Farm Stories from Manchester, Michigan

Life on our Farm, 1915–1995

by Howard E. Parr

Note: This online version of Farm Stories from Manchester, Michigan has been prepared and published with the permission of Howard E. Parr, the author. To purchase the printed book, please contact the author at the address below.

Copyright ©2012 Howard E. Parr

Published in the USA by
Howard E. Parr
327 Schaffer Ct.
Manchester, MI 48158

All rights reserved

No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, except in the context of reviews, without prior written permission from the author.


In our early retirement Lenora and I enrolled in a Writers' Group to hone our writing skills as we met a couple times a month with two or three pages of material for the group's critique. Some topics I chose had a farm background, and they were saved along with other writings.

When Liz sorted out the pile of writings after Lenora died, mine went into a farm folder. In time, and with some nudges, I started to think of pulling the pieces together to make a complete story to describe how I recall growing up on our small, diversified farm in Manchester. I began to write the Farm Story. The earlier segments weren't incorporated, but follow in a separate section (Vignettes) to furnish added detail in some areas.

After Floyd died, in part as a memorial to him and to Leslie, I decided to add the section on Parr III days to complete the story of Parr involvement with that farm from 1915 to the present.

The writing process used over 30 retirement years reminds me of how Grandma Mattern (Ella) made patchwork quilts. A block at a time was sewn together out of whatever pieces of cloth were available. When enough had been made, which might take years, the blocks were sewn into a quilt top. So this "farm quilt top" finally has been completed, and represents far more than the first blocks about my memories of growing up on our farm.


Without Lenora's dedication to writing and the written word, I wouldn't have joined that Writers Group to start writing about the farm. After she died, the remaining stories would not have come together without Liz who patiently sorted out all the writings I hadn't "filed," and organized them. The pile about the farm suggested there might be enough for a "book," but we settled for a manuscript. She also sorted out boxes of family pictures, many of which were appropriate for a story about the farm.

John Snell and Chris Parr needed all their computer skills (and a lot of patience) to plug me into the cyber world with its vast repository of information about farming as it has taken place in my time. John found the 1938 aerial photo I remembered, and farm machinery archives. Chris has found additional photographs and digitalized all those used, set them into the text, and created the final computer format. His experience in the Parr III phase permitted him to interject his own recollections, adding depth and to what I remembered, and at times correcting my errors. I am thankful there was enough time with Floyd to check and verify sizes of the farm fields and to help with some of the pictures.

All of my family have aided by supporting and encouraging me as I worked things out, perhaps at times to the detriment of some of their projects. Though specifics may not be cited, it all has been helpful and is appreciated.

I trust I have not left anyone out and express regret if I have.

Chapter I - Our Beginnings

Mom and Dad were married in January, l915 and rented their first farm in March of the same year. Adam and Amelia Schaible owned the farm and then lived in Manchester. The buildings and dooryard area were in Section l0 and the workland, pasture and woods were in section 3 of Manchester Township.

Farm house and barn, c. 1915

The farm was rented on shares—that is the owner furnished the land and half of such items as seed corn/grain, etc. In return the operator furnished the other half and all of the labor and equipment to carry on the work necessary for operations. All products that came from the farm were divided 50-50. (Another rental arrangement sometimes used was one calling for the operator to furnish everything but the land in which case the owner received one third of the products and the operator two thirds.) The Folks always spoke very highly of the Schaibles as landlords. They asked Dad if he wanted a silo—which was new then—and put it up when Dad said he did. They also were willing to put in electricity but the light fixtures used were discards from their house in town, since they had decided to install better ones. In most rooms there was only a single light bulb dropped on a wire from the center of the room. One convenience outlet was installed in the kitchen for the iron and the washing machine. When it came to products from the farm, we used eggs and milk as we needed from the farm and divided the rest. Schaibles were kind and generous.

