The Author Discusses the Evil Side of Michigan Heroes | Latest Update!

The Great Lakes were previously navigated by pirates. Anti-Semitic propaganda was printed by Henry Ford. And by performing agonizing trials on a guy with a hole in his chest, the namesake of Michigan’s largest healthcare system learned everything he knows about the human digestive system.

These are just a few of Michigan author Tom Carr’s nasty, unpleasant, and/or compelling anecdotes, which he shared as part of the Monroe County Museum System’s 2022 Online Speaker Series.

Carr spoke to a virtual audience of more than 30 people last week about stories from his new book, Dark Side of the Mitten: Crimes of the Powerful and Powerful Criminals in Michigan’s Past and Present. But he also mentioned anecdotes from two of his other books, Blood on the Mitten: Infamous Michigan Murders from the 1700s to the Present and MI BAD: Robbers, Cutthroats, and Thieves in Michigan’s Past and Present.

Dark Side of the Mitten “talks about some of the darker sides of some of the people that are heroes, or have a lot of sites named after them in Michigan,” according to Carr, an independent writer, and journalist with over two decades of expertise in the sector.

This includes Henry Ford, the founder of Ford Motor Company, who was anti-Semitic and employed a street thug named Harry Bennett to handle the company’s violent union-busting actions.

“Back in the 1920s, (Ford) openly issued a lot of anti-Semitic stuff until he was sued,” Carr added. “Harry Bennett was the muscle that (Ford) deployed to lead the people who would break up strikes, which were frequently brutal.”

Then there was William Beaumont, a surgeon known as the “Father of Gastric Physiology” and the founder of Beaumont Health. Through his research on a Canadian fur trader named Alexis St. Martin in the early 1800s, Beaumont famously learned much that was previously unknown about the human gastrointestinal tract.

St. Martin was hit in the chest by a bullet, but the wound healed unnaturally, leaving a hole in his stomach. Beaumont would lower food on a thread into the hole, then retrieve it after a short time. He could see the meal being dissolved by the stomach acid.

Carr stated, “He uncovered a lot about our digestive system and is rightfully praised for it.” “Alexis St. Martin, on the other hand, did not fare so well. He was illiterate, and he signed a contract with Dr. Beaumont that required him to perform his tasks for him as well as subject him to a battery of tests, many of which were painful and uncomfortable for St. Martin. This continued for a decade or more.”

St. Martin eventually managed to get away from Beaumont, but the fur trader spent the rest of his days being pursued by doctors who wanted to test him further. When St. Martin died, his family placed his body out in the blazing sun for several days so that it would rot and no one would be able to subject it too barbaric tests like those he had through during his life.

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Beaumont has multiple hospitals, schools, and other buildings and businesses named after him across the country, in addition to the healthcare system. Carr, on the other hand, claims that he has discovered no proof that the same can be said of St. Martin.

“I’ve looked around for evidence of an Alexis St. Martin Wing at any of the William Beaumont hospitals, but I can’t find anything,” Carr said. “So, hopefully, I’m giving him a little bit of credit here.”

According to Carr, he only recently discovered that the Great Lakes were previously home to pirates. Dan Seavey, who operated out of Escanaba near the turn of the century, was one of the most infamous of the pirates who previously roamed the lakes.

Carr added, “He had a schooner that he utilized for legitimate purposes, but he also used it to traffic in stolen timber, illegal booze, and all kinds of stolen things, as well as unlawfully poached venison.” “He’d take it down to Chicago, where he knew there was a black market, and he’d sell the products there. According to some accounts, he allegedly sold kidnapped pioneer women from Michigan into sex slavery in Chicago.”

Seavey allegedly boarded a ship docked at Grandhaven that was packed with cedar logs he wanted to steal and sell, according to Carr. Seavey kept supplying the ship’s crew with alcohol until they were all inebriated. He then bound the captain and sailed the ship out into Lake Michigan, where he dropped the entire crew overboard.

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On another occasion, the pirate used a cannon to sink a rival illicit venison dealer’s vessel, murdering the entire crew in the process.

“The federal government considered charges,” Carr added, “but (Seavey) was never charged.” “He worked for the federal government in his later years, assisting them in catching pirates on the Great Lakes.”

Carr also discussed the contentious life and legacy of General George Armstrong Custer, mentioning the ongoing fight over the general’s monument in Monroe.

“I know there’s been some debate in Monroe about General Custer being a hero in the Civil Conflict but not so much in the war with the Native Americans,” Carr said. “I’m aware that the statue you have there has caused some controversy. These types of debates have taken place all around the state. I’m not here to make any recommendations or make any statements. I simply enjoy seeing all aspects of history.”

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Carr did add that he doesn’t enjoy it when people are made gods.

“All of the people in history are just human beings, and General Custer is no exception,” he remarked. “However, I believe that the negative aspects of the story should be acknowledged, which I do a lot of in Dark Side of the Mitten.”