Grice House Museum


Welcome to the Grice House.  The wooden portion of this house was built by Mr. James Grice in 1872.  James Grice came to Harbor Beach from Lancashire, England with five of his eight children.  He was an engineer and mechanic, as well as owning a shingles business where North Park currently stands.  Sadly, the Great Fire of 1881 destroyed his business, as well as one million acres of land in Huron, Tuscola, Sanilac, and Lapeer Counties.  Fortunately, his house survived the file due to a sudden shift of wind off the lake. After the fire James moved inland to Verona and established a flour mill.  His son, Joseph, took over the Harbor Beach property and in 1884 added the cut fieldstone as well as the brickwork over the windows.  Joseph was a engineer on the break-wall project that made Harbor Beach the world's greatest manmade harbor at the time.  Joseph married Julia Zelz and the couple had three children, two girls and a boy.  The girls married and moved away.  Their son, James, stayed and eventually took over the property.  He never married and never updated the property.  In other words, the house had no indoor plumbing.  James died in 1962.  The city bought the property.  The museum opened in 1980 and was put on the National Historic Registry 1982. 

The museum is not a historical museum such as the Frank Murphy museum in the center of town.  That museum is the original home of Judge Frank Murphy and contains only the artifacts of the family.  This museum has only items that have been loaded or given from people in the area.

As you walk in the front door, you will see a beautiful set of chimes given to the Grice Museum by Mr. Jerry Rockwood.  Our Lady of Lake Huron Catholic Church in Harbor Beach was remodeled in the mid 1900s.  These chimes were discarded and ended up in the city dump.  Mr. Rockwood rescued them.  He replaced the felts and kept them in his home for a number of years.  Finally, he presented them to the Grice Museum in the 1980s.

The Parlor

As you go to the right you enter the living room or parlor.    Just inside the doorway to the left are pictures of some of the Grice family.  James, who built the wooden portion of this house, is pictured next to one of his daughters.  In another pictures are his wife two daughters, and a grandson.  Julia Grice, seen in the other two pictures, was married to Joseph Grice who was a engineer on the break-wall project.  It is somewhat confusing as James Grice had a son, James.  Joseph, James' son, also had a son, James.

Note the quilt behind the door.  It has a block with the Grice name on it, in addition to other local families.  The quilt was made by the Presbyterian ladies in Verona, where Mr. Grice ended up settling. The other two quilts are hand-woven and came with pioneers into Michigan from New York.

The glass case has items of interest, such as three cameras with an instruction booklet how to develop your own pictures, and accordion and other items.

There are more than 1300 items that are under the roofs of the three building that were given or donated from families in this locality since we opened in 1980.  Not a single item is here from the original home.

Above the large chest of drawers, which came from England is a handmade floral arrangement created by local women of that time, circa 1880.

The mannequin wears a beautiful wedding dress of a local woman.

The lamp on the table is late 1800s vintage.  It burned kerosene.  The Bible shown is the type most people kept i their living room instead of radio or TV.  This stereoscope was found in many homes.  You may pick it up and look at the pictures as it was done then.

On the organ is a Edison record player.  It uses cylindrical records.  This one was used in our local theater, which used to be called the Harbor Beach Opera House for many years.  It is called a gramophone.

Over the organ is the Doxology which was stitched by Hannah Baker as a girl.

The table and floral covered chairs came from Henry Ford's cottage in the local resort.  (Rumored to be Cottage #12.

On the wall is a framed piece of lace tatting done in the nineteenth century.

The stove here was a wood burning one used in spring and fall.  A coal burning stove would be set up for winter use.

The Kitchen

Next you will visit our kitchen.  On your right is the largest piece of furniture we have and a very important item in a pioneer home -- the loom.  Rugs were woven on it.  Material came from discarded clothing, cut into strips and sewed together and loomed to make floor coverings for the very cold floors of that day.  This one has no nails it it.  Only wooden pegs hold it together.  It was made from memory after the family came to America from Germany.  The Rutz family donated it.

