Motive, but no new clues
Editor’s note: This is the ninth installment in an ongoing series entitled ‘Capac’s Unsolved Mystery’ detailing the events surrounding the disappearance of popular Capac merchant Hale Currier or October 17, 1948 while on a hunting trip with friends in the Upper Peninsula. The first installment appeared in the October 17, 2018 issue of Tri-City Times. Installments appear every two weeks.
Reporters from the press swarmed all over the stores, motels, restaurants, bars, and the Newberry campsite where Hale Currier was last seen alive. Lieutenant Fred Chrispell actually felt guilty that after five days of searching for Hale Currier, he had nothing to report.
Only a motive, he hoped, but no clues. Wherever he went, the questions and his response were always the same: “Nothing at this time.”
He constantly thought of Mrs. Currier and her sons. She was always in good spirits and had what he often thought was ‘true grit.’ Now, he knew. True grit was an inner strength and courage that only
those two words could describe. Mrs. Currier
was always at peace with the reporters. He admired her, and could see why
she and her husband were so important to the little town of Capac. They were giants in character.
The locals picked up on this, and daily, more came to volunteer. When word got out that Capac’s football team was coming, 30 athletes and students from Newberry High School showed up to assist. R & B Sales sent out word that the citizens from St. Ignace and the Soo should help out. They asked for a hundred bodies, and said they’d serve lunch. Two hundred showed for the weekend. Altogether there were 600 dedicated souls who took part in the weekend search.
Lines of men abreast reached out in a five-and-a-half-mile radius. The local lumberyard could not even supply enough dowels to pike the ground. Building supply yards in St. Ignace came to the rescue, donating hundreds more.
When the Chambers of Commerce of Newberry, Sault St. Marie, St. Ignace and Mackinaw reported ‘no vacancy’ at local motels, the townspeople opened up their homes to volunteers.
The state troopers took up a collection and bought Army cots from the surplus store and placed them upstairs in the post for anyone without a bed.
The food kept coming in every morning from Capac to feed the droves of volunteers from everywhere.
*Note: The following is about the living individuals I interviewed and their direct recollections of the search. At the time of the interview, there were four living, one has since passed. That person is Carl Lang. He wanted this story told but died before I actually started writing it. These four men also verified the procedures of the search and the conditions present.
Two 1946 Pontiacs left Capac late on Friday night because of work schedules. The first car held Doug Nemecek, Bill Stroup, Bob Stroup and Art Friedsburg.
The second car held Mort McGeorge, (*his son Doug helped me with this series). Also in the car was Charlie Churchill, Max Nettnay and the fourth is lost in time.
They drove all night long to be in Newberry before daylight.
(*Doug Nemecek is the only survivor of this group, and was one of only four links to 1948.)
Another car left Central Michigan University at Mt. Pleasant. That car held Carl Brennan, (*who is still alive and living in Tennessee), and Carl Lang. Both were friends and fellow CMU students of Jim Currier, son of Hale Currier. (*Jim now lives in Florida with his wife).
Jim stayed with his mother and brother Phil at the CAPDET lodge. The two Carls stayed with Elmer and Minnie Lang, Carl Lang’s parents. The other eight stayed at the State Police post on the cots. They ate lunch at the lodge and had dinner at the Dollarville Bar, where they mixed with other searchers and locals, soon learning of the people that inhabited the woods at strange times and intervals.
The next day, they headed to the woods to search. The deeper they pressed into the wilderness of toppled trees and underbrush, the more deer carcasses or what was left of them were found. They were miles and miles from roads, only accessible by lumber trails made by loggers.
Lt. Chrispell had a short conversation with Lawrence Kosequat, the Indian guide, in the woods. He asked him point blank “Who is poaching all the deer?”
Kosequat responded, “Lieutenant, I know a few deer were taken to feed some of the down and out, but I never thought the poaching was that widespread.”
Returning to his cruiser, the lieutenant called dispatch.
“This is Lt. Chrispell. Have we heard from the detectives, and what is their present location?”
“They are in the woods approximately 10 miles from you and out of their vehicle,” the dispatcher replied.
“Tell them when you make contact again that I need a report ASAP,” Lt. Chrispell said.
“Will do,” was the response.
Grabbing a coffee, the eight men from Capac were issued a four-foot dowel and given a location and group leader. In the pre-dawn, they walked to their assigned area. Their enthusiasm was high after being up all night.
Capac, with a population of only 960 people, had nearly every male resident in Newberry. Every store was either closed or limited in business. The farms and chores were being handled by wives and children.
The newspapers reported this was the largest manhunt in state history.
In two weeks, the search wraps up; conclusions are drawn.
Doug Hunter is a lifelong Capac resident, a farmer, historian and writer. His great-great grandfather, Noble Hunter, founded the Capac Journal in the late 1800s.