Tuesday, December 28, 2010

1930s Above and Underground

1930s Above and Under-ground

Edna's brother, Tobe (William Earl Trowbridge 1889-1974) was a jolly 6'-6".  The farm kids loved to rides on his shoulders.  He served in the Navy (WWI) because he was to tall for the Army.  Tobe smoked, drank whiskey, lived in the" big" City of South Haven and was skilled at pool and poker.  in the 1930s he lived with his sister Bessie and Percy Chaddock or with Bill and Edna when needed to help out on the farm.  Tobe hand dug the septic system at the farm.  We will come back to Tobe down below.

Bill and Edna's kids (Albert, Ken, Doris, Ed, Janet and Bill) all attended Iddles School as did most of their relatives and ancestors.  After Iddles they attended South Haven schools.  Albert had use of a car when he was in High School (1933-35) and would drive kids from the neighborhood.  These kids were always welcome at the Overhiser home.  One time Ester Lyman Wilkinson was in the house and noticed Edna steering a large pan of chili sauce for canning.  Ester said, "Edna must be a bad cook if she needs to make that much chili sauce".  The Casco country kids were all a fun loving group.  As for the depression, Albert would say, "we were not that bad off, we had ice cream most every night". 

Edna and Bill were active at Church, in the Ladies Aid Society and in the community.  Bill was elected Township Treasurer, appointed Clerk and then was reelected each term until Albert took over as Township Clerk.  Albert then passed the job off the Allan who now serves as Township Supervisor.  Bill's Grand Father Henry served as Township Treasurer from 1869-75.  Edna was active in the Casco Garden Club which had limited membership because the meetings were held at the homes of members.  A waiting list was maintained.  Raising fruit and kids followed a familiar rhythm season after season, year after year.  

In the 1920s the Model T truck completely replaced the horse drown wagon for transporting fruit to the docks at South Haven or Glenn.  Shipping fruit to Chicago by boat was replaced by larger trucks in the 1930s.  The trucks cut 2 hours off the boat ride and some farmers took their fruit directly to the Chicago markets. Then the Benton Harbor Market became the place to sell direct to the Chicago buyers.  It became the world's largest fresh fruit market.  Albert, being the oldest son, became the farm truck driver and "drove truck" (as he would say) for the South Haven Fruit Exchange after High School.

The 18th Amendment ushered in prohibition days (1920-1933), speakeasy clubs, and underground criminal activity to the country and SW Michigan.  After prohibition Uncle Tobe owned Art's Tavern in South Haven but lost the business because he extended credit to way to many customers.  He was a legendary strong man who one time grabbed a knife, that had been pulled on him, broke it in half and returned the handle.  We believe Uncle Tobe, the gambler bar owner, may have been involved in some covert activities.  My Dad (Albert) told of still being in school when Tobe called the farm and told him to get the truck and meet him at the Grand Junction Tavern.  Tobe's slot machines were removed from the tavern and loaded onto the truck.  Tobe must have been active in politics because he was tipped off that the Sheriff was about to raid the tavern.

In the 1940s Uncle Tobe fell off a roof and broke his back.  This injury crippled him for the rest of his life.  He was never married but was very good friends with his landlady, Gertrude, who cared for him in his later years.  Albert and Allan would stop and visit Tobe in the 60s and 70s after picking up a bottle of whiskey at Food Town on Broadway.  He continued to live in Gertrude's Boarding House on Broadway and played cards at the Am Legion until he passed in 1974.
At The Farm December 28, 2010
An all purpose 4-wheel drive Mule vehicle has been purchased for the kids to drive on the farm.  It will be used this summer to pull a trailer for transporting u-pickers to and from the orchards.  During most of December the farm has been covered with snow.  This is good for the trees but makes it hard to get around the orchards for the trimmers.  We hope the fruit trees are resting up to produce a bountiful crop in 2011.  Yesterday, Allan and Kim took them on a road trip to Marshall to visit Uncle Martin and Aunt Lucy.  After a meal at Turkeyville everyone went to see Tron at the Bogar.  Must say, It was very virtual and not very real.  If you are a big gamer you will enjoy the movie.
Tobe PS - At age 14 Aaron wears size 14 shoes and is 5' 11.725" tall.
Next blog - Trucker meets Teacher.  Happy 2011 to all, Martin O

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Lost Possessions - 1927

Lost Possessions - 1927
It was a grand old house.  Sitting at the top of a steep slope over looking the road with a southern exposure.  Carpenter/farmer Henry Overhiser had selected the site and build the first house in the 1860s.  He added on and improved the home as the family expanded.  William Albert married Daisy in 1896 and took over the farm after losing his first wife and two children.  Albert became very successful and was able to add the beautiful porches and many modern conveniences.  

