Thursday, August 3, 2017

Wonder

Maybe you know of my love for this place by what you've read through my blog posts and seen through my photos. Maybe you've stopped for a visit here and felt the magic that beckons you to stay a little longer. Maybe you've been a part of the demolition and rebuilding and remodeling here and have seen how emotional I can get over an old, rusty hinge on a piece of wood or some wrinkled newspaper with a date older than me or a moldy, glass medicine bottle that looks like nothing more than trash.  I think what I love most about this place is that we are contributing to its history. Every day, in our daily life, we are becoming a part of its past.

When we purchased this farm from the Gates family, we got more than a house and a barn and some land. In addition to being fortunate enough to get to know the Gates family and some of their history here, we learned that they had the original title to this land, and all of the documentation as it has been passed on and split and sold and built upon throughout the years.

I wonder if, when David Piffard acquired 160 acres from the United States on July 6, 1836, he had ever dreamed what the future would hold.  He was one of the first to settle here in Richfield Township, and after marrying Ann Matilda and raising a family, they sold half of their land to Joseph and Friedericke Curts from Germany, on February 25, 1863 for $600.  They had brought their young daughter, Caroline, with them to Richfield after the death of two sons.  And after his first wife passed away in 1862, Joseph married Mary, who also had a daughter named Mary.  At the age of 66, Joseph passed away, leaving his wife $100 per year from his estate, plus a cow of her choosing.  He left his daughter, Mary Blocker, 20 acres of the farm, plus the horse barn.  He left the balance of his estate to his daughter, Caroline Amidon.  To his grandsons, he left the following: Frank Amidon, his horse.  Willie Amidon, his watch.  Dyer Amidon, his buggy and single harness.  For his granddaughter, Carrie Blocker, he left his organ.



Caroline had married a farmer from Pennsylvania named Giles and they lived together, here on this 40 acre plot of land.  They raised three sons here, and, although there is no written record, I assume that these were the people who built this house.  How exciting it must have been to build this home with its country kitchen, and a dining room with a large stove, and three bedrooms upstairs-one for each of their boys.  I can imagine the farm life and can almost smell the hay outside and the bread baking in the oven and the mischief those boys must have gotten into.  When Caroline passed away in 1907 from diabetes, and Giles passed away in 1914, I wonder if they knew what they were leaving behind.

Dyer and Sarah Amidon took over this farm in 1914, raising two daughters here, Mabelle and Maud.  After both daughters married and moved on, and Dyer and Sarah were in their 70's, they sold the farm to Henry and Ida Munger, in 1933.  I wonder if the Amidons knew their story would be remembered.

When Ida's husband died not long after they bought the farm, she was forced to sell, in 1937.  The new owners were Cassius and Myrta Giddings, who once owned the Goodrich Mill Pond.  After just two short years though, The Giddings packed up and moved to California.  War can cause many changes of heart, can't it?

On November 27, 1939, Guy and Grace Hoffman became the new owners here.  Guy farmed this land and raised dairy cows until July 21, 1959.  He lost his first wife, Grace, in 1958, with whom had had a daughter, Veretta, and a son, George, and had married Helen shortly afterward.  The Hoffmans sold the farm in July 1959 to Orus and Doris Kerr of Davison, with the agreement that the Hoffmans would still get to harvest their current wheat crop by September.  I wonder if they knew the mark in history that their family had made.

Originally when the Gates family bought this farm in 1961, they lived in the home next door and rented this place out. I've heard stories of the family with eighteen children who lived here. They were a family with a lot of love, but not a lot of money. When the welfare of the children came to be questioned, their parents were forced to give many of them up. Friends and neighbors on farms nearby offered to "foster" a child or two each to prevent them from being sent who knows where. In reality, the children stayed together, here, but when questioned would tell you they lived with The Stantons or The Millers or The Baxters, as to not be taken away again.

