Dennis Pramstaller has been researching his family's history for more than a decade.
In the course of that fascinating work, a few odd things have happened.
couple of years ago, he was surprised to receive a Bible, written in
German, in the mail that had been bought at an estate sale. It dates to
the 1860s and appears to be his great-grandfather's family Bible.
And just last month, an article that traced back to his family sparked global attention.
grandfather's sister, Selina Pramstaller, and her friend, Tillie Esper,
were enjoying a summer visit to Michigan's Tashmoo Park on Harsens
Island on June 30, 1915, when they wrote a message, stuffed it into a
bottle, corked it and threw it into the St. Clair River.
bottle containing their note - "Having a good time at Tashmoo," was
written in neat cursive writing - sank to the bottom and remained there
for 97 years.
That is, until diver Dave Leander discovered it
last year. Leander owns Great Lakes Divecenter in Michigan's Shelby
"I thought it was pretty interesting," said Dennis
Pramstaller, 61, of California. "It's pretty bizarre, like this Bible
showing up on my doorstep."
Bernard Licata, president of the
Harsens Island St. Clair Flats Historical Society, had hoped news media
attention on the message in a bottle story would help him find
descendants of the Detroit women.
And did it ever.
article, which appeared in the Free Press last month, made news
worldwide. Now, about four dozen relatives of the young women are
planning to attend the upcoming Tashmoo Days, including Esper's daughter
who lives in Delaware, Licata said.
"I thought we'd find one or
two descendants or three or four. But this has just been incredible," he
said. "It feels good to connect the dots and bring a little brightness
to someone's life, and I think we've done that in a few cases here."
Days will be held Saturday to celebrate the days when the famed Tashmoo
steamship docked daily at the park in the early 1900s. Passengers, who
boarded in Detroit, could swim, dance, ride amusement rides and enjoy
other activities on the island at the northern end of Lake St. Clair.
who won't be attending, said he never met Selina Pramstaller, who died
in 1958. He met her daughter, who has since died, at his father's
funeral about a decade ago. Since then, he said, it has been really
interesting learning his family's history.
In addition to the
Pramstaller and Esper descendants - of which there are nearly three
dozen Esper grandchildren - Licata said some relatives of the last
captain of the Tashmoo steamer also are expected to attend Tashmoo Days.
said a special tent is being set up for the descendants near the
festivities so "they can talk and get acquainted and do all the things
they do at a family reunion."
Organizers also are preparing for an
untold number of people who will come to the island to see the now
famous bottle, which will be on loan and displayed in the historical
The increased interest means organizers are
dealing with logistics they never thought they would have to consider,
such as equipment to guide people in and out of the small museum, news
media parking and enough food and toilets for everyone.
But Licata said he believes the extra planning will be worth it.