Burrows arrived in Saginaw and set up a private bank in 1862, the year before the Morley brothers arrived. He would become one of Saginaw's city fathers. He was treasurer of the company that built the city's first streetcar line; he served as chief of the Saginaw Volunteer Fire Department and in that capacity oversaw the construction of the city's Water Works. George Lord Burrows, son of Lorenzo, became a Saginaw investor in mining and forest land, and an early venture capitalist as well, providing a loan that helped establish the Eastman Kodak company.
The Morleys were able to navigate the logging boom and the following bust, growing their hardware supply business statewide beyond logging and creating a department store as well. Yet logging remained in the blood, and the families followed it west. Members of the Morley and Barnard families went to Washington and Oregon and created what would become the Western Logging Company. Decades later they sold it to Georgia-Pacific in a deal that some family members perceived as a giveaway.
The West Coast Brands could have been the Stampers, the tough-as-nails Oregon logging family imagined in Ken Kesey's novel Sometimes a Great Notion. Stewart Brand's oldest brother, Mike, spent three summers in the woods in the family logging business in the Northwest and at one time hoped that he might someday be able to take over the logging operation. A decade later Stewart would follow in Mike's footsteps.
AQ: -what do you mean by this? are we way back in time, or have we moved up to Stewart's day? pls tweak to clarify]
Michigan's Lower Peninsula had been completely logged by the end of the nineteenth century, and the Indians had almost entirely vanished as well. However, for the young man who summered each year on the shores of Higgins Lake from the late 1930s into the 1950s, both towered in his imagination. Years later the photograph of David Shoppenagon on the summer cottage wall remained an influence on Brand when he reinterpreted America's view of Indians and the role they played in caring for the land on which they lived. It would be a message that he would bring to an emerging American counterculture in the sixties, and it would have a powerful resonance with a budding modern environmental movement as well.
It would be a modest continuing family inheritance from these various commercial ventures that would give a young Stewart Brand, then fresh from the army in 1962, the ability to avoid immediately getting a job and the freedom to pursue a variety of potentially sketchy notions throughout the sixties.
The Lakeside community was rustic in the best sense of the word. Even as late as World War II there was only one radio (it belonged to Brand's grandfather Ralph) and one phone in the camp. It was a perfect summer refuge for a boy whose connection to the outdoors began early and ran deep. At age seven he would memorize Outdoor Life's Conservation Pledge: "I give my pledge as an American to save and faithfully to defend from waste the natural resources of my country-its air, soil, and minerals, its forests, waters, and wildlife." Even decades later, after he'd run afoul of the modern environmental movement he had helped create, Brand could recite the pledge by heart.
He in effect ran a wild animal refuge each summer in the Michigan woods. Every Easter he would be given two baby ducklings, named Fry and Riley, which he would care for until the family left for the lake-a four-hundred-mile drive-on Memorial Day, at which point the ducks would be released into the local pond around the corner on the banks of the Rock River. Once at the lake, Brand would tame chipmunks, squirrels, and feral cats. It was not unusual to find him with a peanut tied to the line of a fishing pole as bait, carefully training a chipmunk. At one point he had one such critter so comfortable that it would ride around all day in his shirt pocket.
Brand and his siblings played in the forest and swam and sailed on a lake that a century earlier had been described by the Detroit Free Press as "the most beautiful of Michigan's 3000 gems." A generation earlier, when their parents had first summered at Higgins, the lake had been so pristine that the vacationers drank from it directly. All of the Brand children lived for summer, when for several months, freed from the bonds of city life, they would become "free-range" kids.
It was like a Nick Adams boyhood taken from the pages of Ernest Hemingway's short story collection In Our Time. Indeed, Brand's childhood was in many ways parallel to Hemingway's. Several decades earlier Hemingway had grown up in the suburbs of Chicago and summered at Windemere Cottage on Walloon Lake in northern Michigan, less than a two hours' drive northwest of Higgins Lake. Hemingway spent his first twenty-one summers fishing and hunting at Windemere.
The Brand family lived a day's drive from Higgins Lake in Rockford, Illinois, a heavy machinery and manufacturing center, where Stewart's father was a partner in a small advertising agency. On Memorial Day weekend each summer, the entire family, including his mother, Julia Morley Brand, sister, Mary Clare, and brothers, Mike and Peter, would pack up and make the annual summer road trip to Higgins Lake. On occasion they would loop under Lake Michigan, and more frequently they would take the ferry from Milwaukee to Muskegon. The family would stay at the lake until September, while Stewart's father would return to the city periodically to run his advertising agency.