We have three different kinds of churns.  The smaller churn is a bit more modern, having a crank.  This made perhaps a half pound of butter at a time.  The round churn held five gallons of cream.  It had to be rotated for about 30 minutes until tiny globules of fat burst and clung together, and was drained off and the mass of butter was put into the mixing bowl where it was worked over to rid it of further buttermilk mixed in the butter.  Salt and coloring was also worked into it.  It was packed into earthenware crocks to be used by the family or to be sold at the store.  I mention coloring.  When the cows ate green grass in the summer, the butter was yellow.  But the food for cows in the winter was dry hay; and the butter would be white. like lard.

The rocking type churn did the same thing, excepting the motion was back and forth instead of around as in the barrel churn.

The woman who gave us the mixing bowl walked five miles to carry a crock of butter to town to sell it.

We have a dry sink in the corner.  Water was collected from snow and rain on the roof into a concrete cistern in the basement.  Used water had to be collected in a pail and dumped out-of-doors.  Beside the sink is a roller towel.  The soap is handmade from wood ashes, fats from meat, and lye.  It was a very harsh soap.

Here we have examples of ways to keep clothes clean.  The scrub board was a simple one.  The clothes puncher was another, and late washing machines were coming into use.  The puncher worked the soapy water through the clothes.  The "poser" for the washing machine was "man power".  This tub has ridged liner that helped force water through the wringer into a rinsing water to remove the soapy water.

Please turn facing the center of the room.  The dinnerware on the table, as well as in the case, came from the Harbor Beach Community House and has its insignia on it. in the 1930's and 40's they would have grand parties there.  Four hundred to five hundred people would addend.  The no longer have these events so the community house is in the process of selling these sets.  The green chair, the Bible and goblet in the case were items supplied by the Red Cross to 5000 people that were homeless because of  the 1881 fire.  That was first major relief effort of the Red Cross.

On the west wall behind the stove is a toaster.  Can you see it?  There's a match holder.  For what use?  Notice the drying towels made from a grain bag.  The jugs on the floor held vinegar made from pressed apples.  The juice fermented and became vinegar. 

Now how could a wire make toast?  Bread was sliced and placed between the top wires and those on the bottom.  How do we get it toasted?  By being held over the cook stove, the bread would turn to toast or be horribly burned if you weren't paying attention.  Remember, you could toast only one side at a time.  Why weren't there electric toasters then?  Only cities and towns in that era had power plants to make electricity and only enough to supply the local area.

Warm water came from the reservoir.  But the water had to be pumped from the cistern and put there to heat. 

These re called flat irons.  The iron handle had to be held with a holder since it would be as hot s the lower part.  The detachable handles came later.  Remember clothing was either cotton, wool, or linen.  No one had synthetic fabrics that have few or no wrinkles as we know it now.  The fire had to be kept going to heat the irons even on hot summer days.  There were usually three irons so they could be exchanged as your iron became cooled for a hot one.

this stove not only had a place to heat water but the tea kettle was for heating well water for use with foods or beverages.

Notice the griddle for waffles or pancakes.

This stove had a very special feature in addition to the protruding heath where cold feet could be raised from the cold floors to be warm.  Notice that the housewife bringing pans of bread to be baked could use her foot to open the oven door.  And on the opposite side, something using less time could be removed from the oven.

In the corner is a sausage stuffer.  The large flat pans held milk whereby the cream that rose to the top could be skimmed off to be kept until enough hd been collected to use.  Usually five gallons for churning of butter. 

 

 

 

 

Events Guided Tour of the Museum Text Tour of the Museum Virtual Video Tour Members Page Request for Information Links of Interest Blog
Previous Page    Home Page
 

info@gricehouse.com

Grice House Heritage Association
865 N Huron Ave
Harbor Beach, MI  48441

Copyright 2016, Grice House Heritage Association, All Rights Reserved