Like other farms, the Overhiser house was the farm headquarters.  It sustained the family with shelter, food, social life, safety and security.  The warmth in the house on a cold stormy day or night was so welcoming.  Delicious smells drew you into the warm kitchen like a magnet.  Housemates would sit around the radiant fireplace and play games.  The farm house contained the family history, photographs, books, valued heirlooms, and memories.  One would also experience this warm and cozy feeling in the animal areas of the barns on a cold winter's day.

One day in 1927 eleven year old Albert (my dad) was told by his mother (Edna) to run down to Riley's Store and get a fire extinguisher.  Albert was there in quick order as it was only a half mile to the west.  He stood behind a couple of customers and waited his turn.  Then Riley said, "Albert what can I do for you?"  To which Albert said, "our house is on fire, can I borrow a fire extinguisher?"  Everyone in the store rushed to the big house but were unable to extinguish the fire that had started in a chimney.  The back addition to the house was saved and is still used today by Allan as a tool shed.  However, most family possessions were lost that day. 

I would expect Edna took charge and found housing for the family while Bill took on the task of rebuilding to the west of the burned out house.  A tool building was expanded and became the "new house".  The Bill and Edna house was home for Albert, Ken, Doris, Ed, Janet Joyce (1-8-1929) and Bill (William Douglas 2-5-1936).  That same house has been welcoming, warm and cozy for generations.  Fifth generation farmers Allan and Kim have more than doubled the size of the Bill and Edna house with two major expansions.

The mortgage on the grand old house became a blessing.  Daisy wanted to be paid for signing over the farm to the newlyweds.  Therefore, in 1916 Bill and Edna had to borrow money.  With the help of Aunt Olive (Wm Albert's sister) and Uncle Sam Galbraith, a $4,000 mortgage was secured.  The First State Bank of Allegan required insurance be carried on the house so we assume Bill and Edna received some insurance money to help rebuild.  A second major fire at the farm occurred in 1941 when the big barn burned.  That fire may have been started by smoldering green hay.

We all face disasters and disappointments.  How we react and move on is a lifelong challenge.  Bill and Edna moved past their disasters with class. 

At The Farm December 1, 2010
Life at the farm is in traditional winter mode.  Tree trimming, equipment maintenance, attending farm meetings, snow plowing, school activities, township business, and preparing for Christmas vacation.  Water and electric lines have been run to the small animal barn and the larger small animals have been sold.  The chickens have been moved to the chicken coop which sits on the site of the big barn that burned.  The cider is gone and the cooler only has a few apples left.
Sweet summer fruit dreams this winter.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Family Building Begins 1915

Family Building Begins -1915
Bill and Edna had very similar upbringings.  Edna's two sisters ((Mable and Bess) and her brother (Tobe) were very close  and supported each other during their adult years.  Tobe did not marry while the  three sisters all married and raised families.  A fun loving spirit was part of Trowbridge family life.  Tobe and Edna both had the gift of humor. The Trowbridge farm was the main gathering place for celebrating special events.  With the  15 Sept 1915 wedding, Bill took a wife and got adopted into the Trowbridge family. 

The family building cycle started up again just like it had for generations one (Henry/Sarah) and two (William Albert/Alta/Daisy).  Kids were born, kids grew up on the farm, kids worked in the fields, played in the barn, fed the animals, and walked through the woods to Iddles School.  For the 3rd generation there were many advances.  Gas powered vehicles, electricity, many many household conveniences, and all the modern stuff in town (South Haven).

Bill and Edna worked hard and became valued community members.  Close relationships were established with nearby farm families that lasted throughout the rest of their life.  Edna was very fond of children.  This fact was attested to by my mother June when she sent me a 50th birthday card on 7-11-1990, "When we were coming home from the hospital, Grandma Edna held you and put you up to the window at every house we passed so all of the neighbors could see our new beautiful baby."  Edna must have been very excited when my Dad Albert arrived 17 Dec 1916.  Below are Bill and Edna's children.
  • Albert Wayne 17Dec1916/2Dec2008
  • Kenneth McKinley 28Nov1919/1954
  • Doris Mae (Adkin) 6Nov1921/4Feb2009
  • Thomas Edward 10Dec1923/21Oct2005
  • Janet Joyce (Brown) 8Jan1928
  • William Douglas 5 Feb1936/30May2009 
Remember to eat your fruit,
Martin Overhiser (first grand child of Bill and Edna Overhiser)

At The Farm November 4, 2010
The election has come and gone and all my brother Allen (current Township Supervisor) needed to do was vote.  The Township Clerk's job was held for 69 years by grandpa Bill (1935-64), our dad Albert (1964-88) and then Allen (1988-2004).  Because this is a part time job, voter registration was housed in the enclosed front porch of Bill and Edna's house and the house that Allan and I lived in while growing up.  One ballot issue in Casco Township this year was the passage of a park millage.  The Township has just completed purchasing a 9 acre parcel on Blue Star Highway with 300' of frontage on Lake Michigan.