Brand's group of Lakeside friends nicknamed him Screwy Stewy-not in censure but because they were in awe of his nonstop scheming and offbeat ideas. It was Brand who would persuade them to leap off the woodshed behind the family cabin while holding only an umbrella as a parachute, explore one of the old logging camps that dotted the countryside, or undertake a fifteen-mile forced march to a nearby town in search of postcards.
Yet there was something more. His young friends could see it even before they were teenagers. To be sure, Brand was a natural leader. But what his young friends sensed was not simply leadership but an unceasing font of ideas that would sweep them along in pursuit of each new whim.
And occasionally Stewart Brand would have a great notion.
Rockford, Illinois, was the quintessential midwestern town.
The September 12, 1949, issue of Life magazine featured a photo essay taken by the legendary Margaret Bourke-White. Her subject: Rockford, which the magazine's editors had decided was the most typical city in America.
For Brand, it was a world circumscribed by the range of his bicycle, including downtown Rockford, which Life celebrated: "Parking meters line the streets of the shopping district. A fleet of cabs line up at the station to meet the seven daily passenger trains. On Saturdays, farmers pour in from the surrounding country to shop while their children go to the movies or roller-skate across the street from C.I.O. headquarters."
The article divided American society into classes from "lower-lower" to "upper-upper." The magazine chose a factory worker and his wife to represent the bottom of the pyramid. Their home was in a trailer park on the outskirts of town, and the magazine noted that their neighbors included "blacks who were moving in to take unskilled jobs." At the other end of the scale, it placed an heiress of the founder of the Gunite Foundries Corporation, who continued to reside in the "old Forbes house" in a "fine old residential area."
The Brand family fell somewhere in between. Stewart, born December 14, 1938, was the youngest, ten years younger than his sister, Mary Clare, whom the family called Clare; seven years younger than oldest brother Mike; and five years younger than his middle brother, Peter. Although Peter was closer in age to Stewart, it would be Mike whom the youngest Brand would worship and feel a kinship with. Pete went on to become an electrical engineer and then changed professions and became a physician. Clare married a career army officer. Stewart would harbor a mild suspicion that he had been an accident.
Trained as a mechanical engineer at MIT, Stewart's father, Arthur "Bob" Brand, had moved to Rockford after college to work in the machine tool industry that then dominated the city but gravitated to the advertising business. He would become a partner in a local advertising agency. Without fail he ended his letters with the salutation "73," the mark of a committed ham radio operator.
Not only had Stewart's mother gone to Vassar, but her sister and her mother were graduates as well. The school was legendary for its skeptical academic mantra, "Go to primary sources," an outlook that was repeatedly conveyed to Brand through the maternal side of his family. Julia was also an avid reader, and when the children were growing up, she would inevitably be going through three or four books simultaneously. It was a habit that a young Brand would inherit; throughout his life, much of his outlook on the world has come from reading. If one of the children developed an interest, their mother would make sure they had all the books imaginable to pursue their subject. If Julia and Arthur Brand thought Stewart was their brightest child, they gave him few clues. He was startled once, after he'd done something particularly inept, and his father, in an exasperated tone of voice, said, "You're supposed to be the smart one!" That was news to him.
At one point so many books had made it into the third-story room where Brand would hide away and read that his father expressed concern that the house might tip over. The family was nominally a member of the Second Congregational Church in town, but after several weeks of Sunday school, Brand complained to his mother that it was screwing up his Sunday reading, so she gave him a pass and that was the end of it.
Brand grew up believing that he was part of upper-class society in a midwestern city that defined the America of the 1950s. Julia was president of the Junior League and the family belonged to both the Rockford Country Club and the University Club. He was educated mostly in private schools; his parents had attended two of the finest colleges in the nation; and his extended family was populated by department store owners, bankers, and timber magnates.
But by opting not to join a family business and settling his family away from Michigan, Brand's father had set out on his own and started fresh. That could be seen most clearly in the Brand family home, on Harlem Boulevard, a broad avenue divided by a grassy, tree-lined median. The home itself was a solid but modest three-story affair with a steeply pitched roof, a front porch, and a driveway running down the left side of the lot to a garage.