Alfred Levely, 1871-1940
Artist, Local Historian, Shopkeeper
Sculptor and poet Alfred Levely was locally known for both his artistic talent and his encyclopedic knowledge of local history and lumbering lore. He created painted concrete sculptures featuring northern Michigan themes and then displayed them in the yard adjacent to his gas station on M-30 to attract curious customers.
Levely and Dundas Family of Hope
Levely was born in 1871, in Ontario. His family emigrated to the Hope area in the late 1870s, with farming as their occupation. Alfred grew up in a large family with four half siblings and three younger siblings: Robert, Alice Elizabeth, William Evans, and James Nelson Dundas; Adolphus Thomas, John Sanford, and Anna May Levely. His mother was a Maxwell; her siblings emigrated around the same time as the Levelys.
Alfred Levely married, had children, and lived most of his life in the Midland County area. He and his family moved to California around 1908 where they lived for a few years. They settled in San Bernardino and Levely worked as a painter. By 1920 they had returned to Midland County, where he settled his family in Midland working as a house painter, now with his son Noble working as well.
By 1930, the family returned to the Edenville area and Alfred worked as a shopkeeper, running a gas station on the corner of M30 and Shearer Roads. During this period of his life, he became well known as a poet and sculptor. He sculpted monumental statues out of concrete, mostly focusing on Native American portraits, many based on real life people, modeled from Alfred’s memory. These were displayed prominently at his gas station on the corner of Meridian and Shearer Roads.
One statue featured Indian Dan, a well-known person from the Saginaw Valley, widely respected for his hunting and trapping skills. Levely depicted him as he would have traveled through the forests. He also created sculptures of a Native American teepee, a bear cub, and an Indian Chief named Shop-e-na-gon.
Levely sculpted the lumberjack figures for the Lumberman’s Memorial monument featured at Wixom’s lumberjack picnics. The sculptures were of retired lumbermen that he knew. The man holding a long-handled pike pole was modeled on his half brother William Dundas and the other who held a peavey was modeled on Otis Turpenning of Owosso.
Over the years, the bulk of Levely’s work featuring Native American themes has been purchased and moved by a private owner. It is currently on display at a public park in Gladstone Michigan. The Lumberjack Memorial sculptures were donated by his nephew William Robert Dundas to the Midland County Historical Society where one of them is on permanent display.
Author: Catherine Sias
Originally Posted: May 29, 2017
- Hope, MI, 1880
- San Bernardino, CA, 1910
- Midland, MI, 1920
- Edenville, MI, 1930
Ancestry.com member family tree for Alfred Henry Levely
Ancestry.com member family tree for William Robert Dundas
Harper Family Papers, private collection of Catherine Sias
Biographical newspaper article dated 1937 found in family scrapbook, private collection of Galen Gransden