Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Albert Takes A Wife - 1886

Albert Takes A Wife - 1886

The rose color of her cheeks made me think of peach blossoms in the spring. Yes, I always was smitten by Alta May Usher’s beauty. We both attended the EUB Church at Leisure. She lived a mile south of the Church just past Uncle Wilshire and Aunt Mary Johnston’s farm. With mom gone, I got to thinking about taking a wife and Alta May was my top choice. After courting her for a short time I suggested marriage and she was very excited and enthused about the idea. Our marriage (January 21, 1886) started out the same year the Statue of Liberty was being constructed.

Alta May, at age 22, became mother to my siblings still at home (Charles 19, Mary Ann 16, and Minnie 12). Plus dad lived with us until the summer of 1886 when he married a second time. It was a good match. Henrietta (Fisher) Warfield had lost her husband, had two young children (Fred and Clara) and needed help caring for her farm 3 miles straight south of us. We were back and forth between the two farms a lot and raised most of our hay on Henrietta’s place. The peaches were becoming our most profitable crop. We were able to invest in new orchards and make some improvements to the house during our first years of our marriage. Household expenses were very low. We paid 10 cents a gallon for kerosene to light the house at night. Evenings were always a joy as we cast away the cares and distractions of the day by playing games and reading to the boys.

Tragic struck the family again in 1887 and sister Olive saved the day. My sister Mary Ann became pregnant by a neighbor boy (Herschel Adkin - 18). They did not get married and Otto was born 4/26/1887. Do to complications, Mary Ann died 9 days later (May 5). Sam and Olive adopted and raised Otto until he was 12 (1899). Then Otto moved to live with his father’s family – Herschel and Eda Adkin who then had 3 boys (Bob 4, Roy 2 and Harry a new born). Later in life Otto Galbreath and Herschel Adkin jointly owned a dance hall east of Pullman on Upper Scott Lake. There was never any animosity between the families. Mary’s death was just one of those things that happened.

In 1888 I took out a mortgage for $2,000 and other money changed hands. As a result, Alta May and I ended up owning the main 60 acre farm. Brother Lonson and Minnie lived across the street. Olive and Sam took title to the 40 acres on the corner, although they lived ½ mile north of the store on the west side of the street. Olive and Sam Galbreath deeded the 40 acres over to my brother Charles and Minnie after they were married (6-21-1891). Dad and Henrietta lived on her farm. (Photo L to R me, Alta May, Henry, Minnie, Lonson, Olive & Sam)

As for our children, we first had Maxwell Glen and then Rosco Glen (see photo). Yes, we always had at least one dog on the farm. The most tragic year of my life, 1891, started out with the death of two and a half year old Rosco. Shortly after our third baby died at birth and Alta May died of complications. My new family had been reduced to Max and me. I felt the same pain in my gut and tornado in my head as I felt when mother and Mary Ann passed. My head told me they are all at peace. I prayed for God to give me a cheerful heart. On the outside I kept positive as the farm and house needed running and 5-year old Max needed me to be strong.

Note - above written by Martin O based on facts and some speculation. Were you at the 100th Overhiser Cousin's Reunion? It was held in 1993 on the same site where Otto and Herschel once owned a dance hall.

2010 At The Farm

The fruit trees are resting. All is well - Cold, wind, snow and looking for signs of spring. May all be well with you in 2010.
Eat fresh, canned or frozen fruit!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Young Adult Albert - 1875/85

Young Adult Albert - 1875/85
I was 18 to 28 years old during this time frame. My world was the farm with occasional trips to South Haven, Glenn, Fennville or Allegan. My first thoughts are of my mother (Sarah) who was always in control of her emotions except for the time of the 1871 Chicago fire. Then she cried for several days thinking the world was coming to an end. The smoke was so dense we did not see the sun for 2 or 3 days. Other times, Mom was in charge of our family. She kept the house running smoothly, kept us well fed, clothed and healthy with her home remedies. We were encouraged to read, attend Sunday school and love one another.

In the fall Mom was very busy preparing for winter. From the garden we would dig potatoes, carrots and turnips for winter storage. Peaches, cherries pears and plums were canned. Meat was smoked or canned and apples and cabbage stored in the root cellar. Day after day the milk cows and chickens provided us milk, butter, cream and eggs.

Church, Sunday school, my McGuffery Readers and Old Ben Franklin shaped my moral principles, and those of our community. We were taught to be self-sufficient at an early age. From the Bible, “to everything there is a season” and “more blessed to give than receive” From our reader, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.” From Old Ben, “Waste not, want not” and “don’t put off till tomorrow what you can do today.” These were all great life lessons.