Much of the farm has been put to bed for the winter but trimming has begun and will continue until next spring.  The kids are busy in school and with sports.  Aaron played tight end for the Fennville 7-8th grade football team (4-2).  He caught several passes until he had surgery on his right thumb.  He plans to play basketball as soon as the cast comes off in a couple of weeks.

    Sunday, October 3, 2010

    Bill and Edna Takeover

    Bill and Edna Takeover
    Prior to his dad's death Bill (William McKinley Overhiser 25Dec1896/27Dec1969) had planned on attending Purdue University and becoming an engineer.  Then Albert died in May, Bill graduated in June, and married Edna (Edna Mildred Trowbridge 20Sept1895/7Dec1991) on September 15, 1915.  The wedding was at the Trowbridge home on Phoenix Road east of South Haven.  That would be the north side of the road on the east side of the "Trowbridge Flats".  

    The popular Reverend W. N. Breidenstein performed the ceremony.  He was a United Brethren pastor at both East and West Casco.  Edna's sister Mable and her husband Burrell Wenban were witnesses.  From old photos it appears that Bill's side of the family did not attend.  Bill had aunts, uncles and cousins.  So why they were not in photos is a mystery.

    Sometime after the wedding Daisy (Bill's mother) moved to Kalamazoo.  On February 25, 1916 Daisy signed her interest to the farm over to Bill and Edna for $3,000.  We have the real estate document signed by Daisy and notarized in Los Angeles, as she must have been touring the west coast.  Daisy lived in Kalamazoo until her last few years when she moved back to the farm because of her dementia.  Many family stories confirm that Daisy held a grudge against Edan for taking her only son.  However, Daisy did make trips to the farm when children started arriving.

    Bill and Edna became the 3rd generation farmers and made a great team.  Edna was always the more social and outgoing.  She knew how to run a household from her upbringing and her work at local resorts.  Bill knew about running a fruit farm.  His dad had replanted orchards after the 1906 killing freeze so the farm was again productive.  The marketing of fruit was changing in those days.  Buyers from the Chicago commission houses still made farm visits to obtain signed contracts for fruit.  In 1913 the Fruit Exchange was organized in South Haven.  So Bill did take some fruit to the Exchange.  A packing fee was charged plus a 5% commission on the sale of the fruit.  The rail road connection provided access to the established Chicago market as well as the rest of the Midwest.  The Exchange also sold farm supplies, spray materials, feed and seed to the area farmers.

    Kids start arriving in the next episode.  Until then stay fit.
    Martin Overhiser (first grand child of Bill and Edna)

    At The Farm
    October 6, 2010
    The current Overhiser farm family (5th generation) is very busy with school activities.  Aaron is playing football, Alex and Adam are playing soccer and Kelsy and Kortny are playing volleyball.  Allan and his workers will complete the apple picking this week and start fall cleanup.  This involves storing boxes, crates and ladders.  The equipment and containers will be repaired and stored for the winter.  You can get apples and cider at the retail building daily through Halloween (Sunday Oct 31).  In November they will be open on weekends (Nov 6/7, 13/14 and 20/21) prior to Thanksgiving. 

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    Evans Reunion - 2010

    Evans Reunion 2010
    The third generation fruit farmer's story of Bill and Edna Overhiser will continue in September.  This blog is a short story about the decedents of Homer Evans (10-19-1887/4-21-1962) and Pearl Mae King (8-26-1888/10-19-1971).

    Homer and Pearl Evans lived on a subsistence farm in Lee Township, Allegan County next to Clear Lake.  They raised their 11 children on that farm.  At the 2010 Evans Reunion the three surviving sibling attended (Maude, Helen and Blanche).  My mother, June Pearl, was the middle child.  In addition to farming Homer at different times managed a liquor store, sold cars and sold real estate.  From oldest to youngest here are the nick names Homer gave the Evans kids.  Many of these names became the common name.  Ethel "Ick", Clare "Hoss", Ralph "Dutch", Florence "Frosty", Maude "Claudie", June "Tune", Helen "Pete", Lawrence "Doug", Robert "Bob", Blanche "Numa" and Martin "Speed".

