M.H. Hand of Plymouth, Wisconsin

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M.H. Hand of Plymouth, Wisconsin was a prominent lumberman and the largest lumber dealer in Plymouth during the 1800s.

What does a man with a mustache and a mural have to do with my house?

Well, I’m so glad you asked! Haha!

To help you fully understand why a man with a mustache has a connection to my home, I have to take you back to 2019. It was October, four months since our 1886 Victorian home was struck by lightning and caught fire. (We had only lived in the house just three short months after moving from North Carolina when it was struck. I’m thinking Wisconsin likes to welcome their new residents in BIG ways!)

2019

On October 11, 2019, I came to our home to take a look at the work that had been done that day, as I had done every day during the long and excruciating process of putting our home back together. 

I entered the room known as the library and proceeded into the closet {that also has a secret bookcase!} that is under the main staircase of the home. Prior to the fire, there was very old beadboard that lined the underside of the stairs that boasted fingerprints of whom stained the beadboard. 

On this particular day, as I walked through my home, I looked up towards the stairs and ceiling, and to my dismay, the beadboard had been removed. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed. 

Secret Bookcase in Victorian Home

I quickly overcame my disappointment when my cellphone flash light {there was no electricity in our home due to the demolition} caught the glimpse of words written in pencil.

With excitement, I aimed my flashlight again towards what I thought I had seen, and sure enough there was a signature! Only I had no idea what it read, other than the word “Plymouth”.

I proceeded to take a handful of photos and posted them on my personal Facebook page.  With the help of many friends chiming in their thoughts on what the writing said, we were able to figure it out! Who knew I had such amazing friends at reading old-world cursive!

The signature reads: M.H. Hand, Plymouth, Wis.

M.H. Hand, Plymouth, Wisconsin signature | Gathered In The Kitchen

I immediately got busy researching who M.H. Hand was and what connection he had with my house!

I knew he wasn’t a previous homeowner, because I already had all of those records. Prior to the lightning strike/house fire, I had gone to our county’s registrar/deed office and obtained copies of every single deed ever written for our land/house dating back to 1881. 

There have been 13 transactions of this property, including us as the current owners {I think that may be why we were the lucky ones to get struck by lightning! HA!}. M.H. Hand was not one of the owners. 

In my research, I came across and article online from the American Lumberman, dated June 5, 1915. The article was talking about how the community development in Plymouth, Wisconsin was in “full bloom”. The article goes on to say:

“the community development in Plymouth was raised by Hand. In this case it was the hand of M.H. Hand, of the M.H. Hand Lumber Company, who has had a hand in retail lumber associations and mutual lumber insurance work (in fact Hand is head of the latter) in Wisconsin these many years. Mike is as full of the milk of human kindness as a Sheboygan county Holstein is of the ordinary kind; so, he soaked up the community development argument in the AMERICAN LUMBERMAN like a sponge; and, not long after he had absorbed some of it, like a good lumberman and association man, he began talking the community gospel in his own town. He was one of the earliest coverts to the movement now nation wide in scope; so two years ago, armed with the AMERICAN LUMBERMAN and a just cause, he went after the merchants, manufactures, professional men and farmers of the community, and the Plymouth Community Development Club is the result”.

Who wouldn’t want to be described as someone who is full of milk! haha! Only in Wisconsin!

 M.H. Hand The Lumberman Poet, Plymouth, Wisconsin | Gathered In The Kitchen

I went on to research more about Michael Hand at our historical research center again as well as our public library. It was at the public library that I came across a book titled “Historical Souvenir Plymouth, Wis” for library use only. In this book, there was an entire biography page devoted to M.H. Hand.

M.H. Hand, Lumberman, Plymouth, Wisconsin | Gathered In The Kitchen

Not only was he a trusted  and worthy business owner and citizen, he had a killer mustache. {I’m a bit partial to mustaches because my dad has had one my entire life….and I love it!}

Fast Forward to 2021.

The town of Plymouth, Wisconsin has worked very hard at increasing the attraction of the downtown area. Main Street is lined with ornate buildings from the 1800s and boasts a charming, Hallmark feeling downtown.

We’ve lived in six states, and no state compares to Wisconsin when it comes to cute little downtowns that showcase a rich history from long ago. Wisconsin is littered with small towns and old buildings. It’s a quintessential trademark of Wisconsin.

In 2011, a group of artists called the Walldogs, came to Plymouth and painted 23 incredibly detailed scenes depicting life in Plymouth years ago, on many of the buildings. This year, in 2021, the Walldogs returned and painted 5 more murals. 

Return of the Walldogs Painters in Plymouth, Wisconsin | Gathered In The Kitchen

On my way to pick up my kiddos from school one day, I noticed a painting being done of a man with a mustache. 

I instantly recalled the photos I had discovered during my research of M.H. Hand and knew immediately that that was my guy!! 

After getting my kiddos, I did “the most embarrassing thing ever”…and parked my car on the side of the road and approached the artists. 

I didn’t even ask them who they were painting, I simply said “is this M.H. Hand??” 

The two ladies who were creating the mural said yes and proceeded to very kindly listen to me babble on about how I “knew” about M.H. Hand and that I had done a lot of research on him, etc.

M.H. Hand, Plymouth, Wisconsin signature | Gathered In The Kitchen

I told them that I had his signature in my home and that I could send them a photo of it if they would like to include it in their mural. 

Anat Ronen, the amazing designer of the mural, was super sweet and said she would love to include his signature if she had time. 

A few days later, when the mural was finished and waiting to be hung on the building’s side, I proudly saw M.H. Hand’s signature for all to enjoy! 

M.H. Hand, Plymouth, Wisconsin signature | Gathered In The Kitchen

I couldn’t help but feel so proud and honored to have contributed, even if it was in a small way, to honoring the man who supplied this town – and our home – with such quality lumber. 

M.H. Hand, Plymouth, Wisconsin signature | Gathered In The Kitchen

Hand’s Widow Wood

I wondered where the “Widow Wood” came from on the mural, so through some more research on my own, I came across and article from the American Lumberman in 1911, it mentions how Michael was a clever advertiser. He had a postcard created “any widow using this wood does not need to marry again just to get a husband to split it for her.”

M.H. Hand Widow Wood in Wisconsin | Gathered In The Kitchen
Plymouth Arts Center, Plymouth, Wisconsin | Gathered In The Kitchen

Given the fact that our house has been modified, was struck by lighting, caught fire, was demoed beyond belief…the house still stands … and stood during everything it had thrown at it. That is a true testament to the amazing builders and the lumber quality. 135 years later, this ol’ house is still standing firm, strong and very very proud. And I am honored that I get to call it mine. 

1886 vs 2021 Victorian house before and after | Gathered In The Kitchen

2 Comments

  1. Sharon L Chapman says:

    Oh, you live in the house at Reed and Mead! Lucky you I am a true Plymouthite and have always loved the looks of this home. Thanks for your article!

    1. Thanks Sharon! 🙂 I have to admit…it is a gorgeous home. Hence why I really wanted it! haha

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