100-year-old Star offers past view of Niles history

Published 8:25 pm Saturday, April 2, 2005

By By RANDI K. PICKLEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Times have changed. Michelle and Mark Prillwitz of Niles, heartily agree and they have written proof.
Several years ago, Michelle decided to take a wall mirror, which had been passed down through her family, to Gary's Furniture Stripping. She wanted to have the damaged beveled glass surface replaced. Michelle is an avid antique collector and planned to use the mirror while re-decorating their home.
It was a surprise, however, when the owner of the shop returned the mirror with a portion of an old newspaper that had been tucked between the glass and the wood-backing of the mirror.
"I took the mirror to Gary as soon as I got it four years ago," Michelle said. "But since then the newspaper has been lying in a cupboard in my sun room," she added. She recently called the Niles Daily Star about her treasure before she decided what to do with it permanently.
According to Michelle, looking at the fragile, yellowed pages was like "stepping back in history." Niles history to be exact. They were from the front pages of the Niles Daily Star, dated May 5, 1905.
On May 5, the articles and advertisements from the paper will turn 100 years old. They speak of different times when women's fashions included bustles and men rode in horse-drawn carriages instead of cars.
One of the advertisements titled "Heart Weakness" touts a sure cure for heart disease, saying it "will almost invariably cure or benefit every case of heart disease." It included a testimonial by an 83-year-old man, H.D. McGill of Frost, Ohio. The company selling the cure was none other than the Miles Medical Company of Elkhart, Ind.
Another ad from Elkhart showed drawings of the latest in horse-drawn carriages. The Elkhart Carriage Company boasted over 200 styles of vehicles and 65 styles of harnesses.
Dr. L.G. Platt had an advertisement for his dental office which was located over Fox's Dry Goods Store in downtown Niles.
Sometimes the ads looked more like full-fledged articles. One entitled "Women In Our Hospitals: Appalling Increase in Hospital Operations Performed and How Women May Avoid Them" covered a large portion of a page.
To avoid unwelcome hospital procedures, the ad encouraged women to purchase a miracle product using the statement, "Lydia E. Pinkham's Vegetable Compound Succeeds Where Others Fail." Additional impact was added with drawings of two healthy and proper-looking women named Miss Ruby Mushrush and Mrs. Fred Seydal.
The front page of the paper included a tragic story in a flowery style of writing that was popular in journalism at the time. It tells of D.W. Brown and his wife who "mourn with real sorrow the death of their dog, Leo," who was poisoned. The article goes on to say that Leo was well known to folks all around town as being "mammoth in size," possessing beauty and intelligence, and also stated that he was "as kind and harmless as any child." He was remembered as a watch dog who was always at the ready to "assist his master" and admonished the culprit who had poisoned such a loving animal who would never hurt anyone.
Also on the front page was a story about a man who had been shot in the back and survived, a burglar whose mother's tears in the courtroom were not enough to prevent his conviction, and one titled "He Denies Troops" referring to the governor's refusal to send troops in to help settle a dispute between the Union Traction receivers and the Peabody Coal Company.
Michelle has quite a Niles history of her own dating back to her great grandparents who bought a farm on Rangeline Road. The family still owns the farm 120 years later and many of the heirloom pieces that fill her home on Cedar Street in Niles are from that farm.
Michelle said that her grandfather needed some mowing done but wanted to pay for her offer to help. She said, "If you pay me in furniture, I'll mow the yard for you." And he did.
One of her favorite pieces is an ornate settee that has been passed down from her great-great-grandmother. She had it refurbished and now displays it by the front door where it welcomes visitors to sit for a spell.
Michelle is a hair stylist by the University of Notre Dame and her husband is a machine operator with Bosch Braking in St. Joseph. They have four children ranging in ages from two to 20.
Family is important to them and the stories attached to each heirloom piece of furniture permeate their home with family memories.
Michelle's grandfather, Fred, liked to tell the story of an elderly couple who lived on a farm. The couples' children were concerned about the old, shabby furniture they kept in their home, but the elderly parents refused to replace the furniture with more modern furnishings.
One day, when the parents were away, the children bought all new furniture and to make sure their parents couldn't return the purchases, burned the old furniture.
When the couple returned home, they were terribly upset. It seems that their entire life savings had been hidden in the furniture.
Michelle never forgot the story and remembers it often when she looks at the heirlooms she has inherited along with the story and the newspaper from 1905.
Little did Michelle's great grandfather realize when he placed a section of newspaper in a mirror as a shimmy to hold the glass in place, that Niles Daily Star readers would be treated to a piece of Niles history 100 years later.