    All 30 of Albert Overhiser (12-17-1916/12-2-2008)  and June Evans (6-13-1917/3-3-1997) kids, grand kids and great grand kids attended the July 17, 2010 Evans Reunion.  A farm camp out and me turning 70 on July 11 were two of the reasons for all of the Overhiser side of the Evans family attending.  The non-campers stayed at the Hampton in South Haven.  Allan, Kim and their kids entertained and fed us all at the farm Friday and Saturday evenings.  Albert and June's kids traveled from New Mexico, Minnesota, Kansas, Georgia, New Jersey, Illinois, Washington DC and Michigan.  My how we have scattered around the country.  Nice that we have cell phones, email, bogs, facebook, skype, and twitter to stay connected.  Will be back at you in September.  Stay well, MartinO

    At The Farm August 1, 2010

    As you must know, all crops are about two weeks early this year.  Peaches are in full swing and should be available for another 2 to 3 weeks.  The purple Stanley Prunes and Paula Red apples will be ripe the middle of August.  PRs will be followed by McIntosh and Gala with Honeycrisp ripe at the end of August.  From now into October there will be u-pick fruit.  Don't forget to visit the farm website to print out a 10% off u-pick coupon.

    It has been very busy at the farm with u-pickers and animal lovers.  The kids are giving guided tours of the new barn to see the rabbits, chickens, baby chicks, turkeys, geese, ducks, goats and kittens.  So take the kids and grand kids to pick and pet.

    For your GPS the retail/u-pick address is 6405 109th Avenue, South Haven, MI 49090
    GPS # is  N42.484458, W86.168970

    Tuesday, July 6, 2010

    Instant Adult - William McKinley Overhiser

    Instant Adult - William McKinley Overhiser
    Hundreds the South Haven Tribune reported attended Albert’s funeral on May 17, 1915.  It was held at the farm and Reverend Breidenstein conducted the service.  The pallbearers were neighbors (Bert Van Blarcum, Guy Hurlbut, E. Lyman, Roy Lyman, Will Ely and John Marshall).  Just 22 days prior the same South Haven paper reported that Leisure had won a softball game with Spring Hill 10 to 1.  Albert had played second base and his 17-year-old son Bill played shortstop.  I also expect that some of the pallbearers played on that team.  All his life Grandpa Bill followed the ups and downs of the Detroit Tigers.

    Bill did his Grammar School at Iddles in Casco Township and at Bradentown Flordia.  In the 10th grade (1913) at South Haven High School Bill became good friends with Earl (Tob) Trowbridge and Tob's sister Edna.  To help out the family, Edna worked and did not attend her junior or senior year of High School.  The Class of 1915 had 39 graduates and listed Bill as planning to attend Purdue University. However, after graduations Bill had to take over the farm operations because of Albert’s tragic death.  Like some other young people, 17 year old Bill became an instant adult in May 1915. 

    On September 15, 1915 Bill (William McKinley Overhiser 12-25-1896/12-27-1969) married his High School sweetheart, Edna Mildred Trowbridge (9-20-1895/12-7-1991).  This September (2010) I will start sharing information about Bill and Edna the third generation of fruit farmers.  Enjoy your summer, Martin Overhiser

    At the Farm July 6, 2010
    Because of the warm spring weather we now have the fruit coming on about two weeks earlier than normal.  Sweet and sour cherries are almost finished but available at the retail location for another week or two.  Allan is predicting that Red Haven peaches will be ripe by the July 24th weekend.  Some early peaches should be ready by July 17.  

    At the retail location (109th Ave and 64th St) a small animal barn is being constructed.  When finished later this month the kids will be taking care of chickens, ducks, rabbits, kittens, goats, sheep and maybe a pig.  So if your kids or grand kids want to see and play with some farm animals take them to PICK fruit AND PET animals.

    Tuesday, June 1, 2010

    1915 Accidental Death?

    1915 Accidental Death?
    After the 1906 fall freeze fruit trees died, farms were lost, families moved away and Casco was devastated.  The feeling of great loss was what I assume surviving victims of the San Francisco 1906 earthquake must have felt. We were thankful to be alive, as some 3,000 people died a result of the earthquake.  Life went on in Casco and after several years of replanting many of us fruit growers were back in production.  We all worked to diversify our fruit crops.  I added cherries, plums, pears, and more apples and peaches.  We all sought the highest land available to limit future freeze and frost damage. 
    Our son Bill attended South Haven High School and was a very good student.  Being our only child, Daisy tended to shelter Bill from any possible harm.  When I could get him from under her wing, he was a hard worker on the farm.  It was no secret that Daisy and I did not see eye to eye on raising Bill and a whole lot of other things.  We had a loveless working relationship.  Then on May 14, 1915 I took my rifle out toward the orchards.  The last think I remember was  - BOOM!!!!!!  

    NOTE - That ends the William Albert Overhiser (11Jan1857-14May1915) “first person” account of his life as written by Martin Overhiser based on records, stories and conjecture.

