Wednesday, March 27, 2019

And someday there’ll be apples there

When we started to look for a house and property one thing we wanted were apple trees. We looked at several that had existing apple trees, but the house was not a good fit. Since we would live in the house, we decided that apple trees shouldn’t be a deciding factor. Where we settled does not have any apple trees, at least anymore. A flyover photo taken in the 1940s you can see where the orchard was. So, we just have to get some planted!

Us picking Northern Spy Apples at an orchard. 

First step was to decide where to get the trees. We knew we wanted heirloom varieties and the sooner we could get them producing the better! We could get one of the varieties we knew we wanted through a county agency. However, they could take 10 years to produce and we would still need to get another variety elsewhere. After lots of Googling we found Trees of Antiquity. We could get our heirloom apple trees and they should start producing in 2-4 years.

Now which apples did we pick!

Northern Spy
From the start, this has been on the list. Why? Well, most importantly we like how they taste. Next, I found a reference that these were very common in Michigan at one time. One source said that if someone says they have an old apple tree on their farm, it is a safe bet it would be a Northern Spy. This is also an all around good apple. Meaning it is good for eating fresh, baking, applesauce, cider, and storage. Last, we wanted it to be a pre-1860s variety. Here is an excerpt from Trees of Antiquity site “An 1847 letter from Oliver Chapin, writes "the first Northern Spy apple trees were raised from seeds brought from the Northwest part of Connecticut, about the year 1800, by Elijah Taylor.

Northern Spy 

Northern Spy does need a partner variety that can cross-pollinate so what to pick? We turned to an expert. We asked for recommendations with the following criteria: existing in Michigan during the 1860s, pollinates with Northern Spy, and is a good cider apple. We know many cider apple varieties saw their demise in the Untied States during prohibition. We like the idea of helping in a small way to bring those back. Looking over the recommendations here is what we will be harvesting.

Snow Fameuse
Also can be known as a Snow or Snow Apple because of its snow white colored flesh. It is a parent of the loved McIntosh. This is another variety that is great for eating and making cider. It is supposed to also make a “fluffy” applesauce! It came from French settlements in Quebec way back in the 1600’s! It then spread over the next 100+ years in every direction for 1,000 miles in Canada and United States.

Snow Fameuse, Snow, or Snow Apple 

Newtown Pippin
Three varieties of apples seemed like a good number to settle on! Newtown Pippin’s story started in 1750 and is said to be the oldest commercially grown and bred variety in the United States. This apple was grown by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson with Jefferson writing “They (being France) have no apples here to compare with our Newtown Pippin.” I was sold right there! For Felicia a selling point was it is said that Queen Victoria was a fan of this apple. She was presented with a basket of the apples in 1838. Afterward, British Parliament lifted import duties on the variety. This apple is known for cider making and develops more sugars while in storage.

Newtown Pippin Apple 

The trees have been ordered and we await their arrival! We will write another post about getting them planted once that is accomplished!

Thursday, March 21, 2019

History of History Acres

Wow! We sure have been slacking on the blog writing front. To be fair, things got pretty busy with mostly boring things like cleaning the house and continuing unpacking the house. We also have had other projects in the works that will probably become future posts.

We thought for this one we would talk about the history of the house. Note, we are still researching the house and hoping to learn more about it, but here is what we know so far.

The county website says the house was built in 1920. However, we noticed that a lot of historic houses in this county are listed as being built in 1920. So, we needed to do more sleuthing into when it was built. To do this, we went to look at some plat maps of the township.

In 1859 the land was owned by Chester Adams and had no buildings on it.

In the 1876 plat map there is a building added to the picture and it is now owned by William Cade.

In the 1916 county atlas the property is now owned by Herman Bottcher.

Well, on the 1859 map there were no buildings shown on the plat map, so we knew that the house was built after 1859. Then we looked at the 1876 plat map and saw that there was a building in the same spot consistently after that. That spot, when lined up with a modern map of the same scale would be exactly where our house is. Ok so narrowed it down. The house was most likely built between 1859 and 1876. Now… who built it and when….

From there we went to the county recorder office and researched the owners of the property listed on the plat map to see who owned the property when. We learned that, the owners were as follows:

1917 - Albert A Betker
1903 - Herman Bottcher
1873 - William R Cade
1863 - Richard E Cade
1857 - Chester Adams (Buying property for railroad easement)
18XX – William Insley

We were able to find transfers of deeds for most of the early property owners. We still haven’t found the deed for the transfer between Richard Cade and William Cade (father and son). Richard Cade and William Cade were the owners for most of the 1859-1876 time frame. We did recently find in a local history book published by the Capac Historical Society that Richard transferred the property to William in 1873. So, we went forward looking for information on them to try to figure out which one built the house.

What we found was really interesting.

Richard Cade came to Michigan in 1856 and rented a farm in Washington Township. Later, he came to Mussey Township and purchased 80 acres of forest land in section 18. Here he built a log cabin and cut a wagon road through the woods to Downey’s Corners (today, this is the road that runs from our house into town!) He then got rid of the farm and moved to Romeo, MI. From there, he moved to Washington state. William R. Cade his son spent much of his younger years helping his father clear and improve their homestead, particularly after he returned from the Civil War. William served in the 4th Michigan, Company H. When he turned 22, his father turned it over to him. He was married in 1872. In the book, written in 1903, it is written that “Mr. Cade has 70 acres of his farm under cultivation, conducts general farming and stock breeding, has an excellent barn and a very handsome dwelling, and a wind-mill for pumping water for his home and stock.” We believe this is about our house. We are currently thinking that the house was built between 1866 (when William R. Cade musters out of the 4th Michigan and returns home to help his father improve their homestead) and his marriage or transfer of ownership to him in 1872 and 1873, respectively. The house is built in a similar style to other houses in the area built in the late 1860’s - mid 1870’s.

Since the house was built, it has been added onto 3 times, at least. The first being the addition of what is now a bathroom and a kitchen (we think this was added in the early 1900’s between 1903 and 1922). Perhaps, this is where the 1920’s date the county had came from. At this time, it appears the house was heavily remodeled, including the laying of a second hardwood floor on top of the original 19th century floors on the first floor of the home. We found a picture at the Capac Historical Museum, taken at the schoolhouse across the road, that has our house in the background from 1922. In this picture, the addition had already been added.

The owners before us heavily remodeled the house, much of which we are undoing to bring back many of the historical features of the home. Many of these projects are/will be featured on this blog. For additions, they added on a sun porch, living room, and craft room.

Though the house has gone through many changes, we know it is a home filled with many great memories. In doing research, we found many newspaper articles that referenced township farm bureau meetings being held here, other social groups meeting, families raised, and even a wedding ceremony! We hope to bring back many of the historical features of the house both from the 19th century and the turn of the 20th century, add to the houses memories, and see what other clues we can find as to when the house was built.

Carpenter Bee Bee Gone!

This was a quick little project that wasn’t planned! This year we have noticed quite a few carpenter bees around the two barns and at least ...