The Schaibles lost their only daughter, Omah, while we rented from them. They attached themselves to our family as it came along and the story goes that they amended their will to include me after I was born in order to leave each of the first three of us $l00.00.

Mr. and Mrs. Adam Schaible

These were the kind of people who started the folks off on their lifetime of farming. The folks rented from the Schaibles until their death in l92l. Attempts by Dad to buy the farm from their heirs were unsuccessful and the agreement to rent was canceled in the Spring of l921. The farm was closed down and a public auction held to dispose of what was on hand. The last item sold at the auction was the farm itself and Hiram Parr bought it when his $6500 bid was not raised by anyone else there. Many thought Dad would simply stay on now that his dad owned the farm. But he had agreed to rent another farm and kept his word to report there for business on March l, 1922.

The Dewey Farm

William Dewey of Clinton owned a farm located near the junction of today's Hogan and Logan Roads in Bridgewater Township. It was a much bigger farm with larger barns. Dad hired a full time man to work it with him—Jim Palmer. Mr. Dewey concentrated on feeding western lambs. They were bought by the railroad carload twice during the winter season and were finished up for market with lots of hay and grain, raised on the farm. It was profitable business when everything went well and no disease or other calamity killed some of them. It was not unusual to double the lamb investment in 90 days.

Dad and Mom rented the Dewey Farm for two years—1922–24. But the Deweys were different landlords from the Schaibles. The 50-50 share crop rules were rigorously applied. For example, when the milk was brought in from the barn, it was divided first and we had to live out of our half. The same applied to the eggs. When the potatoes were dug in the fall they were divided in two equal shares in the field. Mr. Dewey would come and pick his half which then had to be hauled into town and sold on his behalf. The same thing applied to wood cut for heat each season. Twice as much as we needed was cut in the farm woodlot. As it came off the buzz saw table it was alternately pitched into two piles which were later corded into two equal stacks of firewood. After Mr. Dewey chose the one he wanted, his share was hauled away (free, by us) to be sold and ours was used for the season's fuel. The Dewey experience reinforced the love my Folks had for the Schaibles. The Dewey years were successful financially but were stressed when Scarlet Fever struck us there. (See "We Had Scarlet Fever.")

Chapter II - Back Where We Started

The Farm House

Farm house, rear, 1960s

We bought the farm from grandpa for $6500 and came back to the Schaible farm in the spring of l924. Grandpa had rented the farm to a family for the two years we were away. It is hard for one today to imagine the mess we stepped into when we moved back. March 1st was only about six weeks short of Floyd's birth, May 20, 1924. (All five of us were thus born in that farmhouse.) Mom didn't discover the house was infested with bedbugs until all our household goods had been moved in. Getting rid of them was no easy task—especially since the house was brick. Apparently bedbugs liked to live in the cracks between window frames and the brick walls and in that position were nearly impossible to kill by fumigation. Some of the procedures used to get all the varmints were as follows: the cracks around the windows and outside doors were covered with tape, infested wooden bedsteads had to be burned, metal beds brought in, and beds set away from the outside walls with the legs set into small cans containing kerosene. This kept the bedbugs from climbing onto the bed to feed on our bodies at night. Every morning each one of us had to pass inspection from Mom before we dressed. If there was evidence of a bedbug bite, the bed was carefully taken apart in the search for the bug. When it was found (always full of blood) it was killed and we went on the same way until the bedbugs had been eliminated by starvation. It was a long and laborious process. And remember, Mom was 7+ months pregnant at the time and taking care of four youngsters under eight years old. Oh, yes, there was the usual farm work to be carried on, too. A man works from sun to sun, a woman's work is never done. How true.

The brick farmhouse was made from Manchester bricks and probably built in the l850s. Originally the kitchen had been set up in the brick structure—probably using an open fireplace for the cooking. When we knew it the kitchen had been moved into a frame wing set on the back of the house, and the original kitchen in the brick portion been converted to a living room. There were three porches on the house—front, west and east, the latter on the rear of the house. There were two doors on each porch which made them very accessible. In the l920s some itinerant photographer took a picture of the house with the colors the bricks were painted at that time. I have never understood why the bricks were painted in the first place, but they were. In later years we painted them grey with the windows and trim in white. As the shutters fell into poor repair, they were removed and discarded.

