1915 Message in a Bottle is Found After 97 Years

Imagine diving into the murky depths of the St. Clair River that separates Michigan from Canada, and spotting an antique bottle stuck in the mud–with a handwritten note inside. A message in a bottle! I think I would have a heart attack on the spot! But Dave Leander did it in 2012 and lived to tell the tale. He is an avid diver and owner of Great Lakes Divecenter in Shelby Township, north of Detroit.

Tillie Esper and Selina Pramstaller Message in a bottle

When he emerged from the St. Clair river with the bottle he found in the mud, he realized it was a 97-year-old note in a bottle.

Written by Tillie Esper and Selina Pramstaller of Detroit, the 1915 message in a bottle is lovely and simple and joyful:

Having a good time at Tashmoo

Selina Pramstaller

377 Wabash Avenue

Detroit, Michigan

Tillie Esper

141 Maybury Grand Avenue

Detroit, Michigan

June 30, 1915

Spending a leisurely day at the Tashmoo Amusement Park would have seemed like a simple joy at the time, though World War I was underway in Europe, and it wouldn’t be all that long before America joined. In a way, this message in a bottle captures some of the last peaceful moments for America in the 20th century.

(By the way, in 1989, a Detroit boy sent a message in a bottle just across Lake St. Clair from Tillie and Selina’s bottle, and it was found after 28 years. Click here for that story)

The Search for the Senders’ Families

Dave Leander and his wife Pam embarked on a detective mission to figure out who these women were, and whether they had any living family. Incredibly, they very quickly found dozens of living family members–grand children, great grand nephews and nieces, and so on.

Eric Schiebold and Janet Baccanari, grandchildren of Tillie Esper, provided this photo of their grandmother:

Tillie Esper provided by Janet Baccanari.jpg

Tillie Esper. Phot: Eric Schiebold / Janet Baccanari

Then, Dennis Pramstaller, great grandnephew of Selina Pramstaller, provided this photo of Selina’s family from 1916:

Selina Pramstaller Family

Selina and Tillie seem to have been spending a fun day together at Tashmoo amusement park, and probably threw their message in a bottle over board from the popular cruising ship, the Tashmoo.

The Tash

After this amazing message in a bottle was found, USA Today reported that dozens of the descendants of Tillie and Selina were planning on getting together for Tashmoo Days in 2013, and that’s exactly what happened–even Tillie’s 88 year old daughter, Patricia Esper Leone, and Selina’s 85 year old nephew, William Morrisrow attended and were reunited with the message in a bottle! The gathering was documented on the Tashmoo Days Facebook page.

Tille's Daughter and Selina's Nephew.jpg

Tillie’s 88 year old daughter, Patrica, is in the middle-left wearing pink; Selina’s nephew is in the middle-right, wearing red with blue stripes. At right is Pam Leander, wife of Dave Leander who found the message in a bottle. Photo: Tashmoo Days Facebook Page.

If you ask me, the mere fact that this 1915 message in a bottle survived at all is a near miracle. But on top of that, it gives us a glimpse into a very different time–a quieter, slower, arguably happier time. And on top of that, Tillie Esper’s daughter got to receive one last note from her mother who had been gone a long time–if that’s not magic, I don’t know what is!

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