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!

Friday, May 1, 2009

Boy Henry and The Bees

Boy Henry and The Bees

Where do I start telling the story of how “the farm” got started with out giving you TMI? Henry cleared the land and built a home where brother Allan farms today. So lets start with Boy Henry.
In September 1838, five-year-old Henry Overhiser started moving west with his parents George & Elizabeth, 7 siblings (6 mos to 10 yrs), and his Grand Father Peter Storms. They left Avoca NY on a Monday and got to Buffalo on Friday. His other Grand Father John Casper Overhiser took a wagon load to Buffalo and then he returned home. After loading on a steamer they left at noon on Friday. At 4:00 a. m. Sunday morning they arrived at Sandusky. Cedar Point and Kalahari had not yet been built. On their way to Indiana they passed through Columbus and Springfield over the National Road. They rented a large log house near Uncle Reuben Storms in Fayette County near Connersville for 3 years. Henry’s dad cleared land and cut wood for 25 cents a cord.

As a youth, Henry learned farming, woodcutting and carpentry. Boy Henry helped his father clear away the forest three times for the building of a family home. The drawing below is the 1851 house built by George and Elizabeth in Blackford County south of Roll. They both died in this house (Mother 11-21-1860 and Father 12-18-1862). A log school was built on a part of the farm just 80 rods south of this house and a cemetery is located across the street.

As an adult, Henry would clear home sites four more times. At age 19 (1854) his father gave him one dollar with which to commence life on his own account. He at once began by chopping wood and then learned the carpenter trade. Those skills together with his farming became his life work.

On February 19, 1855, Henry married schoolmate Sarah McKee (born 6-23-1837 in OH). They farmed and had three of their 8 children prior to moving to Michigan in 1860. The stage is set for 3 year old William Albert to move with his parents to a land of promise.

Background - The 1832 Black Hawk War in Wisconsin aroused sentiment against the Indians and in 1838 the Potawatomi tribe was escorted from IN to the west by military force. In 1840 William Henry Harrison was elected President and the population of IN was 685,866. The log cabin above was home for the 13 kids. Sidebar: Henry was number 6 of 13 and our mother June (born 6-13-1917) was number 6 of 11 in the Evans family. Must have been some long waits to use the outhouse. The Evans family had a two-holler with Sears Catalog.

Henry Overhiser was born 1-2-1835 in Steuben Co., NY. His Father George was born 8-21-1804 in Otsego Co., NY and his Grand Father John Casper was born 4-1-1782 in Montgomery Co., NY. According to an old family Dutch Bible, Henry’s Great Grandfather Conrad was born near the village of Fishkill on the Hudson River in Dutchess Co., NY in April 29, 1754. Conrad married Mary Storm in 1776 and served his country during the Revolutionary War as a woodcutter. Conrad’s parents (Gasphier and Fronah Overhiser) we believe were born in Germany about 1734 and traveled to the colonies as newlyweds.

At the Farm (May 1) – Bees, Blossoms and Pollination

Sing along, “the hills are alive, with the sound of music … and blossoms”. The whites and pinks are in full bloom. The first two weeks of May are very critical as the pistils in the blossoms are very tender. So Mr. Frost, stay away! For a tree to produce quality fruit it must be healthy and mature enough to blossom freely and receive adequate pollination. Most trees will start bearing fruit 3 to 5 years after planting. Insect and bees do the pollinating.

So how does Allan get bees to do the pollinating? He rents 100 honeybee hives for just under $5,000. The hives are placed in four different locations. These worker bees will be buzzing around the fruit blossoms until the flowers are gone (about two weeks). You could call these workers “snow bees” because they winter in Florida. The beekeeper will move the hives north to other farms along Lake Michigan until they end up in the Travers City area. Below sister-in-law Kim Overhiser is checking the blooms (peaches and pears). Sweet cherries are above left and the bee in on a future apple.

Eat fruit today!