Thanksgiving type meals were shared every Sunday in the fall with aunts, uncles and cousins. The women and older girls would talk while preparing the meal. The young kids would be playing inside or outside depending on the weather. Older boys and us men would say we were going to the barn to look at the new calf or piece of equipment. When in fact, we were testing the hard cider.

We always had hired men and young boys working on the farm. These were all neighbors and many were relatives. Sam Galbreath, at age 22, came to work with us in 1873. He moved to Casco from Indiana and lived with his relatives. My oldest sister, and best friend, Olive was 13 then. Sam kept working with us until he and Olive were married August 3, 1879. The wedding photograph was taken right in the living room of our house. Justice of the Peace, Thomas Iddles performed the ceremony. At this time my brother Lonson was also married and settled on a small farm across the road to the south. Ida had married and moved away.

The year after Sam and Olive were married, Sam Leisure lost both hands working on our farm. He was running sorghum through a press. I helped take him to South Haven to get his stubs stitched up. My dad, Henry, felt so bad about the accident that he paid my new brother-in-law Sam Galbreath to construct a store building for Sam Leisure to run. It was built on the SW corner of our farm and the lumber was milled right on our farm. That same year a wood framed church was built on the opposite corner. Dad helped build the Church and was on the Board of Trustees at the time. Uncle Lonson Overhiser was also a Church leader as was Uncle Wilshire and Aunt Mary Ann (Overhiser) Johnson. That church burned and was rebuilt in 1906. The church, store and I.O.O.F. Hall, at the NW corner, were the main community gathering places all my life.

I had been taking more responsibility for selecting the fruit trees and caring for the farm. Then on March 4, 1884 my mother passed away. This loss hit me like a ton of bricks. She was 46, dad 49 and I was 27 at the time. Also at home were Charles 17, Mary Ann 15 and Minnie 10. Dad tried to run the house but it just was not the same. Olive and Sam helped keep us going. The loss of my mother got me thinking about taking a wife.

Note - above written by Martin O based on facts and speculation.

At the Farm December 2, 2009
The farm fall cleanup is almost completed. The boxes and ladders are out of the orchards. Equipment is being stored for the winter and repairs being made. Trimming has begun on apples and will continue until next spring.

Allan will be attending different agricultural meetings this winter to learn new techniques and help set policy. He continues to serve as the Casco Township Supervisor. A new fire station is being built and the Township is in the process of acquiring a parcel of land on Lake Michigan for a new park. Kim meets herself coming and going to basketball games and practice as all five kids are playing this winter. Snow cannot come soon enough for the kids who belong to a ski club.
Stay warm and eat fruit!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Albert's School Days - 1863/72

Albert’s School Days - 1863/72

My (Albert here again) days at Iddles School were full of exciting events and helped expand my mind. I attended from age 5 to age 15. We used the McGuffery’s Readers, which emphasized reading, spelling, vocabulary and public speaking. When it was my turn to read aloud, I would always get very nervous. When it was recess time we just had fun. Exploring the woods while walking to and from school with Lonson, Olive and Ida was also lots of fun. Charles and Mary Ann did not attend school until after I had finished.

If Dad (Henry) needed help on the farm, my older brother Lonson and I would not go to school. We would just continue in our readers where we had left off. During my school years the farm matured. Buildings got constructed; cows, horses, pigs and chickens were added; crops planted; and orchards started. We had apple trees as far back as I can remember. In the early 1870s we started having peaches to sell off the farm. Most everyone started growing peaches for shipment to Chicago.

We always were one of the first farms in the area to add modern conveniences. This was possible thanks to Dad and Mom selling things off the farm and Dad’s carpentry jobs. In 1870 a windmill was added to pump water into a big tank in our house attic. This gave us running water to go with our Kerosene lights. We also had a steam-powered sawmill, a sorghum press and a sugarhouse for boiling down sap to make maple syrup.

In spite of all these conveniences, we all worked hard. We boys fed the animals, gathered eggs, cleaned out the barn and other buildings, and worked in the various crops. We used horses a lot for working the fields and going places. Olive and Mary Ann helped mom run the house, preserve food, prepare meals and care for Charles and Mary Ann. Meals were always great and we frequently had relatives and neighbors join us for a meal. In turn we would visit other homes and feast on chicken, roast pork, beef, venison, rabbit, squirrel or pheasant. With these meats we would have potatoes, vegetables and hot biscuits with wild honey. This would all be followed with pies. Later in my life the Church became a major gathering place for the community.

On a Monday in October 1871, the last fall I attended school, it became very dark and smoky. Later we found out the smoke was from the Chicago fire, which burned from Sunday October 8 until Tuesday. It was very windy and very dry. At that same time there were fires in Wisconsin and several places in Michigan, including Holland, Manistee, Port Huron and other places. As an adult I heard the speculation that a wide spread meteor shower may have started all these fires. To this day, I still think of those fires when I see a shooting star. Talk with you later.
Note - Above written by Martin O based on some facts and lots of speculation.

