William H. CummingsX

Born: September 5, 1890

Location: Iron River

I was born on September 5, 1890, in Iron River, Iron County, the second of two children born to George H. Cummings and Mary (Popaloose/Moore) Cummings. My parents divorced sometime before 1899, and my mother remarried, moving with her children to Menominee, Michigan. My stepfather harshly disciplined and beat me frequently, particularly if I was late in coming home. Sometimes I chose to sleep in the barn or under to porch to avoid my stepfather’s wrath. When in my late teens, I returned to Iron County, living with my mother’s sister and her husband in Crystal Falls, where I was kindly treated. I did not graduate from high school and could barely read. However, I was keenly interested in athletics, hunting and fishing. I played halfback on two semi-professional football teams, the Menominee-Marinette Lauerman Twins and the Stambaugh All-Stars, both teams including the Green Bay Packers in their schedule. I was also a skilled swimmer and diver, and pitched for baseball teams in both Crystal Falls and Stambaugh. In late 1910 or early 1911 I began courting Sophia Caroline Pfeiffer, and we were married in Crystal Falls on January 3, 1912. We had one son, Alvin William “Dutch” Cummings. Following my marriage, I first worked as a pump man at the Tobin Mine, then became a fireman for the Crystal Falls Fire Department, and then was a motorcycle policeman for Iron County. Noted for my driving ability, I was rehired by the City of Crystal Falls as a driver for the fire department, a salaried position. My driving skills were put to the test on April 12, 1923, when word was received that there was a terrible conflagration at the Carpenter Mine Location. Due to snow banks from late winter storms, the road to the Carpenter Mine was blocked, so I daringly decided to take the railroad tracks at the Odgers Mine Location to the Tobin Mine Location and then go by road to the Carpenter Mine. Fire Chief Clyde Henry, riding at my side, told me I was crazy to risk riding on the railroad tracks and got out of the fire truck. However, my arrival with the fire truck saved the Carpenter Mine Location from total destruction. My hunting and fishing prowess was renown, and I frequently guided hunters and fishermen from out of the area. The tedium of life in the fire hall resulted in my turning to alcohol, eventually costing me my job and my marriage. By 1930 I was a shadow of the man Sophia married. On January 6, 1930, I was returning to my job at a lumber camp near Balsam in Iron County after spending Sunday in Crystal Falls. One of my goals was to earn enough money to purchase a suit for my son, who was graduating from high school that spring. I was walking along the railroad track, hoping to get a ride part of the way on the train. As the St. Paul train approached, I stepped off to the side of the tracks, but I slipped, and Engineer Ike Sodegard saw me disappear under the cars, where I was killed instantly. Sophia made the Pfeiffer home available for my funeral, still remembering me as the man she loved and the father of her son. She buried me in the Evergreen Memorial Cemetery at Crystal Falls, and always made sure flowers decorated my grave during the summer months.

Contributed by: William Cummings, Iron Mountain, Michigan