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Views from the Riverside

Jun 12, 2018

By Rob Ford, Riverside Title

As I enjoy my last few months of artificially cooled or heated and fluorescent light illuminated small town Title Company atmosphere, I pause to thank whatever force in charge of this universe for having steered my life’s path through the title world. (Editor’s note: Rob will be retiring at the end of the year.)

Of the many facets of this industry that I have mildly tolerated, the simple act of standing in a courthouse vault, running fingers through old books, piecing together a chain of title and contemplating that chain’s possible back story will be a friendly sensation to me long after the day that I finally step out for a minute and never come back to the office. I’m probably in the vast minority of people that feel this way and it’s quite possible that some modern day examiners are wondering what ancient technique I’m talking about here (courthouse? vault? books?), but that’s who I am; Rob Ford … old guy.

But those moments spent in antiquity lead to moments of clarity, I believe. For instance, my little hometown of Elk Rapids was founded by some 18th century entrepreneur named Percy Noble. That means that, like many other towns, many of our subdivisions and tracts of land bear his name; Nobles Addition, Noble’s 2nd Addition, Noble’s infinite Addition and so on. The back story is that Mr. Noble was a lumber man and Elk Rapids was a lumber and foundry town, like so many West Michigan towns.

Lots of wood was hauled to Elk Rapids to be milled and then shipped out across Lake Michigan. The end result was that Mr. Noble became a wealthy guy; the vast majority of trees in northern Michigan were cut down; and eventually, the mill burned down. The town of Elk Rapids has risen and fallen a couple of times since then and following that, via various exams of the records within the Antrim County Register of Deeds office, has been an interesting read. But as I said, time spent in antiquity leads to moments of modern day clarity.

Modern day Elk Rapids is a pretty nice place and I encourage everyone to come visit us. But, bring your own books because we are currently locked in a debate over expanding our local library. Back story here is that the local library is located within a building that once was the summer residence of Percy Noble and occupies a pretty exclusive piece of real estate on a small island here in our village. In a pretty nondescript building on an extraordinary piece of land, our library operates and has outgrown its walls. Expansion is necessary. But, a small and determined group of local citizens has provided ardent opposition to those wishing to make our library modern and robust.

I know … time for a moment of clarity on my way out the door. Books are made from the paper of trees. A guy cuts most of the trees within 100 miles of this town down and makes not one single book, but builds a big house on the lake. A hundred years later people want to expand that house to store more books and some people want to honor the guy that cut all the trees down by not putting more books into his old house. Antiquity, clarity and irony all in one; this is why I love the Title industry and when it’s over, I’m going to kind of miss it. (Thanks Rob, stay in touch …)

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