Christina Hall,Detroit Free Press
Dennis Pramstaller has been researching his family's history for more than a decade.
In the course of that fascinating work, a few odd things have happened.
A couple of years ago, he was surprised to receive a Bible, written in German, in the mail that had been bought at an estate sale. It dates to the 1860s and appears to be his great-grandfather's family Bible.
And just last month, an article that traced back to his family sparked global attention.
His grandfather's sister, Selina Pramstaller, and her friend, Tillie Esper, were enjoying a summer visit to Michigan's Tashmoo Park on Harsens Island on June 30, 1915, when they wrote a message, stuffed it into a bottle, corked it and threw it into the St. Clair River.
The bottle containing their note - "Having a good time at Tashmoo," was written in neat cursive writing - sank to the bottom and remained there for 97 years.
That is, until diver Dave Leander discovered it last year. Leander owns Great Lakes Divecenter in Michigan's Shelby Township.
"I thought it was pretty interesting," said Dennis Pramstaller, 61, of California. "It's pretty bizarre, like this Bible showing up on my doorstep."
Bernard Licata, president of the Harsens Island St. Clair Flats Historical Society, had hoped news media attention on the message in a bottle story would help him find descendants of the Detroit women.
And did it ever.
The article, which appeared in the Free Press last month, made news worldwide. Now, about four dozen relatives of the young women are planning to attend the upcoming Tashmoo Days, including Esper's daughter who lives in Delaware, Licata said.
"I thought we'd find one or two descendants or three or four. But this has just been incredible," he said. "It feels good to connect the dots and bring a little brightness to someone's life, and I think we've done that in a few cases here."
Tashmoo Days will be held Saturday to celebrate the days when the famed Tashmoo steamship docked daily at the park in the early 1900s. Passengers, who boarded in Detroit, could swim, dance, ride amusement rides and enjoy other activities on the island at the northern end of Lake St. Clair.
Pramstaller, who won't be attending, said he never met Selina Pramstaller, who died in 1958. He met her daughter, who has since died, at his father's funeral about a decade ago. Since then, he said, it has been really interesting learning his family's history.
In addition to the Pramstaller and Esper descendants - of which there are nearly three dozen Esper grandchildren - Licata said some relatives of the last captain of the Tashmoo steamer also are expected to attend Tashmoo Days.
He said a special tent is being set up for the descendants near the festivities so "they can talk and get acquainted and do all the things they do at a family reunion."
Organizers also are preparing for an untold number of people who will come to the island to see the now famous bottle, which will be on loan and displayed in the historical society's museum.
The increased interest means organizers are dealing with logistics they never thought they would have to consider, such as equipment to guide people in and out of the small museum, news media parking and enough food and toilets for everyone.
But Licata said he believes the extra planning will be worth it.