Irene L. Albert Hardman died in September of 2011. From her bed in hospice, she gave a mission to her son, Thomas James Hardman, Jr. (Jim). She pointed at some knickknacks and said, “Where Michigan and Ohio meet … Indiana. Give these to the farmer. By a lake. Promise.” The appeal was confusing. His mother did a lot of family genealogy, but there was no clear connection to the area in Hillsdale County where the three states met. She may have visited in the area as a child or young woman when she lived in Detroit. Jim guessed that the lake might be either Clear Lake or Long Lake, which straddles the Michigan/Indiana line.

In the summer of 2016, Jim was able to fulfill his mother’s wish. He contacted the Hillsdale County Historical Society for help and was referred to the page on the Tri-State Marker. (CLICK HERE for that article.) With that information Jim came to Hillsdale County, found the marker and spoke with Dick Lemmon, the caretaker or son of Violet Lemmon, who might be the current owner of the land where the marker sits.  Mrs. Lemmon would be about the same age as Irene Albert Hardman’s older sister Mildred, but it’s still a mystery as to whether the Albert family have had relatives in the area or might have taken a vacation there. Jim Hardman observed that it wouldn’t have been unusual for people from Detroit to take a train out into the countryside back in those days. Mr. Lemmon told Jim that people keep moving the original marker, knocking chips off it and otherwise being disrespectful, or maybe just into taking souvenirs.

In his visit to the Tri-State Marker, Jim Hardman noticed several trinkets on top, which led him to speculate that the marker may have been a target for people who were geocachers. This is an outdoor recreational activity in which participants use a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver or mobile device and other navigational techniques to hide and seek containers, called "geocaches" or "caches", at specific locations marked by coordinates all over the world. It was quite popular when GPS devices were semi-unusual, right before google maps came along and then became very refined. Nowadays, of course, all cellphones have a built-in GPS, making this activity far easier. Here’s some information from Wikipedia ( about the activity:

A typical cache is a small waterproof container containing a logbook (with a pen or pencil). The geocacher enters the date they found it and signs it with their established code name. After signing the log, the cache must be placed back exactly where the person found it. Larger containers such as plastic storage containers (Tupperware or similar) or ammunition boxes can also contain items for trading, such as toys or trinkets, usually of more sentimental worth than financial.

Jim isn’t a geocacher, but his successful quest was as gratifying. He fulfilled his promise to his mother and he gained also some personal satisfaction. He spent a day in Hillsdale County, where he enjoyed the lovely landscape, far from the suburbs he knows.

“The air is fresh and the crops are green and it’s pretty easy to look around you and know that there are things bigger than yourself.”


Thomas James Hardman, Jr.

edited by JoAnne P. Miller