    Lost Hope
    Today I read about a man who shot himself because he lost his hat,
    He was old, and of course, they say he was depressed.
    I think not.
    I think he’d just had all the losses he could take.
    He said as much.
    His last words were, “O God, now I’ve lost my hat, too.”
    I know how he felt.
    Every time you turn around, time – with a little help from
    your friends – grabs off something else.  Something
    Precious. At least to you.
    Gone – Mother. Wife. Sons. Hearing. Sight. Health. Pets. Her Respect.
    Finally, you lose the thing you can’t do without – hope
    (that it can get better).
    Dear God, when he gets to heaven, let him find his hat on the gatepost.
    Adapted poem “Losses” From Green Winter – Celebration of Old Age by Elise Maclay 1977

    Ward Was There
    On June 15, 1980 I (Martin O) talked with Ward Overhiser (4May1896-17Sept1994) about Albert’s death.  Ward was a nephew and lived on his father’s farm west of Albert.  Ward said, “I was one of the first people to get to Albert’s body. He was just north of the large barn with his right foot up on the fence and a bullet hole in his head.  He had been out grubbing around fruit trees and went into the house, got a 22 riffle and told Daisy he was going out to shoot a crow.  A hired hand found the body and he had been dead for some time as the blood on his head had dried.” 

    Ward went on to tell more.  In 1917 (2 years later) he was working on a large dairy farm in Hinsdale Illinois with his Uncle Lonson (Albert’s brother).  Lonson told Ward, that two weeks before Albert’s sudden death, Albert had said he had thought of shooting himself.  The reason he gave was that Daisy was so hard to live with and that she would not go anywhere with him in public.  Ward's conclusion to all he knew was that Albert's death might not have been an accident.  In defense of Daisy, Albert might also have been very hard to live with.  She never remarried and left Casco to lead her own life in Kalamazoo.  Next blog will start the Bill and Edna time on the farm.

    At the Farm (June 1, 2010)
    Fruit will be plentiful at the retail building and for u-pick but some of the production crops will be light this year. Don’t forget to visit the farm website and print out a 10% off u-pick coupon.  Sweet cherries will be ripe for the 4th of July weekend, so come on out.

    Some of the production crops will be light this year because of the Mother’s Day weekend freeze.  In one section north on the homestead farm an east wind blew cold air from the lower areas to some orchards on higher ground.  Some peaches and apples were lost, especially Red Delicious.  On Memorial Day over 2" of rain caused some washouts.  In one orchard, just planted, a few trees got washed away and Allan has not yet found them.  Oh, the fun and excitement of running a fruit farm.

    Monday, May 3, 2010

    Palma Sola Hotel 1902 - 1906

    Palma Sola Hotel 1902 – 1906
    My father Henry spent some winters with Daisy, Bill and me at the Palma Sola Hotel. In his late 60s, he was still able to put in a full day working on the property. Guest stayed at our Palma Sola Hotel from January through May. Our launch “Daisy” took pleasure and adventure seekers on the River and out to the ocean most days. Fishing was especially good in the Terra Ceia Bay. On these trips we would stop at Bradentown, Palmetto, Terra Ceia or occasionally we would venture across the Tampa Bay inlet to Fort De Sola. A mortar battery had been completed in 1900 to defend Tampa Bay because of the Spanish American War. All the time we owned the Hotel (1901-1906) buildings were being added at the Fort.

    In 1903, the Manatee River Steamboat Co started serving Tampa, St. Petersburg and Bradentown 3 times a week and would stop at our wharf if needed. Passengers on ocean steamers would frequently stop at the Hotel on their way to and from Key West or Havana Bay Cuba. They talked of seeing many banana and sugar cane plantations. The Spaniards did not want crops competing with those grown in Spain so they taxed grape vines and orange trees. We grew some oranges, lemons and grapefruit for our use at the Hotel.

    We had hundreds of relatives, friends and strangers stay at the Hotel each year and they all told such interesting stories. Daisy did a great job of managing the hotel and dinning room with the help of very capable employees. Bless her heart, she became a frequent shopper and attended many of the social events in town. Daisy was very attentive to our son Bill and his needs. Our son Bill (William McKinley) attended school (1902 to 1906) while we wintered in Florida and made several friends in addition to son of our hired man, Mr. Rudds. We had named Bill after President McKinley. McKinley, you may recall, was elected in 1896 and 1900 but assassinated in September of 1901. He led us into the Spanish-American War to gain control of Cuba, and afterwards annexed the Philippines, Puerto Rico and Hawaii. VP Teddy Roosevelt became our next President.

    Back home, in 1904 kids playing in the horse shed next to the East Casco Church started a fire that destroyed the wood framed Church. Reverend Blickenstaff became the new pastor and led a rebuilding project, as he was also a builder by trade. We all pitched in to help rebuild the Church. On Aug 19, 1906 the Rev. William McKee, from Dayton Ohio, dedicated the building. Uncle McKee was married to my one of dad’s sisters. The debt on the church building was paid off in 3 years. This was one of many life-changing events that I remember from 1906.