At The Farm November 2, 2009

New this year - the farm retail building will be open 11 a. m. to 5 p. m. on weekends (Sat & Sun) throughout November. So, you can stop in and stock up for the winter. Apples available from the cooler are: Cameo, Fuji, Golden Delicious, Honey Crisp, Ida Red, Jonagold, Mutsu and Sonata.

At the farm, boxes, crates, and equipment are being stored for the winter. As soon as these fall cleanup activities are completed the annual tree trimming will begin. The kids have completed their soccer games and it is time for basketball. Your support of the farm operation this past year is greatly appreciated.

Don’t forget to eat fruit!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Second Fruit Farmer

Second Fruit Farmer
Albert Overhiser be my name. I am the second family fruit farmer to work the land in Section 14. My parents are Henry and Sarah and there were a total of 8 children in our family. I am the second oldest. I have led a very exciting life that was very sad at times. My great grand son Martin Wayne (b. 7-11-1940) will be telling my story in his blog (what ever that is?) the next few months. Martin may need to speculate about some of the details about my live. That is fine with me.

First off let me straighten out my name. My birth certificate reads William Albert Overhiser (January 11, 1857) Blackford County Indiana. However, I always went by “Albert” and even put “A. W. Overhiser” on my barn. A copy of the 1895 Casco Township Atlas also listed A. W. Overhiser as the owner of 60 acres in Section 14. But we are jumping way ahead.

In 1838, when my dad was 5 his family resettled from New York State to Indiana. In the fall of 1860, at age 2-1/2, I moved with my parents to Michigan. My brother Lonson was 4½ and Olive just a baby. My second sister Ida May was born in October of 1861 after our first year in Michigan. We first lived near Allegan. Dad build a house for a family on a big farm.

The next two years we lived in Casco Township (Section 12) and in 1863 dad bought a 100-acre wooded property in Section 14. This was about 3 miles away so we would walk or ride in the horse drawn wagon to work on the property. There were no roads just paths through the woods. Brother Lonson (age 7 at that time) and dad cut down trees so a house could be build on top of the hill. I got to help by carrying things and staying out of the way. After a water well was dug, I got to carry water to the livestock. A small house got build and we moved to the new farm.

The second year on that farm my Uncle Lonson (Dad’s younger brother) moved to Casco from Indiana. This was great because we had cousins to play with. My brother Lonson and I attended the District #3 Iddles School. It was straight north through the woods one-mile and a little east along the road that went between Pullman and Lake Michigan. Thomas Iddles built our log school in 1859. Just down the hill to the east of the school there were springs. We were told that Indians camped in that area because of the springs.

Jane Brown Woodruff was the first teacher I can remember. She was a great teacher and took good care of us kids. One day she sent us home early because a big storm was coming. She lived in the same direction as we did so she ran with Lonson and me through the woods and over a fence. We herd a very loud noise and when we looked back we saw huge trees being blown over. My, was that scary!

When I was 10 years old (in 1867) a frame school building replaced the old log school. John Fabin was paid $300 to build that school. My dad could have built the school but he was very busy running our farm, our sawmill and doing carpentry jobs work for neighbors. That is enough for now. Will chat later.

At The Farm October1, 2009
The apples continue to be picked and pumpkins are ready. The retail building at 109th Ave and 64th Street will be open until the end of October, as will the apple U-Pick orchards. Don’t forget to print out the u-pick 10% off coupon from the farm website

The two newest arrivals at the farm are Border Collies. They are brother and sister born July 28th. Daisy and Woody (Jack Russell Terriers) will now have to compete for attention from the kids.

Kim and Allan just celebrated their wedding anniversary. They were saying, with the big apple operation they have developed there would no time for a fall wedding. Remember kids, don’t plan weddings during the fall harvest.

Don’t forget to eat an apple a day!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Rhythm of the Seasons

Rhythm of the Seasons
Do you feel it in the air? Labor Day has become our symbolic end of summer. Fall is here, kids are back in school and football games can be watched Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Fall harvest, winter rest, spring wake up, summer growth. Around and around we go in an endless circle of life. King of the fruit harvest has been the apple from the beginning of time. Apples were in the Garden of Eden, the stone ages, and the ancient Greeks and Romans grew several verities. Lets not forget John Chapman aka “Johnny Appleseed”, William Tell and John McIntosh who in 1796 discovered the McIntosh apple in Ontario Canada.

