MIHistory – May 8: First Girl in Little League

On this day in 1973, Carolyn King of Ypsilanti became the first girl to play on a Little League team when she took the field as a member of the Ypsilanti Orioles baseball team. Despite the Little League’s rule against having girls on teams, the Ypsilanti Orioles president and coach let her try out anyway, and placed her on the team.

When Little League International officials found out, they threatened to pull the charter for the local team, and the Ypsilanti Orioles reluctantly complied. The city of Ypsilanti countered by calling the move discriminatory, and telling the Little League that they could not play on city-owned fields if King was kept off the team. The local team relented, and she took the field as television crews filmed the game.

The international leaders of the Little League followed through on their promise to pull the team’s charter, and King and the city of Ypsilanti sued. The Little League initially won, but in 1974, the Little League voluntarily dropped the rule.

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Carolyn King in an undated photo.

MIHistory – May 1: House of David

Followers of “King” Benjamin Purnell opened the House of David in Benton Harbor on this day in 1903. This religious community was best known for its amusement park and its traveling bearded baseball team.

The Israelite House of David was a religious society (some have called it a cult) co founded by Benjamin and Mary Purnell in Benton Harbor in 1903. Fifteen years earlier, the Purnells had become acolytes of a religious sect known as the Visitation Movement that followed James Jershom Jezreel, the “Sixth Messenger.” While studying the texts of the movement, the Purnells realized that a seventh messenger was supposed to soon appear, and that together, they were it.

Their religious colony soon garnered hundreds of followers. By 1906, the group owned 1,000 acres of land, which they used as fruit orchards and to farm grain. The sect also had its own cannery, carpenter shop, tailor shop and steam laundry, and owned its own electrical generating plant. The group also had a zoo, three brass bands and two orchestras. The zoo drew in visitors, while the bands travelled the country on the vaudeville circuit.

The House of David also became active on the baseball scene. The group’s team toured America from the 1920s to the 1950s, playing against both major and minor league teams and the Negro League. To be more competitive, the teams recruited players who weren’t members of the religious group, including Grover Cleveland Alexander, Satchel Paige, and Mordecai Brown.

The order came under fire in the 1920s, though, as 13 female members of the group said under oath that they had sexual relations with Benjamin Purnell while they were under-age. Michigan newspapers ran critical stories of the Purnells, but Benjamin died before his trial concluded.

The group fractured after the bad publicity and trial, though one splinter group, the Old House of David, was said to have three surviving members in 2010.

Members of the House of David bearded baseball team.

#MIHistory – April 24: Chrysler Builds Tanks

Chrysler’s first M-3 General Grant Tank rolled off the assembly line on this day in 1941. By the end of WWII, Chrysler had built more than 25,000 tanks.

The M-3 Grant tanks were used by the British to fight the Germans and Italians in North Africa. Chrysler also made the Sherman tank, and was one of the primary military suppliers for the Allied war effort.

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A Chrysler factory builds M-3 tanks during World War II.

#MIHistory – April 17: Coyote Bounty

Former Gov. William G. Milliken signed a law on this day in 1979 that ended a bounty on coyotes.

Coyotes are found throughout Michigan and have dispersed into southern Michigan without assistance from the DNR. Coyotes are found in rural to urban areas and are quite common but extremely good at remaining unnoticed by humans, even while living in close proximity. Their presence in subdivisions and urban or suburban areas, while surprising to many folks, is a result of increasing populations (both coyote and human) and encroachment of human environments into their natural habitat (from development of rural areas).

This member of the dog family is extremely adaptable and survives in virtually all habitat types common in Michigan. They are most abundant in areas where adequate food, cover, and water are available. The size of a coyote’s home range depends on the food and cover resources available and on the number of other coyotes in an area, but it generally averages between eight to 12 square miles. Mated pairs and four to seven pups occupy the home range during the spring and summer seasons in Michigan.

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A Michigan coyote in winter.

#MIWeekend – April 7-9: Science and Bunnies

While this is a busy holiday weekend for many, there are still many special events happening around Michigan. In East Lansing, the Michigan State University Science Festival continues, which includes walking tours of MSU for people interested in botany and archaeology, lectures about nuclear science, distillery tours and more. At the Detroit Zoo, kids can enjoy the Easter season by visiting Bunnyvillle and taking part in the Easter egg hunt. Whatever you choose to do, we hope you and your family have a great Easter weekend.

The rest of the week, save some time on your calendar to meet with our state representatives at a coffee hour or town hall. We’re continuing our “This Is Your House” town hall series throughout the state, which gives you an opportunity to speak your mind about what you see going on in Michigan. We need to hear from you. Events this week include:

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Kids take part at the Michigan State University Science Festival. Photo courtesy of MSU.

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