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Betty Beeby Collection

Identifier: RH-A-213

Scope and Contents

Most of the correspondence is letters to Norton Pearl, Betty Beeby, and Jane Beeby, but letters to other family members (Ethel, Myrtle, and Dorothy Pearl, etc) are included as well. In addition, the collection also consists of letters to Loran Post, the Dahne family, Henry Graves, the Waite family, and the Yunker family. The diaries belong to John W. Pearl, Norton Pearl (ranging from 1890 to1954), Alice Pearl, and Myrtle Pearl. The bulk of the photographs are from Glacier National Park and family photographs. The drawings/publications consist of the illustrations that Betty Beeby has produced for books, assignments, or as independent projects.

The collection also consists of Norton Pearl’s school and military papers. This includes Central Normal School yearbooks, schedules, and social papers (including the Phi Delta Pi fraternity). There are several books and pamphlets on health education. Norton’s military papers include 32nd Division correspondence, sports schedules, and burial reports.


  • Creation: 1820-1970


John Wesley Pearl

John Wesley Pearl was born in New York on October 7, 1838 to Cassius and Rozella (Stafford) Pearl. John married Adda Zonora Harris on September 16, 1873 in Battle Creek, Michigan. They had two children, Norton Harris (b. 1878) and Ethel Joyce (b. 1881). Adda contracted scarlet fever and died on February 8, 1883. She is buried in Bay View Cemetery in Central Lake, Michigan. John married Alice Hadcock (1856-1907) in 1885. They had one child, Myrtle Pearl (b. 1890). John W. died of Epilepsy on June 27, 1914 in Eastport, Michigan.

Norton Pearl

Norton Harris Pearl was born on November 4, 1878. He married Dorothy Waite Pearl on December 18, 1919. They had four children, Margaret Ann (b. 1921), twins Betty Joan and Jane Joyce (born 1923), and Dorothy Jean (born 1924).

Norton attended Central State Normal School in Mount Pleasant, Michigan to train as a physical education teacher. During his two years there, he partnered with Loran Post and they became known as “Ike (Norton) and Spike (Loran).” They ran the Mount Pleasant Boarding House “Post House,” from 1902 to 1906. For the first two years, they sold board for $1.25 a week which included three meals a day, seven days a week. In the spring of 1904, Ike and Spike traveled to St. Louis for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition to work as a guide. They returned to Michigan in November, 1904 and graduated from Central State Normal in 1906.

From 1906-1907, Norton served as principal at the Bay City School in Bay City, Michigan. In 1910, he was appointed principal of McKinley Public School in Butte, Montana for $1,390 a year. In 1912, Superintendent James Galen hired Norton to patrol the Two Medicine area of Glacier National Park. Pearl recounts his patrol at the Two Medicine Lake Ranger Station in his 1910-1913 diaries included in the collection. In one of his diary entries, Norton recalls the death of ranger Joe Prince, who froze to death on a trip with Pearl from the Early Cut Bank Ranger Station to St. Mary, Montana in 1913. Prince was found frozen with his gloves off, still loading his pipe. Granddaughter Leslie Lee (daughter of Jane), published a book in 1994 about his adventures entitled Backcountry Ranger in Glacier National Park 1910-1913: The Diaries and Photographs of Norton Pearl. Norton was later appointed assistant supervisor of physical education in Detroit Public School in 1914 and founded the Inter-School Athletic Association. The U.S. government wanted an athletic officer with each army division, and Norton was appointed athletic director at Camp MacArthur in Waco, Texas. He was in charge of the Thirty-Second Division’s football team, which he later brought to Detroit to play. After being officially enrolled in the army, Norton was promoted to Captain. In 1918, after the casualties of the battle of Château-Thierry, Captain Norton was named Burial Officer for his Division. He was later appointed Moral Officer at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, where he met his future wife and helped entertain wounded men.

In 1921, Captain Norton and Captain H.E. Brown published the book Health by Stunts. This book is an investigation of Detroit Public Schools in order to create an athletic program that boys would like and would help develop their skills. According to the book, “old stunts and contests were not only not participated in but were almost entirely forgotten. Boys are spending 2-3 hours a day, sometimes seven days a week at picture shows or other passive entertainment. They were not taking part in anything athletic.” Norton died in 1960 and is buried with Dorothy in Lakeview Cemetery in Eastport, Michigan.