Apples were an incidental part of frontier farms. They were eaten fresh and stored in a root cellar for use throughout the year. Henry must have planted apple trees in the 1860s soon after clearing the land for farming. For generations on our family fruit farm, September has meant apple harvest time. The kids of Henry and Sarah must have been required to help pick apples and pack them in barrels. They also helped transport the apples by horse drawn wagon to Glenn or South Haven for shipment to Chicago. The making of apple cider, applesauce and apple crisp has also been a fall activity throughout the generations.

As I was growing up in the 1940s and 50s our parents and grand parents served us kids apples all winter long. Sometimes with popcorn and home made canned grape juice. Treats don’t get any better than that! Grandma Edna would peal an apple by go around and around without breaking the pealing. She would end up with a very long apple peal. We have enjoyed the fruits of summer now is the time to enjoy the fruit of fall – the apple.

At the Farm Sept. 2, 2009

The cherries, apricots, nectarines, plums and pears are picked. Peaches are almost completed and apples are starting. I caught the farm kids (L to R - Kortny, Alex, Aaron, Adam, and Kelsy) picking nectarines a couple of weeks ago. With them back in school, their help on the farm will be missed.

September starts the longest harvest season – apples. Over 25 varieties will be picked from late August to late October. They begin with Paula Red and end with Fugi. In between you will find somewhat in this order: Gala, McIntosh, Cortland, Honeycrisp, Jonathan, Empire, Macoun, Mutsu, Jonagold, Red Delicious, Melrose, Ida Red, Yellow Delicious, Stayman Winesap, Northern Spy, Braeburn, Cameo, Red Rome and a few others.

At the retail and u-pick location (109th Ave & 64th St.) you can pick your own apples or pumpkins. If you prefer, you can select aready picked apples and pumpkins from 20-bushel boxes. Lucia, Aaron and Kim are there to help. Some of the harder varieties are stored in the cooler and can be purchased during the late fall and winter months.
Don’t forget to eat your fruit!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Summer Reunions

Summer Reunions
Fond memories are stored away from our summer reunions and vacations. This is as true today as it was in the 1800s. At the Henry and Sarah farm several family gatherings were hosted. These get-to-gathers were formalized in 1893 when the Indiana relatives pedaled their tandem bikes to visit their Casco cousins. These reunions have been held every year since. It must have been well attended in 1900 when all the 12 living kids of George and Elizabeth had their photo taken. Henry is 2nd from left in the back row.

Over 180 “cousins” attended the 50th (8-14-1943) and over 250 were at all or part of the two day 100th reunion (7-24/25-1993). Were you there? The 1993 cousins reunion was held at the Scott Lake Lodge one mile east of Pullman. This lodge has been replaced by a very nice home. Events included a history tour of Casco, golf outing, Will Rogers USA entertainment by Gene McFall, worship service, group photo and reunion picnic. I still have and wear my reunion t-shirt. These are real collectors items as there were only 150 made.

Do enjoy these last few days of summer. Hook up the camper to the big old van and hit the road one more time. That is what Martin, Lucy, Sandi, Marla, Carrie and Ron did in 1979. The hard working farmers will be deferring their get away until the harvest is completed.

The Farm August 15, 2009
Redhaven peaches are winding down as the flaming fury, coral star and glo haven verities are ripening. U-pick peaches should be available through the end of August. Paula Red apples are now available and near the end of August MaIntosh, Gala and Honeycrisp will be ripe. Pears and purple plums will also be ripe. U-pick apples will continue into October. Don’t forget to visit the farm website and print out the 10% off coupon.

This is the time of year to make jams and jellies and stock the freezer and canning shelves. We have frozen peaches, sour cherries and blueberries. When the purple plums are ripe I will pop them in zip lock bags and freeze them whole. Then this winter we can boil them, add a little sugar and presto – stewed prunes. Applesauce is also easy to make and freeze. Have fun supplying your home for the dog days of winter.
Don’t forget to eat My Brother’s Fruit!

Monday, August 3, 2009

6 Word Story

6 Word Story
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.” Written by Ernest Hemingway because he was challenged to create a six-word story. Try to write your story in 6 words or less. “The beginning, the end,” by our grand daughter Evvy. Her long story is “The beginning, the middle, the end.”

“Farm settled, families grow, memories fade” is a short story that describes our first farm family. The farm prospered, as did the whole fruit growing area. Henry and Sarah had 9 children (Grant died as an infant, George at almost 2 and Mary at age 18). The family was very active in helping establish and lead their local government, church and school. Henry was an active church member: 1865 Conservative U. B. Church Bd of Trustees (meetings held in Buys and later Hadaway Schools), 1877 superintendent of Sunday School (Attendance 48), and in 1880 helped build the first East Casco Methodist Church at 64th and 107th. He was Republican in polities and cast his first vote for Abraham Lincoln. Henry served as Casco Township Treasurer 1869-75 and Supervisor 1877-78. His great-great-great-grand son Allan is now serving as the Township supervisor.

