Bill Schimmel was a long-time Milford Township resident and member of the board of directors for the Milford Historical Society. Bill passed away this year after a long bout with cancer, but not before finishing a project that he had worked on, off and on, for the last ten years – a book based upon the life of a local Native American member of the Chippewa tribe – Jacob Tipsico. Yes, this was the man for which Tipsico Lake was named and subsequently Tipsico Lake Road.
Bill was always interested in Native American history and memorabilia. He was part Native American himself, based upon research into his family history that revealed a Cherokee relative several generations back. Bill was a collector of local arrow heads and there is an exhibit of some of those at the Milford Historical Society Museum. Bill became interested in tracing the man and his family for which Tipsico Lake was named after he stumbled upon the lake while out Christmas tree shopping years ago. His interest eventually turned into a passion and then into a mission to do the research and gather the information necessary to document the life of this local Native American. Bill enlisted the aid of a friend and artist, Thomas Bem, to provide illustrations of events for which pictures could not be found and he enlisted local writer Joyce Clark to act as editor for the book.
Bill was himself an interesting man of many interests and talents. He was a Metallurgical Engineer for fifty years, working on the development of metals for the automotive and aerospace industries. He held several patents and had written many technical papers during his career. One of his proudest achievements was while he worked for Rocketdyne in California on the team that contributed to the landing of the Apollo 11 Mission, when man first walked on the moon. He retired as Director of Materials from Williams International, a local manufacturer of small jet engines in Walled Lake, Michigan, after working there for 31 years.
Most of us will probably not take the time or have the passion that Bill had to turn his interest in Jacob Tipsico into such a mission and then to devote so much time and energy into pursuing that mission. We are, however, better off that he did pursue his dream and now we have his wonderful book about the life and family of Jacob Tipsico. Tipsico was not listed as a chief in the documentation of the time that BIll could find and confirm, so Bill does not call him that either; but Tipsico was related to a long line of Chippewa chiefs and was perhaps the last vestige of what by then was a by-gone era.
Much of Bill’s book documents what was happening in that time to the Native American population and might make you cringe a bit today, but it is history worth knowing and Bill does a good job in the telling. They don’t teach about the “Trail of Tears” in school history classes, but Bill’s book contains a good lesson on that dark period in our nation’s history. Bill does a good job of setting the larger context of Native American life at that time and then goes on to document Jacob Tipsico’s life and family within that context.
The book – Jacob Tipsico – A Michigan Chippewa, His Life, His Family and the End of an Era – will be available at the Milford Historical Museum and selected local Milford retail stores. It is only $10 and should be a must-read for those interested in the history of the local area or in the history of the Native American population and what they endured as they were displaced by the invasion of white European settlers. Get a copy for yourself or as a gift for someone for Christmas. You can pair it up with a copy of Ten Minutes Ahead of the Rest of the World, the history of Milford, Michigan, to make a great coffee table set.