The frame wing and original kitchen section of the house was one story. The main section of the brick house was a story and a half—the ceilings upstairs sloped down on each side so height was limited —especially for us tall Parrs. Three rooms and an open stairway area made up the upstairs and it was necessary to go through one room to get to another. The front stairway was large with a banister while the back stairway was narrow and steep. Downstairs there was the front parlor, a large room used by the Folks as a bedroom, the living room, a very small dining room and the kitchen. Off the kitchen were the pantry and a large unfinished area we called the "woodshed." That name is misleading since we did not use it to store wood. Usually there was a large woodbox for firewood for the range close to the kitchen door, but the woodshed was primarily used for handling the milk each day. The Galloway separator was there along with the milk pails, cream crocks, churns. Cured hams and bacon hanging in flour sacks were visible on the rafters and gave the place a smokehouse atmosphere to mingle with milk odors. There were always several five gallon pails used to collect skimmed milk and "swill" for the hogs. Swill meant anything that might nourish hogs—dishwater, potato peelings, garbage that wasn't given to the dogs and cats or burned. Each time we headed out to the barn we carried full pails to be mixed with ground grain and poured into the pig trough.

The basement had one stairway from inside the house and another from the outside. Only the section under the main upright of the house was excavated. Most of the floor was concrete. The furnace was located in the center of the house and was the typical octopus installation with several large hot air pipes extending outward and upward to registers in the rooms above. One large thirty inch pipe brought the cold air into the bottom of the furnace jacket. Circulation was by gravity and controlled by louvers in the registers—fully open for maximum heat and closed or partially closed for lesser amounts. We used the furnace to "keep the chill" off the parts of the house not regularly used. A Round Oak heating stove in the living room kept us warm there in winter but was taken down and carried upstairs during the summer so we had more useable space. Mom's South Bend Malleable cooking range stood in the kitchen. In cold months it was always warm there and that is why we tended to congregate there as we came in from outside. The heat and cooking/baking odors were a pleasant welcome. Fuel for the furnace was pitched down the open basement stairway. The range woodbox always seemed to be empty and was kept filled from the woodpile in the yard. Chunks for the Round Oak were carried in from the nearby porch as needed.

Farm house, southeast corner, 1960s. Note rainwater pipe to cistern (right).

A room about 8 by 14 feet was partitioned off behind the furnace to keep it cool. We stored there potatoes (often 40 bushels), turnips, squash, pumpkins and other items needing protection from frost. Heavy shelves along three sides of the room held the winter's supply of canned goods. Mother usually ended up with 400 quarts of fruit, vegetables and meat there. She used many half gallon jars because that much was needed to feed our table of eight. The 40 quarts of sweet corn deserved special mention because it had been canned in August and took 4 hours of cooking in a hot water bath on the range. Hot. Hot. Our 30 gallon meat crocks were also kept here to keep them cool. Bacon, ham and sometimes corned beef were brine cured in them. Pickles were stored there in smaller crocks.

In summer the coolness of the basement was all the refrigeration we had. Pans of partially cooked food were taken downstairs to cool on the floor. Homemade salad dressing was cooled this way. Leftover foods could also be held for a short time this way. Milk or cream was cooled with well water. The 50 degree water was pumped over the containers while the contents were gently stirred.

In many other ways we lived by nature's thermometer. We shed clothes to beat the heat and bundled up in cold weather. Doors and windows were opened to catch all possible cooling breezes. Rockers on porches could be cooling until mosquitoes gathered evenings. We learned to think ahead and be prepared. Extra wood was brought in when we expected cold weather and our schedules were adjusted to make work easier.