    In the spring of ‘06 we decided to put the hotel up for sale, as it had become much more work than we wanted to continue doing. It sold for $3,000, which was twice the amount we paid in 1901. To please Daisy, during the spring and summer of 1906 we spent that money on a complete make over of the farmhouse. The interior was upgraded, decorated and a grand porch was added. I was also able to add a deco electric system to the house just like one I had learned about at the Chicago Worlds Fair.

    We invited all of our relatives and close neighbors to the house for a Thanksgiving celebration. Just over 100 people were in attendance. Weather was not that bad, in spite of some very cold weather in October. In fact, I would learn the next spring that the October 10, 1906 heavy snowfall and temperature drop to 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit had killed all the peach trees and many other fruit trees throughout Michigan. A number of families just walked away from their farms. Only the most successful growers, with favorable locations and soils, replanted peach orchards. In spite of the losses life went on. (1906 over 100,000 acres of peaches in Michigan – 2010 just 10,000 acres)

    Note – Above written by Martin Overhiser based some conjecture, Manatee River Journal articles and Jeanne Hallgren’s Casco Township – Bounty By The Lake’, The History Of Casco Township, Allegan County, Michigan 1844-1995.
    Hotel PS – There are now 8 homes on the Palma Sola Hotel site. The tile roof home is on the hotel site with the river to the right. In 2007 I meet Elizabeth (Libby) Crews Warner whose husband Joe Warner was a descendant of the original hotel builder. In Libby’s apartment she has a dresser and rocker from the hotel.

    At the Farm May 3, 2010
    The month of April brought some record-breaking warm days and then some very cold nights. The higher temperatures brought on the blossoms sooner than normal. These early blossoms were then faced with some very cold nights. On April 28 (the coldest night), Brother Allan burned some of his brush piles to warm the air and create air circulation. Mother Nature thinned some of the apples and peaches that night. The honeybees have just been moved out of the orchards. Now the waiting game for two more weeks. How extensive is the frost/freeze damage? Will we get another freeze? Did the bees do their job? In general it looks like the farm will have a crop of each fruit but some may be lighter than prior years.

    Thursday, April 1, 2010

    Palma Sola Hotel - 1901

    Palma Sola Hotel - 1901

    My (Albert here again) young wife Daisy brought new life to the farm. Because of Daisy we hosted and attending frequent family gatherings. We did not miss any community gatherings and traveled by boat to Chicago once or twice a year. Shopping in South Haven became a once or twice a month routine. The farm kept generating a nice cash flow and I was paid back on some of the loans I had made to Alta May’s brothers. In 1900, the year after 12 year-old Max died; we started talking about spending some time in Florida. In January of 1900 Daisy, Bill (age 4) and I traveled by train and steamer to Bradentown (as it was called then). We had heard so much about the area we wanted to see it for our selves.

    As we turned from Tampa Bay and steamed up the Manatee River this beautiful two-story hotel dominated the tree line. It was on McNeill Point at Palma Sola. Once we settled in Bradentown we discovered the hotel was for sale. After looking at several properties, we purchased the 20-room Palma Sola Hotel for $1,300 cash. It was completely furnished, on 9 acres, had 1300 feet of river frontage, and included a fine wharf. We moved into the hotel at the end of January. Agent Riggin arranged the purchase from Gilbert Warner son of Warburton Warner who had built the maritime hotel in 1882. Warburton and his father (James) developed and marketed Palma Sola, built a large sawmill, wharf, general store, fish house and ice house. By the time I arrived, Warburton had died and all of the major buildings, except the hotel, had been destroyed by fire. It was rumored that jealous husbands, of women Warburton had 'befriended', started some of the fires.

    The local weekly newspaper (Manatee River Journal) published several articles about our hotel project. Daisy and I were treated as local celebrities. I think they knew we had some spending money. I hired a Mr. Rudd to help with the property and purchased a 20-passenger gasoline launch. We named the boat “Daisy”.   Captain and Mrs. Overhiser and Mr. Rudd became our names because of the newspaper articles. Everyone in the area was a captain of something.

    The second week at the hotel Mr. Rudd’s 7-year old son came shouting that his dad had been buried in a hole. Rudd was down 12 feet below the surface working on a failed pump when the banks gave way completely burying him beneath some 7 feet of earth. For 30 minutes I worked the hardest of my whole life digging him out. He was not breathing but by vigorous handling and shaking, I revived him. Later that same day I rescued a man and young boy who had gotten into trouble in rough weather on the river. Everyday there were unexpected things calling for my attention.

