Williamstown Township is a rural community and farming is still a way of life there. For my story about the changes in farming I was directed to speak with Charlie Dietz.
Just about everyone I ran into knew this man somehow or another and he was considered a wealth of knowledge, seeing as he had grown up and lived in Williamston his whole life. However, trying to get in touch with this 90 year old man was quite a challenge. My search for Mr. Dietz really taught me how to be investigative by calling local businesses he regularly visited and asking if they had seen him around, calling his house multiple times and even showing up on his door step to try and get an interview.
After a week of searching for him he answered his phone early one Friday morning and within half an hour I was sitting at the local McDonald’s talking about farming with him. Just about every person that walked past our table stopped to say hi and see how he was doing. All I could think was, “this man is like a legend here”.
Mr. Dietz spoke to me for three hours about his life in Williamston, his family’s history, all the changes that have occurred over 90 years and how thankful and blessed he has been in life. I could have visited with this man all day long and really enjoyed talking with him. He was such an open and personable man with a lot to talk about. My morning spent with him is something I will never forget.
I would like to extend a thank you to WIlliamstown Township–to everyone at the township office, their government committees, the Williamston Chamber of Commerce, the Ingham County Sheriff’s Department, Mitch Lutzke, the Johnson family and everyone else that I met along the way. My experience as a journalist and reporting for this rural community was more than I could have expected. Everyone was welcoming and helpful whenever I called or showed up.
I chose to report for Williamstown Township because it is a smaller community and had a hometown feel and the people there made me feel welcomed as if I was apart of their community. Whether it was visiting a high school class, trying to track down a busy 90 year old man or chatting over dinner or coffee my reporting skills became fine tuned and a lot of my Friday mornings were spent with the people of Williamstown.
Thank you for such a great experience, it was very nice to get to know so many people and learn about a community that is proud of who they are and where they came from. Everything I learned this past semester I will never forget and has helped me become a better journalist.
Williamston was the main stop from Detroit to Grand Rapids when it was founded and became the commercial and social ‘hub’ of the farming and early industrial society in Eastern Ingham County. The area is still rural and some of the farms are still in use, while others sit dormant.
“For the most part, the percentage of people in agriculture, the farm was a place to live and a place to earn a living,” said Bill Turner, a Williamston resident who grew up on a farm until the 1950s.
Continue reading Williamston’s farming transformation