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[ ] The effects of man on the earth, although universally recognized, have received but occasional systematic attention.—Carl Sauer, “Man’s Influence upon the Earth,” 1916 3 Michigan, 1916–1923 Sauer’s euphoria on leaving Chicago and attaining his doctorate was soon tempered by the realities of academic life in Ann Arbor. Pressures of work, the blastingly cold winters, and an anti-German wartime campaign to oust him from the department because of his German parentage got him down. Although at first warmly welcomed, after two years he confessed, “I’m not theleastbitenthusiasticaboutthisplace.”1 AdifficultpregnancysentLorena home to Warrenton. During the separation she worried that he would be called up for military service. He consoled her by saying that rumors of the length of the war were probably exaggerated and that any medical examination would pick up his “unreliable heart,” which would probably debar him, since “no doctor ever looked at me without saying something about it.”2 He was never even asked to undergo a medical exam and was never drafted. Their son Jonathan was born on July 6, 1918. A few months later Sauer’s father died. For all his father’s worrying nature and religious strictness, Carl had loved him dearly, and deeply appreciated the sacrifices and encouragement he had bestowed on him. Beyond that, William’s steadfastness and love of learning had left an indelible mark on his son. Just over three years later, Carl and Lorena’s daughter Elizabeth was born, on January 3, 1921. The Michigan venue to which Sauer came in early 1916 was essentially a geology department, in which he was the sole geographer. His courses 38 to pass on a good earth were immediately popular. His freshman Introduction to Geography class attracted 130 students and his Commercial Geography had 93, “more students than all the other men in the department, though the youngest member with the lowest salary.”3 His reputation as a good and interesting lecturer spread rapidly, with many business administration students directed to his commercial geography class. He led departmental summer schools, usually to Niagara and Put-in-Bay Island on Lake Erie, as he had during the summer appointment the year before. After three years at Michigan he created a departmental field center at Mill Springs in south-central Kentucky. It would prove popular with students and some staff, soon becoming a pivotal training ground for geographers from all over the country.4 The Mill Springs Field Station, Kentucky To provide students with comprehensive fieldwork experience embracing all elements of terrain and habitat, Sauer sought a locale that would offer considerable diversity of landforms and habitats within a relatively small area. Michigan was a poor place to experience geographical diversity. Since the entire state was covered by a fairly featureless mantle of glacially derived clays, silts, and sands, it lacked striking physiographic, structural, and geological variety. Scouring U.S. Geological Survey maps for a suitable field site elsewhere, Sauer settled on the Monticello Quadrangle in Kentucky, which promised a wide range of geology, landforms, soils, and economic conditions. Nearby were other distinctive regions—such as the Cumberland Plateau, the Pine Mountains, the Nashville Basin (the Pennyroyal), the Blue Grass Country, the Lexington Plain, the deeply incised Cumberland River Valley (with Cumberland Gap, the gateway to early westward expansion ), and many oil wells and coal mines. Mill Springs provided an excellent micro­cosm. “Within a small compass the region represents conditions that are characteristic of a number of large areas,” he wrote in the Michigan summer school catalog of 1920. Exploring the Monticello area during the summer of 1919, he found an ideal spot near the Cumberland River and negotiated with a local builder and owner of an unused lumber mill to renovate it for student quarters. The station was virtually inaccessible by road, other than a rough eleven-mile track to Burnside, a halt on the Cincinnati–New Orleans railroad.5 Trans- Michigan 39 port along the valley-bottom flats was normally by river steamer. There was a landing stage below the mill and at every valley mouth. Most local produce went to Nashville, about a hundred miles as the crow flies along the sinuously winding Cumberland River. Sauer’s letters to Lorena from the field station describe the practical problems of renovating the mill, waterproofing the roof, getting a kitchen going, establishing a water supply, building latrines, and arranging for regular supplies of milk, butter, and meat from local farmers. Students picked pounds of blackberries daily. Hygiene was...


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