    Our son Bill (William McKinley) became good friends with Mr. Rudd’s son, who was 2 years older. The two boys enjoyed being river rats. They played in the river, swam, fished, collected shells and picked oyster from the river. Bill developed a love for oysters and tropical fruit. A few years later we started a family tradition of serving oyster stew on Christmas Day to celebrate Bill’s birthday. When we returned north we all felt much healthier because of the climate, exercise and diet. Bill added 10 pounds, I put on 15 lbs and Daisy added some 20 lbs.

    We worked on the property day and night. Daisy purchased additional furnishings, china, and kitchen utensils while redecorating the lobby and guest rooms. Rudd and I worked on the hotel, the out buildings, fixtures, wharf, and planted several tropical and semi-tropical fruit trees. I had visions of growing winter fruit in Florida and summer fruit in Michigan. That first winter we had a few guests stay at the hotel but did not advertise, as Daisy did not think we were ready to formally entertain. H However, we were kept very busy carrying picnic and excursion parties up the river. On one of those trips we killed a 10-foot alligator and we could always catch fish. At the end of March 1901, after 3 months, we packed up and returned to Michigan. I left Mr. Rudd in charge of the hotel, grounds, and the "Daisy" Launch.

    Note – Above written by Martin Overhiser based mostly on Manatee River Journal articles and a little conjecture.

    At the Farm April 1, 2010

    The fruit trees at are still being trimmed so they will look their best this summer and be receptive to the sun shining into their centers. Allan has already applied a spray on the dormant peach and nectarine trees for peach yellow leaf curl. This fungus can cause defoliation and crop loss. The blossoms will be starting at the end of April and continue through the middle of May. Cherries come first followed by the other fruits.

    Martin and Lucy O got to see the cherry blossoms in DC the end of March while visiting daughter Marla and son-in-law Malcolm. Did you know that 3,000 cherry trees were planted around the title basin in 1912. They were a gift from the people of Tokyo to the people of DC. In 1965 Lady Bird Johnson accepted another 3,800 cherry trees from Japan. The DC Festival includes blossoms, kites, 10-mile run and traffic jams. We would advise you drive past Overhiser Orchards to see blossoms and avoid the DC traffic. The 3-26-2010 photo below is of the JFK Grave Site in Arlington - magnolia blossoms. The Washington and Jefferson monuments are in the background.

    Monday, March 1, 2010

    Daisy Galbreath Arrives - 1896

    Daisy Galbreath Arrives - 1896
    My mind exploded after visiting Chicago’s Columbian Exposition (1893). My thoughts, day and night, were filled with the sights, the sounds and the mystery of the Fair exhibits. This diversion kept me from dwelling on the lost of Alta and two sons in 1891. My son Max and I kept the house running – but not very well. Sister Olive, other relatives and neighbors were such a big help. Winters were difficult. However, living with God’s creations - the animals, fruit trees, soil, and other crops made me feel closer to him.
    My 60-acres plus Dad and Henrietta’s 40 acres were manageable thanks to our hired men and young neighbor boys. In the mid to late 1890s I had some 15 acres of peaches, 10 acres cherries plus apples, pears and plums. Also carried on general farming and maintained well-cultivated fields. My financial resources increased each year. I was able to improve buildings and purchased the latest in modern machinery and accessories. Money was also available for loaning to relatives such as Alta’s siblings who were starting up farms. Alta’s father James had passed in 1889 while her mother Mahala lived until 1900.
    Thanks to the match making skills of Olive I was married a second time to Daisy Galbreath on February 26, 1896. The wedding was at Daisy’s parents home near Pierceton IN east of Warsaw. I was old enough, at 39, to be Daisy’s father as she was 22. Alta was also 22 when we were married in 1886. Daisy was a good looker, stylish dresser and full of energy. And yes, Daisy was a little princess. This could have been because she was the youngest of 14 children. Her father Samuel had 7 with his first wife and 7 with Daisy’s mother - Margaret Black Hibbets. My brother-in-law Sam Galbreath’s father Joseph (wife Eliza Bricker) was a brother to Daisy’s father Sam. This was a bit confusing at times. Connecting to the Galbreath clan doubled my relatives’ list. The Galbreath Reunion photo was taken in the summer of 1896 when Daisy was caring our son Bill. That same summer we attended the Overhiser Cousin’s Reunion, which was started in 1893.
    Our son William McKinley was born on Christmas day 1896 and joined 9-year-old Max. Big brother Max was great with his stepbrother and both boys loved the farm pets and animals. Death came calling again. Max started having problems with his sugar levels and died from diabetes complications on December 21, 1899.
    Note – above written by Martin Overhiser based on mostly facts and some conjecture.
    At the Farm March 1, 2010
    Trimming continues and the family is consumed with school activities. The Federal and State tax returns have been filed. Now to pay the property taxes. Our father, Albert Wayne Overhiser, passed away on December 2, 2008 just before his 92nd birthday. Allan misses stopping at Dad’s house every evening to help him get settled for the night. Now that we are living through the second great depression/recession we are reminded of what Dad would tell us about living in the 1930s. “Things were not that bad, we always seemed to have ice cream.” May your dessert be ice cream with frozen peaches or blueberries?
    Question: What do you call a truckload of apples spilled down the mountain?
    An applanche