In summer the house was closed up to keep it cooler, shades were drawn to keep out the sun and swings on the porches provided relief. On hot days the wood fired range got its only vacation. A good cook had got cooking done early in the morning and let the range fire go out. Supper was warmed on the Perfection kerosene stove in the woodshed.

House Outbuildings

The old outhouse. Still usable for storage.

A short distance apart from the house stood the outhouse and the smokehouse, each a framed building about six by eight feet. A well worn path led out to the two seater outhouse which served as our only permanent toilet facility. The chamber pots, slopjars and buckets used in the house at night had to be carried out to the outhouse—called Mrs. Murphy's house by my Mother for reasons known to her—to be emptied before they were returned to the house for cleaning for the next night's use. The smokehouse was used only once or twice a year to smoke the cured bacon and hams from our butchering. The cured meat was hung from the rafters with loops of twine. Then a small fire was laid on the dirt floor and quickly smothered with wet hickory sawdust to create a dense smoke. After a couple days of good smoking, the meat was browned and ready to be hung in the woodshed until we used it. No refrigeration was needed for this cured and smoked meat. The smoked hams were usually basted with a mixture of molasses and red pepper to repel insects during the storage period.

Our cistern was a jug-shaped, brick-lined, plastered hole in the ground near the kitchen. All water from the roof was piped to collect into the single downspout which led to a hole in the middle of the concrete cover. Water for use in the house was pumped with a pitcher pump installed on the kitchen sink. All water for washing and bathing was pumped into containers and heated on the kitchen range or put in the range reservoir. (see New Fangled Water System)

Drinking water was carried from the windmill, which was midway between the house and the barns. A covered tank made of brick and plastered inside held 20 gallons of fresh well water. When the windmill pumped or we pumped by hand on windless days, the water ran through this tank on its way to the tanks used by the livestock. That way water drunk or taken from the tank for house use was always fresh and cool. When the cistern was empty during the dry summer months all water used in the house had to be carried in. Mom didn't like to use the hard water from the well to wash dishes and clothes. Her homemade soap didn't produce the suds in it that it did in the soft cistern water.

Farm Outbuildings

Buildings not described elsewhere were clustered around in what was called the farmyard or dooryard. All of the nearby fields were fenced and had gates giving access to the farmyard area. That way each field in turn could be used for pasture.

Barns, silo and windmill from northwest

We had two barns—one for horses and cattle and another for the sheep. The horsebarn was built in l899 and we used to hear stories about the workmen coming out in their Army uniforms to finish the building before they had to report for duty in the Spanish-American war. It was a hastily built, cheap building with what was called "balloon" construction. There were no mortise and tenon beams running across the middle spans to hold it together as was true in better, framed barns. The outside walls were held up by canted beams at regular intervals running from floor joists to the plates and reinforced by steel rods held in place under the floor by steel plates and tightened by a turnbuckle. The whole upper part of the barn was one open area and there was no drivefloor. Hay was pulled in through a large door in one end of the barn from the wagon parked outside the barn for unloading. In the lower part of the barn there were four house stalls, a box stall for animals which needed to be kept separate at times. We had stanchions for about 8 cows in the middle of the ground floor and the rest of the barn was open for steers and hogs. A platform was built of heavy timbers at the north end of the barn to hold a large strawstack. That way there was a warm place for animals to be sheltered during the windy winter days.

The sheep barn stood about 30 feet away from the horse barn and the area in between was fenced for barnyard animals. Dad remodeled the sheep barn when he came back and bought the farm in l924. He felt the need for more space for his sheep and put a gambrel roof and a lean-to onto the barn. The enlarged barn was about 48 x 30 feet in area and had space for 100 ewes and their lambs each year as well as for enough fodder and grain for them. It had a drive floor used by the wagons when we unloaded hay in that barn. There was also area in the lean-to upstairs for storing the corn binder and some other tools. A small workshop was also built there for farm use. The grindstone was there to be cranked one of us boys when Dad sharpened the mower knives, corn knives, scythes, etc.