Henry secured considerable land in the county and worked as a carpenter in addition to running the Maple Ridge Fruit Farm. The original 100-acre farm was divided among the children with William Albert receiving 60 acres and the family home site. Sarah died in 1884 and Henry married Henrietta Warfield and moved to her farm in section 35. William Albert married Alta May Usher in 1886. The family farm torch had been passed for the first time. Henry out lived his second wife and spent some winters in Florida with the William Albert family. Henry died on September 3, 1917 at the home of his son Charles at the age of 82.

At The Farm (August 3, 2009)

The peach harvest is well underway. Allan is busy loading wholesale orders. First was the PF-1s then Rising Star. Redhaven peaches and nectarines will be ripe starting the weekend of August 8-9. By the weekend of August 15-16 pears, paula red apples and purple plums will be starting. If you are planning to do u-pick fruit be sure to visit the farm website, click on u-pick coupon and print it out for 10% off.

In spite of the coldest July on record, the fruit is only ripening a week or so later than "normal." The photo below was taken in July. Or was it January? I can not remember.

Remember - eat your fruit!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Queen of the Fruits

Queen of the Fruits
Early settlers, like HenryO, planted a few apple trees to supplement their subsistence food growing. Some of the Casco farmers may have brought seedling fruit trees with them from the fruit areas of Ohio or New York. By the 1880s many of the incidental orchards became the means of paying off the farm mortgage and providing some comfort and independence. There were ready markets for the fruit in Milwaukee and Chicago. During the summer months there were daily boat trips from Glenn and South Haven to these markets. Peaches were packed in baskets and apples in barrels. Fruit was shipped and sold fresh. It was not until the 1920s that commercial canning was started when Marc Hutchinson organized the Fennville Canning Company. This became Michigan Fruit Canners, Inc. in 1927.

Legend has it that French traders found Indians munching on small tasteless peaches. Peach trees were first cultivated in the area around 1780 at the St. Joseph Trading Post on the river a mile from Lake Michigan. In Casco, peaches were first planted in 1869 and by 1880 thousands of bushels were being produced. Some farmers had 2,000 to 2,500 trees. Peaches were sold through wholesale brokers. Farmers were given a rubber stamp to identify the destination for their peach baskets.

Up until the early 1900s big profits were made on peaches, "The Queen of The Fruits". Then the peach bubble burst. First diseases started appearing (the yellows, curl leaf and the little peach). Next the quality and quantity decreased because soil fertility was not maintained. Then the disastrous freeze of October 10th, 1906, killed practically every peach tree in SW Michigan. Only farmers having the most favorable locations for growing peaches attempted to replant their orchards. The growing of fruits and vegetable is still a prominent piece of the economy in Casco Township.

At The Farm (July 15, 2009)
Brother Allan is preparing for the 2009 peach harvest. The sweet and sour cherries are winding down as the peaches ripen. "The Queen of The Fruits" will be available for the July 25/26 weekend and through the end of August. Marketing the peach crop today is different than the 1880s and 90s but yet the same. Most is sold fresh and consumed by people from the same market areas. Peaches are picked up at the farm by retail farm markets, retail customers and u-pickers. A small portion of the crop is sent to processing companies.

The Evans (Mother's side) Family Reunion was held last weekend. The farm kids have gotten their chickens inspected and will be at the County Fair next week with their chickens. If you get over to the South Haven area stop at the retail building (109th and 64th) for some of the ripe stuff. I plan to start selling my brother's peaches to the Marshall Farm Market July 25th. Thanks for checking the blog.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sam's Hands - 1880

Sam’s Hands - 1880

Was it a sawmill, sorghum press or maple sugar bush accident? I have read or heard that each of the three was the cause of Sam Leisure loosing both hands. One just above the elbow and the other just below the elbow. At about age 17 or 18, Sam was working for Henry Overhiser when he lost both hands. Henry had a sawmill, sugar bush operation and may have had a sorghum press (see photo).

In 1880, shortly after the accident, Henry had a store built by Sam Galbreath on land he owned. Henry put Sam in charge so he could support his family. With the help of others he had a good business for years, until many began to charge items and never pay. Later he had a peddling wagon, selling tin ware, socks, jackets, and gloves. He would also buy hides, rags, papers, and old rubber. With the reins around his waist he was able to drive his team of horses. His customers would make their own change by going into Sam’s pocket. In his later days he and his wife Mate moved to California to live near two of their children.

The store, at the NE corner of 107th Ave. and 64th Street, became know as Leisure because Sam ran the store there. In 1893 Aldelbert Johnston bought the store. Ownership then passed to Andrew Litts and then to Riley Overhiser. Riley’s East Casco Handy Store at Leisure is the one I grew up loving. The store building is gone but the fond memories live on. Well, live on as long as some of us old people are still here.

