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.