Aerial view, buildings, dooryard & orchard (note lane and cement silo)

The space between the two barns contained the large, concrete water tank for large animals with a gate on each side of it to permit traffic in and out as necessary. Another smaller lean-to was attached to the south side of the sheep barn and used as our henhouse. A fence built of old roofboards from the sheep barn enclosed the remainder of the barnyard area so if we wished, livestock could be kept outside in good weather. Four gates in all served the barnyard to let animals in and out and to allow us to enter with a team of horses and the manure spreader.

On a knoll in the center of the farm yard stood the windmill. A wooden platform covered the 65 foot, open well. The well was lined with special brick to prevent cave-ins. These brick were trapezoidal in shape, laid at the surface of the hole layer by layer, settling down as dirt was removed under them as men dug to find water. Pressure from the dirt around the hole kept them in place and they remained as long as the well was in use.

Perkins windmill (wood)

Our first windmill was made of wood and was a Perkins mill. (There is one just like it today at the Waterloo Farm Museum nearby—3/99). When the wood sections of the original mill rotted, we put in a metal mill—Baker, I believe it was. From the pump water flowed into a small brick tank from which drinking water could be dipped or baled for our use. The rest of the water overflowed and ran down hill to the concrete horse tank between the barns. Pipes ran from the bottom of this tank to lower metal tanks in the sheep barn. Floats in the smaller tanks kept them full as long as the large tank had water enough. A ground level concrete tank near the well had to be filled by hand for the chickens. In later years we added a 6 x 8 foot milk house behind the brick tank. There water ran through another tank built large enough to hold two ten-gallon cans of milk cooled by the well water as it ran through to the horse tank.

The Apricot Tree (r-l, part of the smoke house, E barn gable above it, granary, end of W barn w/C H Parr, milk house and windmill, side delivery hay rake, some of the woodpile and a rabbit cage)

Nearby was a building which formerly had been a photographic studio in town. It was moved to the farm and set up on concrete-filled 12" tiles to make it suitable as a granary. The old skylight was covered and a doorway and sliding door put into one side of it for our use. After we stopped taking our grain to the mill in town to be ground for animal feed, we put a belt driven grinder in there and located it so the belt could come out the large door to the engine which drove it. We also added a bin to hold the meal which was ground periodically. The hens were usually fed from the granary by throwing a shovel of grain their way. Meal and oats had to be carried to the barn for the larger animals. Eventually a lean-to corncrib was built on the end of the granary to add to the capacity of the free standing crib behind the granary.

Stationary 5-horse gasoline engine (note steel carriage wheels and handle)

A toolshed-garage completed the major buildings in the dooryard. It was about 18 x30 feet with a sloping roof. Our first cars were stored in one end of it while the rest was used to store binders, plows and the Fairbanks-Morse 5H gasoline engine used to buzz wood and grind feed. In the fall there were usually 10 to l5 bushels of apples stored there for winter use. Dad usually went by each day on the way out to do chores and picked up his apple snack. He could pick from several varieties which had been laid in for the winter—Jonathan, Steele Red, Baldwin, Canada Red, Northern Spy. Mother's Greenings were there also, but these were for pies. When blankets and fur robes would no longer protect them from freezing, they were moved into the basement. As we came to have more than one car another lean-to was put on the end of the building for the new one.

The Orchard and Garden

Our two acre orchard and garden were close by and fenced off. In summer hogs were kept in the orchard along with sheep bucks when they weren't needed for breeding. A small hog house was built there to provide shade. In winter the hogs were kept in the barnyard and could sleep warmly under the strawstack.

