Questions, Anyone?

Sanctuary visitors

Q. A question asked is: “The Marine Sanctuary has many groups from out of town, such as researchers and divers, who stay and work on Lake Huron projects. Who are they, where are they from, and how many individuals visit in a year?”

A. Russ Green, deputy superintendent at the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, states, “Each year, the sanctuary attracts a number of visiting researchers and students who stay over night or for extended periods. In 2012, for example, nearly 200 researchers or vessel crew stayed for one night or more while working with the sanctuary. This added up to about 1,050 individual overnight stays. Among others, this included teams from Central Michigan University, Grand Valley State, U of M, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Program, University of North Carolina’s Coastal Studies Institute, and NOAA divers and boat crews. Some stay at the sanctuary’s research quarters, while others use local hotels. Some rent longer term housing, such as when a team of 3 hydrographers from NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey stayed in town for 6 months while mapping Thunder Bay.”

First sawmill in Alpena

Q. Where was the first sawmill in Alpena?

A. In his history of Alpena County (which sold for 25 cents in 1876), early historian William Boulton reports, “In 1836 Jonathan Birch visited Alpena for the purpose of making arrangements for building a sawmill. He examined the rapids and finding that there were good facilities for building a dam, commenced getting out timber for the enterprise he had in view. The Indians, however, objected to the improvement, and drove Mr. Birch away. Mr. Birch and party went off to Sulphur Island, and, while there, held consultation as to whether it would be the most profitable to put up the mill at Devil river, or go back to Alpena and commence over again, as an Indian chief had assured them of his protection. Alpena was certainly the best place for lumbering, but then a dam could be built at Devil river with considerably less money than it could at Alpena, and this was a very important consideration to the enterprising mill men. At last they determined to leave it to chance, so they stuck a stick in the ground, and resolved to commence operations at the point towards which the stick fell. The stick fell towards Devil river, and the first mill in the county was built there.”

Chairman of the board

Q. What is the origin of the phrase “Chairman of the Board”?

A. Historical trivia on the internet gives this explanation. “In the late 1700s, many houses consisted of a large room with only one chair. Commonly, a long wide board folded down from the wall, and was used for dining. The ‘head of the household’ always sat in the chair while everyone else ate sitting on the floor. Occasionally a guest, who was usually a man, would be invited to sit in this chair during a meal. To sit in a chair meant that you were important and in charge. They called the one sitting in the chair the ‘chair man.’ Today in business, we use the expression or title ‘Chairman’ or ‘Chairman of the board.'”

Please send questions and comments to or to “Questions, Anyone?” The Alpena News, 130 Park Place, Alpena, MI 49707.