U-M digitizes collection highlighting Michigan’s environmental history, including hunting, fishing | Arts & Culture

U-M digitizes collection highlighting Michigan’s environmental history, including hunting, fishing

U-M digitizes collection highlighting Michigan’s environmental history, including hunting, fishing

William B. Mershon “roughing it” during a camping trip. [Family and camping snapshots, 1907-1919. Box 47, Folder 19]. Courtesy the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.

The University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library has digitized the collection of William B. Mershon, a Michigan lumberman who made his fortune logging Michigan’s vast forests in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

An avid outdoorsman, Mershon hunted and fished in Michigan, and became a witness first to the excessive bounty of Michigan’s wilderness, and then to the dramatic loss of species, including the disappearance of the passenger pigeon and Michigan’s iconic grayling fish.

Mershon ultimately turned his attention to trying to collect information about fish habitats around the state, as well as working to preserve land and rivers for hunting.

Today, his records of fish and game hauls—as well as his letters and journal entries with detailed information about the local landscape—provide a wealth of information regarding Michigan’s native environment.

Entries for an Au Sable River fishing trip from the summer of 1898, including an astonishing 757 trout caught on June 3. [Au Sable 1898-1911, Box 43, Folder 2]. Courtesy the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.
Detail from 1914 line drawing showing how individual male fish can be identified by their lateral stripes. [Fish and fish habits (drawings), Box 47, Folder 6]. Courtesy the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.
William B. Mershon “roughing it” during a camping trip. [Family and camping snapshots, 1907-1919. Box 47, Folder 19]. Courtesy the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.
Michigan grayling taken from the Black River, 1903. [‘Recollections of My Fifty Years Hunting and Fishing’ (photos used in book), Box 47, Folder 17]. Courtesy the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.
Fully kitted-out and ready to fish during a Mershon family trip to their Au Sable lodge, 1912. [Family and camping snapshots, 1907-1919, Box 47, Folder 19]. Courtesy the University of Michigan Bentley Historical Library.

“William B. Mershon was a man whose love for nature grew out of his love for hunting and fishing,” said Bentley Director Terrence McDonald. “As a founding member of and officer in the Michigan Sportsmen’s Association in 1875—which was organized to establish game wardens and game protection legislation—he was a pioneer conservationist in the state. His amazing diary of decades of fishing on the Au Sable combines love of fishing and amateur science with environmental concern.”

Thanks to a gift by Thomas Buhr, the Bentley Library was able to digitize the Mershon collection, including his diaries, letters, photographs and more.