Some of our fruit trees were in the orchard and some in the garden. We had Early Richmond and Mount Morenci sour cherry trees a long with a sweet cherry tree in the garden. There were also some grape vines, a quince bush, black and red raspberry bushes, and a couple peach trees. The orchard included Tollman Sweet, Dutchess, Wealthy, Northern Spy, and Crab Apple trees. Two Bartlett Pear trees were just outside the orchard. An apricot tree stood between the house and the granary. We piled our buzz wood around the apricot tree during the winter to await the spring wood buzzing bee. Only later did we discover why we usually had more apricots than our neighbors. The piled wood shaded the roots from the early spring sun and kept the tree from blooming so early that frost killed the fruit as usually happened with apricot trees in Michigan. We had half a dozen large hard Maple trees around the house and yard for shade, along with a couple Elms, a Cedar and a Black Walnut tree. Later on some of the evergreens brother Stanley had planted were moved into the dooryard to remind us of him. (During the '30's and the CCC tree planting era, Stanley planted a row of trees from the Jackson track to the back of the farm—almost 3/4 of a mile—along the west boundary of the farm. Many of them didn't make it because of railroad fires, lack of water or, in some cases, too much water and the wrong kind of soil for evergreens.)

Farm Fields

From the back of the barnyard two gates opened into lanes. One ran east and the other lane ran north to serve the rest of the fields, the pastures and the woods. This lane crossed two railroad tracks before it got to the back fields. Each track had two gates which had to be opened and closed each time we crossed. We lived by the train timetables to avoid the 20 trains passing each day. Whether we were taking animals to pasture or coming through with a load of hay or grain, the ritual was the same. Get off and open both gates, get on and cross the track, get off and close both gates and climb back to move on. When one adds traffic for hauling manure, hauling buzz wood from the woods or just taking machinery and animals back and forth, there was a lot of gate opening and closing. The railroad section hands maintained the gates but we had to handle them carefully so no damage occurred. It was a constant hassle as I remember it. But we did enjoy watching the trains go by and having the engineers and firemen wave to us as they went. The north, or Jackson track as we called it, went up a fairly steep grade as it went through our farm. This made the steam engines work harder and I always enjoyed the sharp sounds of their chugs as they went up the hill. At night one could see in the ever present steam reflections of the roaring boiler fires as the fireman opened the fire door often to heave on shovel after shovel of coal to maintain the extra power needed to climb the hill.

Chapter III - The Working Farm

Plat map of original farm and 2 Mike Schaible parcels purchased later. (from 1915 Wash. Co. Atlas)

The 176 acre farm was made of about 80 acres of woods/marsh/pasture land and 90 tillable acres, leaving about 7 acres of dooryard/farmyard/orchard. Two railroads cut through it and two creeks joined on it in their course to the nearby River Raisin. Tillable land was fenced off in 7 fields varying in size from 5 acres to 30 acres as shown on the aerial map of 1937 (right below). The plat map of 1915 (left) locates the area in sections 3 and 10, Manchester Township, Washtenaw County, Michigan.

Aerial photo of farm and later additions (from 6/28/37 government series used to administer Agricultural Adjustment Act)

In 1943 Dad added to the farm by buying two parcels of land from Mike Schaible's estate for $1000. The first parcel was 40 acres on the northeast corner containing some tillable land as well as some woods. The second parcel was 46 acres of woods on the northwest corner. On the west side the farm now extended one mile from Austin Road to the Sharon Township line.

Detail, AAA map, enlarged to show fields of original farm. (w/reference numbers added)

Crops of hay, wheat, oats, corn, rye, barley, and sometimes soybeans were rotated between fields to provide the balance of fodder and grain needed each year. For example, there might be 7 acres of oats in field #1, 12 acres of corn in field #2, 9 acres of hay in field #3, 18 acres of wheat/oats in field #4, 14 acres of corn in field #5, 5 acres of soy beans in field #6, and 17 acres of hay in field #7.