At the Farm (July 1, 2009)
A category F-2 tornado hit the farm about 3 a. m. on Friday June 19. Large limbs from a silver maple near the house damaged the tool shed roof and mobile home used by Carlos. Several power poles were blown over and the electricity was off for three days. Trees in some of the windrows were blown over. The family did take cover in the basement and are all safe. Only damage to the crops was some wind damage to one block of sour cherries.

Aaron is still playing baseball in a tournament and the kids are starting to think about what they will take to the Fair in mid July. Peach thinning has been completed. You-pick and they pick sweet cherries will be available starting Friday July 3 at the 109th and 64th retail building. Lucero (Lucy) will be helping again this year in the sales building. Sour cherries should also be available. Allan and his crew will start shaking sour cherries the week of July 6th and they will have pitted sour cherries starting the weekend of July 11.

Speaking of July 11, that is my birthday. To celebrate we will be on the Marshall Area Garden tour that Saturday and Sunday. Check out this link for more information.

Don’t forget - eat your fruit!

Monday, June 15, 2009

1860 - Henry Takes a Hike

1860 - Henry Takes a Hike
In August of 1860 Henry Overhiser set out on a 200-mile trip to explore some of the prime land in Michigan he had heard about. He and his neighbor, Erastus Frost, made the journey by the “ride and hitch” method. They only had one horse. One would ride the horse a mile or two and hitch it. The other would walk to the horse and then ride on ahead of the other person walking. They traveled 40 miles a day.

After returning home, he convinced Sarah they should settle in Michigan. In October of the same year, Henry hired a brother with a two-horse team to transport the family, household goods and a box of tools to Bee Line Road near Allegan. At that time they had three children (Lonson, William, and Olive). It took 8 days to complete the journey. That first winter Henry worked for Daniel Ammerman as a carpenter to build a house. In the spring of 1861 he move to section 1 of Casco Township and in 1863 to section 14. He also owned land in section 12.

For the last time in his life he cleared a site in the woods and built a house. His son William Albert later expanded that house. The farm became very successful and was call Maple Ridge Fruit Farm. The drawing below shows the house, barn and sugar bush which produced maple syrup. Because of all the timber on the property, Henry established a sawmill.

Between 1861 and 1874 Henry and Sarah had five more children. They were Ida May, George, Charles, Mary Ann and Minnie. Sarah died March 4, 1884, and Henry was married a second time to Henrietta (fisher) Wharfield. Henry died (9-3-1917) at age 82.

At the Farm (June 15, 2009)
Talked with Allan on his cell phone to get this report. He was outstanding in a peach orchard. Some 20 workers were hand thinning peaches (spacing them 6" apart). It takes a half hour on average to thin one tree. About 80% of the small green peaches are removed. This is the effort it takes to end up with a big beautiful peach in August. The chemical thinning of apples seams to have worked very well this year. This procedure removes all but the center "king" blossom. Without thinning the result would be a cluster of small apples. Allan thinks this year he will have one of his largest apple crops. It looks like other growers also have large crops which will result in lower prices.
The sweet cherries are starting to show some color and will look like the photo for the 4th of July weekend. Birds will also be noticing the color. Some foil and other devices will be placed in the orchards to scare the birds away, good luck. If you are in the South Haven area the first part of July stop out at 109th and 64th. U-pick and all ready picked cherries will be available. The 4th weekend will officially start the season. They will be open daily from 10 to 5 until the end of October.
The kids have been working on the chicken coop. It now has a new roof. Aaron (age 12) made a big sacrifice this past week. He chose to miss a baseball game and attend a Rotary sponsored leadership training conference at Hope College. They heard several inspiring speakers including a pro football player, superintendent of schools and a science teacher. Aaron also enjoyed the team games and brain challenges. This training will be put to good use on the farm, at school and in sports.
Remember, eat your fruit.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Overhiser Orchards History - Five Generations

Overhiser Orchards History - Five Generations
A lone rich history that started in 1863
My Brother's Fruit Blog was started in April 2009 so it could be added to the farm website that sister-in-law Kim and helper Ron have updated. You can access the blog by going to the new and improved website The farm history summary below will soon be posted on the website. You are getting a sneak preview. But, first the farm news and don't forget to eat your fruit.
At the Farm (June 1, 2009)

Last week the kids finished spring sports and school at Fennville. 4-H chickens are being fattened up for the August County Fair. Insects are being trapped (see photo) to help target and limit the spraying program. The best and safest practices for disease and pest control are being used. Pumpkins and squash got planted for the fall harvest. Do you like your August peaches large? That is being worked on. Small green peaches are being thinned by hand to assure best growth and size and to prevent branch breakage. The harvest will start the 4Th of July weekend with sweet cherry U-Pick or all ready picked (109th Ave. and 64th St).