Dorothy Pearl

Dorothy (Waite) Pearl was born on February 20, 1896 to Benjamin and Nelly Waite in a farmhouse in Kalamazoo. Dorothy graduated from Western State Normal School in 1918. She taught school in Kalamazoo and Detroit. While living in Detroit, Dorothy enjoyed singing to soldiers wounded from World War I. She met Norton while he was posted in Ford Hospital as a burial officer. According to her obituary, Norton Pearl was planning on going on an expedition to the North Pole, but she “nabbed him in the nick of time.”

Years later, Dorothy was awarded France’s Legion of Honor for her work with French orphans after World War II. In 1946, Dorothy was the first woman from Michigan to be elected president of American Legion Auxiliary Legion. In 1946, she founded the Girl’s State and Girl’s Nation Programs of the American Legion. This summer program still teaches high school students how state government works by creating and running their own government. At the end of the summer, two girls from each state program are selected for “Girl’s Nation,” to form a mock national government. Dorothy Pearl died in 1991 at the age of 95.

Betty (Pearl) Beeby

Betty (Pearl) Beeby was born March 26, 1923. She attended Cass Technical High School in Detroit, Michigan. During her senior year, Betty submitted her senior portfolio and won the Booth Scholarship to New York’s Pratt Institute. Because of her excellent skills, she entered Pratt as a second year student. After graduating in 1940, Betty was immediately hired by Time-Life magazine. She met her husband, Navy Lieutenant James Addison Beeby, in New York and they married March 29, 1944. She quit her job at Time-Life when she was pregnant with her first child. Betty and James Beeby had four children, James Addison Jr., (born 1945), Jane Joan (born 1946), John Addison (born 1949) and Josephine (Josie) Jean (born 1955). In 1950, the Beebys moved to Kalamazoo. In 1960, Betty published her first book, “Just Josie” for preschoolers. It earned the 1960 Chicago Book Clinic Award for Excellence in the Bookmaking Arts. In 1966, Betty did the illustrations for “Whistle up the Bay” and “The Silver Trumpet” in 1968. She is the illustrator of 14 children’s books and several college textbooks. Betty spent four years working for Sequoia Press in Kalamazoo and did assignments for Kellogg, Gerber baby foods, and Selmer Band Instruments. At Sequoia, she created the cover designs for a 27 book series by the Contemporary Writers in Christian Perspective Company. In 1974, Betty moved to Eastport, Michigan and was commissioned to paint a 50-foot mural at Fort Michilimackinac in Mackinac, Michigan. She passed away in 2015.

In 1973, Betty discovered the Peterboro letters in the loft of her grandfather’s barn in Eastport, Michigan. The letters were written by Minnie Griffin in the early 1900s to her son, Loran Post. After many years of research, Betty learned that Minnie’s parents died when she was 15. At age 17, she gave birth to Loran and was forced to give up the baby. She was told that her son had died when he was two weeks old. When Loran’s foster mother told him he was adopted, he began searching for his real mother. On July 16, 1904, Loran found Minnie and they decided to meet. In 1988, Betty and composer Lynne Palmer used the letters to create “The Peterboro Letters” concert and ballet.

James Addison Beeby

James Addison Beeby was born December 29, 1909 in Sparta, Michigan to Edwin and Grace (Chalmers) Beeby. He graduated from the University of Chicago School of Pharmacy in 1932. He served in World War Two as a PT Boat Commander in the Pacific. He started his own pharmacy store, but had to declare bankruptcy and it closed. In 1974, he retired from Snow’s Pharmacy of Kalamazoo. He died January 6, 1992.


88 boxes : 43.75 cubic feet and made up of 88 boxes

Language of Materials


Physical Description

The collection is approximately 43.75 cubic feet and made up of 88 boxes. Within these boxes are correspondence, photographs, drawings/publications, scrapbooks, school papers, newspaper clippings, financial information, and diaries. The bulk of the collection is made up of correspondence and photographs.

The majority of the collection seems to be in fairly good condition. Many of the letters are yellowing and missing envelopes, but are in stable condition. The Beeby family scrapbooks are extremely fragile and should be handled with care. Photocopies of some Norton Pearl and Loran Post correspondence has been kept to preserve envelopes that are missing from the originals.


This collection contains the family papers of the Pearl-Beeby family, ranging from 1820 to 1970. The collection was donated to Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections in a series of donations from 1977 to 2010 by James and Betty Beeby.


Information for this finding aid has been taken from the September 24, 1998 Hungry Horse News article (Norton Pearl’s time as a Ranger), Dorothy Pearl’s obituary published in the Kalamazoo Gazette on June 13, 1991, American Legion Girl’s State website (, and the article “Lyrics and lithographs” published in the July 29, 1988 Lansing Gazette.

Betty Beeby Collection Finding Aid
Devin Erlandson and Katie Jones
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository

Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490