    Sunday, January 31, 2010

    Albert and Max at Chicago World's Fair - 1893

    Albert and Max at Chicago World’s Fair - 1893
    The 1893 Fair in Chicago was also known as the World’s Columbian Exposition to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Columbus’s arrival in the new world. It was dedicated in 1892 and was opened to the public May 1, 1893 through October 30, 1893. My sister Olive Galbreath and their oldest son Merritt (11) convinced Max (8) and me to go with them to the Fair. Merritt and Max always enjoyed playing together at family gatherings. It had been two years since Rosco, Alta May and our new infant had passed and this was a nice break from the farm at the end of a great harvest.
    Merritt was helped through college and dental school by his parents with the understanding that he would help his brothers (Roger, Joe, Clyde and Otto) with their college expenses, but he did not. This became quite a sore spot in that family. One of his brothers did, however, also become a dentist. After training in Spokane Merritt and his wife, Bess, settled in Chicago where he had been so impressed in 1893 by the Fair.
    We started our trip on Saturday October 7, 1893 by having Sam Galbreath take all four of us to stay overnight with my sister Ida and her husband Charlie Osborn. They lived 3 miles to the West on a 40-acre farm. Ida always had a kind disposition and loved to serve others. She did not have much use of her withered right arm but did become a teacher and was able to control the kids. When she was 4 she was playing near where we were clearing some land and a large falling branch hit her right arm. After that she started using her left hand for everything and her right arm stopped growing. She always wore a black glove on her tiny hand and pinned it to her dress. Her handicap did not slow her down. She did it all: cooked, washed dishes, canned, and made her own clothes. She and Charlie were very active members of the McDowell Church a mile West of their farm.
    Well, back to our Fair trip. Sunday morning Charlie took us to South Haven to board the Lorain L. steamer to travel across Lake Michigan to Chicago. On the boat, which was very crowded, we got to talk with Chief Simon Pokagon. I had met him once before. The boys were fascinated. The Chief lived in Lee Township to the east of us. He was traveling as a special “Chicago Day” Fair guest to give a speech, ring the Bell of Liberty for the first time and be in the parade on Monday the 9th. He told the boys about his new pair of pants that he had purchased for $1 at the Locota store. This was the same price for each of our round trip boat tickets. The Chief’s father (Chief Leopold Pokagon) sold the Chicago area to the US Government in 1833 for 3 cents an acre. The Chief said he had spent his whole life trying to get paid for that land and met with Presidents’ Lincoln and Grant pleading that his people get paid.
    We stayed in Chicago Sunday and Monday nights returning home on Tuesday. What an eye opening experience. We got to see the latest inventions, newest products, and experienced the “Midway” area. We all enjoyed the amusement and carnival area with its sideshows. Rides included the very first Farris Wheel that was 264’ high. Each of the 36 cars held 60 people. One of the cars carried the John Phillip Sousa band that played daily. We read that 1.5 million people rode the Wheel the first month of the Fair.
    I was most impressed with the Westinghouse electric building. There were several displays showing different methods for generating electricity. I thought the Dynamo electrical generator might be used at our farm. Some of the new products included: Cracker Jack, Juicy Fruit Gum, the hamburger, Quaker Oats and Shredded Wheat. Could not help but think of the 1871 Chicago fire and all the smoke we experienced at the farm. We did not see any evidence of the fire, only new and modern buildings and facilities. What an uplifting experience for all.
    Note – Martin O spun the above tail based upon facts and some speculation. Want more information about the 1893 fair and take a “virtual tour” go to this website:
    At the Farm February 1, 2010
    The farm family is traveling lots this winter to and from the Fennville schools as the kids are in several activities. Inside the paper work is being worked on and tax returns prepared. Trying to loose less each year is Allan’s goal on the farm. That is an old, old story with farmers. They always hope to make some or more next year. On the expense side of the equation, Allan has added a chain saw that is at the end of an extension device for trimming. So here is how they trim: hedge most trees with a huge power hedger, thin out the bigger branches with the chain saw and then do the hand trimming. Trees need to be thinned out in the middle so sunlight gets to the fruit.
    Question- what do you do if you see a blue peach? Try to cheer it up!
    Don’t forget fruit!!