On a sad note, my Uncle William Douglas Overhiser passed from this earth on Saturday May 30. He was born on February 5, 1937 and grew up on the family farm. He was 3 years older than me (Martin), so was more like a cousin then an uncle. Bill was the youngest of William and Edna's 6 children. In the 2004 photo to the left 5 of the 6 were still with us. Top left then clockwise Ed, Albert, Bill, Janet and Doris. Aunt Janet Brown in the sole survivor of that generation. Ken passed in 1955 at age 36.

Overhiser Orchards History- Five Generations
1. Henry and Sarah (McKee) Overhiser move to Allegan County Michigan from Indiana in 1860 with 3 children. In 1863, they settled on the north side of 107th Ave. between 62nd and 64th Streets in Casco Township. Henry cleared a home site in the maple forest and started subsistence farming. Five more children were born in Michigan. In the 1870s Henry started growing fruit, as did many other farmers in the area. Fruit growing continues to be the main focus of the farm operation.

2. William Albert Overhiser and Alta May were the second farm family. Alta died in childbirth in 1891. None of their 3 children lived to adulthood. William Albert married a second time to Daisy Galbreath in 1896. They had one child, William McKinley, shown in front of Daisy in the photos above. In 1915 William Albert died from a gun accident. This put William McKinley in charge of the farm at age 19. The big house burned to the ground the last day of April 1927.

3. William McKinley and Edna Trowbridge Overhiser ran the 60-acre fruit farm for 50 years. Bill and Edna raised 6 children on the farm. They spent the last 25 years of their married life in Florida. As a child, Bill learned to fish while spending winters in Florida. His parents owned and operated the Palma Sola Hotel on the Manatee River west of Bradenton. As an adult William continued to fish and would spent one or two weeks at Loon Lake NW of Baldwin between the cherry and peach harvest. Their oldest son Albert Wayne helped operate the farm when he was not working as a truck driver. Albert and June purchased the farm in 1965.

4. Albert Wayne and June Evans Overhiser, lived on a 40-acre fruit farm around the corner from the original farm. Albert drove truck and farmed and June was a school teacher. Sons’ Martin and Charles attended MSU and were not interested in farming. As fate would have it, a surprise son (Allan Wade) was born in 1960. While attending Western Michigan University, Allan, decided he wanted to follow the family fruit farming tradition. After college Allan and Kim were married and worked the farm with Albert and June. After Albert retired Allan became the fifth farm operator.

5. Allan Wade and Kim Myers Overhiser now have around 40,000 cherry, peach, plum, pear and apple trees. They own or lease 400 acres within a one mile radius of the original farm. These orchards are planted on the highest 250 acres to reduce spring frost and freeze damage. Their son Aaron was born in 1996. In 1998 Alex, Adam, Kelsy and Kortny(quadruplets) were added to the farm family. During the harvest season many of the family members can be found working at the retail/u-pick headquarters at the NW corner of 109th Ave. and 64th Street.

The Overhiser family looks forward to growing and sharing the fruits of their labor for many more years. Thank you for your interest in our farm history.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Quadruplets and Farm Mothers

Quadruplets and Farm Mothers

For May 15 my blog outline had me writing about Henry and Sarah moving their family from Indiana to Michigan in 1860. Lets defer that subject. We just celebrated Mother’s Day so I want to pay special tribute to farm mothers and the Overhiser Quadruplets who just turned 11. Read on and remember the mothering you have received from your mother, grandmother, aunt, teacher, sibling, father, neighbor, friend and others.

The annual celebration of motherhood is an ancient spring festival. From the beginning of time we humans have loved our mothers and loved being mothered. They birthed us, cared for us, loved us and helped us become adults. Through the generations our mothers have been comforters and guardians of the household. Mom’s we salute you one and all.

Currently the MIC (Mother In Charge) of the family farm is Kim Myers Overhiser. She received quite a special Mother’s Day gift on May 13, 1998. In order of arrival these were the presents: Adam Wayne (3# 14.4 oz 17.5”), Alex Wade (3# 13.6 oz 16.75”), Kortny Alise (3# 6 oz 16.5”) and Kelsy Ann (3# 9.4 oz 17”). By comparison here is what older brother Aaron William weighed at birth on December 9, 1996: 9 pounds 14 ounces and 23 inches tall. Over 100 community people assisted in some way those first few months.

With Allan running the farm from sun up to sun down these helpers was a real blessing. MIC Kim would take the kids two by two for Doctor visits while helpers stayed at home with the rest of the family. This year a birthday dinner was eaten at Grandma and Grandpa Myers after Aaron’s baseball and the girl’s softball games. If you visit the farm this summer do take time to meet as many of the young farmers as you can find. In the 2006 photo from top counter clockwise is Kortny, Kelsy, Alex, Adam, Aaron driving and a cousin behind Aaron.

