S. E. (Stephen Edwin) Wait was a Traverse City, Michigan, educator, photographer, pharmacist, author, and historian. Wait was born on July 21, 1834 in Fairfield, Vermont, to a family of farmers. His family moved to northern Michigan in 1848. Wait moved in 1850 to the Old Mission Peninsula. At the age of 17, Wait was hired to teach five young men aboard the ship Madeline, anchored in Bowers Harbor. It was the first school for white students in the region; schools for Native Americans having been established earlier by missionaries. He also taught at Middle Village. Wait later worked for the Hannah Lay Company and taught Native Americans in Peshawbestown. He also worked for Dexter and Noble in the Schooner Albatros as a bookkeeper and cashier.
In July 1857 Wait married his first wife at Old Mission. With her, Wait had two daughters, one of whom was Minnie Wait Nicholson. After his first wife died, Wait married again. With his second wife Wait had two sons, E. Edmund and Ray C. Wait.
Wait was hired as a bookkeeper for the L. W. Hubbell and Company Drug Store in 1871. He purchased the store four years later and operated the store very successfully for the next 30 years. In 1901 Wait took his two sons into partnership and renamed the store S. E. Wait and Sons. In 1911, Ray moved to Detroit and began his own drug store business there. Edmund continued the business under the title S. W. Wait and Son in Traverse City until it was sold to Leon Moore.
S. E. Wait chronicled people, events, and scenery in the Traverse region. He also worked for the Smithsonian Institution, the War Department, the Agricultural Department where he may have taken a number of the slides of lumberjacks and lumber camps found in Box 14, and the Michigan State Board of Health as a Meterological Observer or the “Weather Man” for three Traverse City newspapers beginning in 1876: the Grand Traverse Herald, Record, and Record-Eagle. Wait also recorded information about local ice beginning in 1851. He wrote Old settlers: a historical and chronological record, together with personal experiences and reminiscences with W. S. Anderson, 1918, and a Partial history of the Whittier, Fox, Colburn, Packard, Brainerd and Wait families in 1917. There also at least two poems to his credit, First Poem, undated, and Our Bay, which was published in the Grand Traverse Herald in 1859.
S. E. Wait died on March 17, 1919. An exhibit of his images entitled “S. E. Wait: Traverse City photographer and Renaissance man” was mounted at the Grand Traverse Heritage Center in Traverse City from October 2005 through March 2006.
(This information is from Old settlers, catalog records for his books, Zoominfo, the collection, and online announcements about his exhibit viewed in May 2009.)