Crop rotation began when older hay fields were plowed under for corn. The next year wheat, oats, rye or barley would be sowed there. Later, hay (alfalfa, timothy, clover) would be sowed, completing the rotation. Manure was spread on fields to be planted to corn. Commercial fertilizer was used for wheat, but not for oats, barley, rye and hay. There were enough fields so cycles lasted about three years or more for hay fields. Barley, rye and soy beans might not be planted every year. Portions of some fields were set aside yearly for potatoes, sweet corn, pop corn, squash, pumpkins, and melons. Fields closer to the barns were used for corn more often because it was easier to haul manure to them. Thus fields farther away might be left as hay fields longer than the closer ones.

Many factors had to be considered when decisions about what to plant were made--inventories of what was on hand, productivity of existing hay fields, distance from the barns, the chore of extra railroad crossings, etc. Also, the soil and drainage in some of the lower fields was better for some crops than others. Through it all we managed to fill the hay mows, corn cribs and granary each year (see Education of a Farmer).

The Farm Animals

In addition to the 100 ewes and their annual offspring, we had horses, cows, pigs, chickens, a couple sheep bucks and sometimes our own bull and boar. Four horses did the work on the farm—two heavy horses and two smaller ones for speed, lighter work, and part time work in 3 horse teams. The number of cows might vary from time to time but we usually were milking seven or eight and had a couple standing by dry, bred to freshen throughout the year to maintain a level milk supply. We had one or two brood sows with their annual litters. Our flock of hens was about 75 and we raised 200 baby chicks each spring to produce replacement laying hens and broilers to be sold or eaten. Perhaps bees might not be considered farm animals by some, but we always had a couple hives of to produce table honey and some extra to be sold if anyone wanted it for a dime a pound. Bees were also needed to spread pollen on the fruit trees and other blossoming plants. Of course, there always was a dog and barn cats to control mice and rats.

Two barns, the silo, the chicken coop and the granary were involved in the chores of caring for the farm animals. Morning and night hay had to be pulled from the mows and pitched down and fed to the horses, cows, steers and the sheep. Silage was thrown down from the silo to be fed the cows and young cattle morning and evening. Ground grain feed from the granary had to be carried to the barn and added to the silage. Each working horse received a couple quarts of oats three times a day. Cows and horses were bedded with straw pulled from the straw stack and carried to stalls. When there was a brisk wind this was especially hard to do. Sheep didn't need bedding but were fed hay and grain twice a day. Ear corn and swill mixed with ground grain was fed to the pigs twice a day. Hens were fed from the granary by throwing a shovel of grain onto the ground where they always were waiting for it. The sound of sliding the granary door open was their signal to come running. A box of ashes was kept filled in the hen house so hens could dust to control lice. At times a feeder had to be filled with ground oyster shells to provide calcium for strong egg shells. Baby chicks were in a nearby brooder house and needed feed and water at least twice each day (see The Baby Chicks Are In).

Animals required more than food and water and their care varied from species to species. As mentioned earlier, sheep at lambing time required constant midwife attention. About six weeks after lambs were born they were docked and the males castrated. Ewes were drenched with worm medicine annually and had their hoofs trimmed in the spring after the long winter in the barn basement. In the spring both mature lambs and the ewes were shorn of their wool. At first Dad was his own veterinary but did not shear the sheep. However, he started to do that when electric sheep clippers replaced those operated by a gasoline engine. Dad bought copper sulfate, fluid extract of strychnine and nicotine sulphate in bulk at the local drug store to make the right dosage of drench (a 6 oz. Coke bottle) for each sheep and prepared the mixture with warm water in a large dishpan on the kitchen range. The recipe came from a handbook we called the Doctor Book because it contained information about both farm animals and humans (see again We Had Scarlet Fever - Pat Parr has this book now, in '07).