The quadruplets grand mother (my mother) June Pearl Evans Overhiser (6/13/1917 – 3/3/1997) was one of the most kind and loving persons you will have ever meet. The farm she grew up on was located at the north side of Clear Lake near Osterholt Lake in Allegan County. She was the middle child of 11 kids and was raised by older sisters Maude and Florence with a “little help” from her mother Pearl. June became a teacher after completing a one-year County Normal program followed by several years of additional College courses. She taught in one-room school districts and at Lincoln Elementary in South Haven. Mom’s salary was our family’s steady income while the farm income would rise and fall depending on the weather and fruit prices.

Looking back, I must say all the successful farm families in our neighborhood had one thing in common. The farmer’s wife ran the house, the family and in many cases directed or helped direct the farm operation. This was true of my mother. She worked out of the home, in the home and helped keep the farm running. Albert did the heavy lifting but we all knew who wore the pants. Thank you mom for all your hard work, love and guidance.

Next meet my grandmother Edna Mildred Trowbridge Overhiser (9/20/1895 – 12/7/1991). She was married to Bill the 3rd generation family fruit farmer. Decedents of Edna who have a great sense of humor can trace their humor genes back to Edna. She knew how to make the best of a bad situation and could pull practical jokes out of thin air. The big house with all their posession burned in 1927. Edna and Bill regrouped and converted another farm building into a home. I can just see Edna leading the rebuilding operation. She out lived Bill by some 22 years and spent the last few years of her life in a nursing home in Grand Haven near daughter Janet Brown. Their Edna continued to share her fun loving outgoing spirit with others by tooling around in her wheelchair to visit.

I did know my great grandmother Daisy Galbreath Overhiser (11/28/1874 - 1959), but not very well. While I was growing up she worked and lived in Kalamazoo. On occasion we would visit her apartment and walk to Schensul's Cafeteria for lunch. Wish now I had learned more about her time on the farm.

In 1896 (age 22) Daisy became William Albert’s second wife. Daisy was noted for her very stylish apparel, a real classy lady. Some say this was an arranged marriage with 39-year-old William Albert who had a 10 year old son (Max) and had been without a wife for 5 years. Son William McKinley was born on Christmas day 1896 and Max died some 2 years later.

Daisy may have been the one who wanted to winter in Florida. From 1901 to 1906 they owned and lived in the Palma Sola Hotel on the Manatee River between Bradenton and the Tampa Bay. Their only son, Bill, learned to fish on that river. Daisy led a somewhat secluded life in Kalamazoo after her husband died from a gun shot accident in 1915. We are sure she had Alzheimer’s at the end of her life. So that is one “gift” we decedents must be concerned about. This terrible disease was diagnosed in 2 of Edna and Bill’s 6 kids and advanced dementia in 2 others. Sometimes the “gifts” we receive require special handling.

Alta May Usher Overhiser (1863-1891) married William Albert in 1886 two years after his mother Sarah had died. I presume the farm needed a good woman to run the house. Her “job” as wife and MIC included caring for husband, father-in-law and workers. Some of those farm workers lived in the family home. Their marriage lasted just 5 years. In the span of 9 months William Albert lost his second child Rosco Glen (age 2 ½), an infant at birth and his wife Alta giving birth. Maxwell Glen, who had diabetes, died at age 12 when his ½ brother Bill was just two.

Sarah McKee Overhiser (6/23/1837- 3/4/1884) must have had a very interesting life. Born in Ohio to a pioneering family, moved to Indiana as a child, married Henry and moved a family to the Michigan. “Lets pack up everything and go camping in Michigan!” Just think of how hard it must have been to make a home out of nothing in the middle of the unsettled forestland. She and the family had to deal with some very primitive living conditions. They cleared and settled on the farm that got the family farming tradition started.

At the Farm (May 15, 2009)

Allan thinks the frost we had this past week did not do any severe damage to the fruit buds. The bees have finished their work and have been moved to blueberry farms in the area. Trimming continues and the brush is being chopped and orchards mowed (by Carlos in photo). Young trees are being fine trimmed to establish their main branches.

All fruit trees are being fertilized. For newly planted trees, soap bars are being hung to keep the deer away and a plastic guard is placed around the trunk. White paint will be applied to older tree trunks to prevent sun damage in the winter. The kids are very busy with sports/school activities and are looking forward to summer vacation. In Marshall last night Lucy, granddaughter Evvy and I had waffles with Allan's peaches and George's blueberries. Need to use up last summer's frozen fruit in next couple of months.

Don’t forget – Eat Fruit Today!