October 17, 2018Editor's note: The following is the first in a series written by Doug Hunter. A lifelong Capac area resident, Hunter is a farmer, writer and historian.
Seventy years ago today, October 17, 1948, a Sunday, the greatest unsolved mystery of Capac began in the woods 400 miles north of Capac near Newberry.
There was a light snow falling in the woods as Capac residents Clarence 'Charlie' Waltz, Dr. Grover Brockman and well-known merchant Hale Currier decided to take a walk to look for partridge—a game bird that the season was ending on October 20.
Their wives stayed behind in the corrugated aluminum lodge that was called 'CAPDET.' The name came from combining Capac and Detroit, the residences of the lodge's owners.
Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Lang were due up later in the evening, so dinner would wait for their arrival.
Dr. Brockman took a trail and told Hale and Charlie—also known as 'Reddy'—he would see them back at camp. On their trail, Reddy and Hale came to a fork in the road.
"You take the left and I'll take the right," Hale said to Reddy. "See you later."
Reddy watched as his longtime friend walked away. This was the last time anyone would ever see Hale Currier, the merchant husband and father of two sons.
At 6 feet tall and 163 pounds, Hale Currier was in excellent shape. A combat veteran of the trenches in France during World War I.
The snow was intensifying as Dr. Brockman returned to the lodge as darkness approached. Then Reddy Waltz arrived. Everyone was alarmed as Hale failed to show. This was not like Hale, they thought. Something was wrong.
The two men took out their rifles and shot into the snow-filled sky as complete darkness engulfed the wilderness. Straining their ears, they waited for a reply from Hale the woodsman.
The search for popular Capac merchant Hale Currier dominated the headlines in October of 1948. The village offered a $500 reward for information leading to his discovery.
There was only silence. It was so quiet you could almost hear the snow falling upon the earth.
Perhaps Hale had walked the four-and-a-half miles to the main road to meet the Langs and guide them into the camp, they surmised.
Again and again, they fired their guns into the darkness. No report came back. At 7:30, they saw headlights from a vehicle approaching and their hearts began to race.
Lucie Currier prayed silently that her husband of 27 years would emerge. The car rolled to a stop and the five lifelong friends ran to the vehicle. Elmer Lang and his wife exited the car. Hale Currier was not there.
Panic now set in at CAPDET as the snow accumulated. Frantically, the friends stayed up throughout the night.
"Hale has his compass and a pocketful of matches, and is dressed warmly," Lucie said.
She noted that Hale was relentless about survival, and with matches and a compass, they all agreed if anyone could survive a night in the wilderness, it was Hale Currier.
Even before first light, the guns were firing to alert Hale to their location. Still silence. Was it a heart attack or a stroke, they pondered? Where was he?
A plan of action needed to be implemented. The first Plan A was to notify a neighbor, Lawrence Kosequat, a native American Indian who knew the area better than anyone as he and his ancestors had lived there for centuries.
Kosequat at the time was working for the logging company that was presently harvesting the timber on the CAPDET property. Immediately and instinctively, he set out and did a one mile radius of the campsite, looking for tracks in the now 6 inches of snow that covered the ground. There were none.
Plan B was to travel to Newberry and enlist the state police and the conservation officers for help. As the party of CAPDET arrived at the post, there were posters on the door picturing another missing man 13 miles north—a 63-year-old trapper who did not return as scheduled. That search had been in progress for several days and bore not a clue as to his whereabouts.
The post commander placed a call to Lansing and requested help, and called upon conservation officers elsewhere in the Upper Peninsula who had located 99 of the 100 missing hunters they were assigned to find.
The final plan of action was to call down to Capac and ask for volunteers to assist in the search.
Hale Currier was not just a man missing in the woods. He was an institution to the citizens of the Capac area. His store was the favored gathering spot of all who did business and socialized in the small village.
Part II, 'The Search,' will appear in the October 31 issue of Tri-City Times. Email Doug at
Doug Hunter is a lifelong Capac resident, a farmer, historian and writer. His great-great grandfather, Noble Hunter, founded the Capac Journal in the late 1800s.