Eventually, the Gates family sold the place next door and moved in here full time. There were cows and horses and chickens. Richard and Betty Gates raised their seven children here, and their 15 grandchildren, and their 13 great-grandchildren, too.  Until the late 1970's this house was without a bathtub or a fireplace. The backyard was filled with multiple outbuildings and there stood the barn-the same barn that was willed to Mary Blocker by her father way back in 1888. I wonder if Joseph Curts could have fathomed that his beloved horse barn would still be standing in 2015.

circa 1973

When they were no longer able to farm the land, Richard and Betty leased it to Hunt Farms, a local business that farms thousands of acres throughout the area.  Richard Gates passed away in 2007, at the age of 81, and Betty passed away in 2014, at the age of 87.   I wonder if Betty knew those farmers would be talking about her delicious brownies she always had waiting for them, even after she was gone.



2015 is where the story leads to us-The Martins.  After a summer of anticipation, this farm became ours in the fall of 2015.  We have taken things away, added new things, brought things back to life, and said goodbye to things forever here, in just two short years.



We have found remnants of old foundations, and discovered that our house didn't even have one.  We found the original siding under another layer of siding last year and were given a glimpse of what the house had originally looked like.  We have found marbles that have rolled into holes in the old wood floors, lost by children who played here.  We have gotten dirty from long days of playing outdoors.



We are teaching our children the same things the families before us have taught their children.  We've watched the circle of life, from precious beginnings, to growth, and have said some sorrowful goodbyes.





When we took the old barn down last year, it broke my heart.  It just didn't seem right to be removing the original piece of history from this land, even though it had to be done.




But just like the families before us, we are putting our own stamp on this place.  We are trying to make it what it once was-a simple, comfortable place to raise our family.  I wonder if someday, long after we are gone, someone will write of our life here, as well.



A few days ago, just as I was getting ready to leave, there was a knock at the door. There stood a man, in his late 60's, holding a framed photograph. He said, "I know this is going to sound very strange, but in this photo is my grandfather, Guy Hoffman, my father, George, and me at age 4 and we are standing right over there."  And he turned to point to the old electrical pole that still stands in our yard. "Is there any way I could walk around your yard?"



Are you kidding me?  In addition to immediately starting to cry, I invited him inside.  I would love to go back and visit the homes I lived in when I was younger and watching him take it all in was almost as enjoyable.  He told me that there used to be a huge wood burning stove in the kitchen and that he used to sleep in the living room, against the wall, before he was big enough to sleep upstairs alone.  He told me that once, when he was trying to fall asleep, the house had been struck by lightning and he watched the electricity blow up the refrigerator.  He told me that he'd sit on that old porch and watch the cows out in the pasture.  He told me that he was here from Massachusetts, and that he was hoping to take a present-day picture of himself standing in front of the barn.  He had looked up the house on Google Earth, and by their records the barn is still standing.



How sad I was to have to tell him that we had to take it down last year.  He walked around the property for some time, taking photos and videos and reminiscing.  When he came back up to the house, I had a few pictures to show him that I had taken of the old barn, and he noticed that the old electrical pole still standing in our yard was the very same one from his picture, 65 years ago.  I wonder if The Hoffmans knew the pole would outlast the barn.




When it was time for him to go, I told him he was welcome anytime, as are all the families who have ever lived and loved here.  What an impact this place must have had on his life for him to come back here after all these years to experience it again.  It was truly a gift to have Mr. Hoffman here in this home.  I've been known to just sit in my backyard for hours, staring out across the fields.  In these moments, I know I share a bond with those before me.

They watched these sunsets...



They watched these storms roll in...



They took time to slow down and enjoy this land...



They watched their children grow up and become farmers themselves...



It is a privilege and an honor to not only be making our own life here, but also to be walking in the footsteps of generations before us.  We carry little pieces of all of them: Piffard, Curts, Amidon, Munger, Giddings, Hoffman, Kerr, Gates.  Many things have come and gone here, from milkhouses to barns, to silos, to animals.  Each family made their own mark on this house, adding things and taking things away.  Even the landscape has varied greatly over the years, from pastures and multiple driveways, to freshly mowed lawns and apple trees.  But one thing hasn't changed.  This place has been home to all of us.  We have put our blood, sweat and tears into the work all of us have done here.  This forty acre plot of land has served all of us well.  There is beauty in simplicity, and we are fortunate to be living in such a beautiful place with a past worth writing about.