Shearing a sheep (clipper powered from flexible metal shaft from gasoline engine)

Sheep shearing in gasoline engine days deserves a little space here. A couple men with a car and trailer drove in on sheep shearing day. They unloaded a couple folding platforms, a 1/2 horse gasoline engine and their shearing heads and set up in the sheep barn basement. The engine had a power shaft extending upward to a horizontal extension above the work platforms. Elbow joints flexed the encased power shafts extending down to the work stations. Another joint with a short extension brought power to the shearing heads which could be snapped in to drive the blades. The gasoline engine ran continuously to furnish power as needed, burning probably two quarts of fuel a day.

We had to provide a man and our wool table which was threaded with wool twine and used to tie up the fleece from each sheep. Between catching sheep for the shearers, threading and tying each fleece and carrying it upstairs in the barn, he was kept busy. Shearers had counters and punched a counter as they released each sheep. They were paid by the head. Our flock could be shorn in one day by two men, usually neighboring farmers earning a little extra money in the spring before going to work at home.

Wool table (Threaded with wool twine to tie each fleece of wool into a square bale, size of center section)

Other animals required less work which was also required seasonally. Sometimes cows needed help calving. When Katherine, one of our registered Holsteins was ready to calve, she was put in her stanchion and the breached calf pulled from her with a small block and tackle. Getting a rope hold on the slippery 200 pound calf was a trick, but one way or the other she was delivered. We did this for 12 years. Other cows delivered themselves and pasture calving has been referred to elsewhere. About all else bovines required was de-horning and castration of males to produce steers. De-horning was brutal and done without anesthetic. A large bolt-cutter type tool was used to cut off horns and the critter usually went down on its knees from the pain and shock. Blood shot up many feet into the air for a time but soon stopped. Animals had to be trussed up or put in stanchions for this. Dad developed a more humane way to produce our own hornless (polled) animals. When calves were still very young, the hair was clipped away (almost shaved) above the cells which would later produce horns. Then a stick of caustic potash was rubbed on the cells leaving enough to destroy them in a few days when the scab sloughed off. Hair eventually covered the scar and folks sometimes ask us where we got our polled strain of Holsteins.

Occasionally it was necessary to put a ring in a bull's nose to control him. A three inch copper split ring was passed through a hole cut between the two nostrils and then permanently fastened together. Then it was possible to snap a rope or lead stick onto the ring and lead the bull around. At other times a rope could be fastened to a cable to let the bull exercise. A four foot piece of log chain could be hung on the ring when the bull ran free. That way he would step on it if he lowered his head and started running toward a target, a sure way to stop him. Bulls could be dangerous and a hard and fast rule around our place was to always take a pitch fork with you when going near a bull.

Male pigs had to be castrated. All pigs had to have rings put in their noses to keep them from rooting up fences, etc. Pig rings from the hardware store came in boxes of 50 or so and were made of copper, shaped like a large, open C. The ringer tool, shaped like a pliers, received the C in its open position and when closed on the pig's nose, set the C into an 0 which stayed there. Sometimes for unruly pigs more rings were set along the top side of the snout for added protection against rooting. Only rarely was it necessary to ring the pig's ears together in front of its eyes to limit vision and control it. Boar tusks sometimes were a problem in the herd when they might be used to bully other animals--especially at the feed trough. Such boars were caught and trussed up. Then a heavy metal object, such as a wedge or maul, was put beside the tusk just before it was hit with a hammer to break it off.

Horses took little care. Ours weren't curried often but during the heavy work season some developed sores under the collar. These had to be rubbed with salve and dusted with special powder as they healed. We did not shoe our horses since they rarely walked on paved roads.

Young chicks occasionally showed signs of diarrhea. Instead of buying expensive pills, we bought potassium permanganate in bulk at the drug store for a few cents and put enough of it in a water fountain to medicate the birds. Like the chemicals for drenching sheep, this one was also a deadly poison and had to be used with care and kept away from the unknowing.

Our Chores

This collection of livestock formed the base of our production unit. We produced everything they needed except salt and medicines. Lots of work was required to maintain and renew the various breeds. Feeding was reduced to what we called chores, performed twice daily, seven days a week and fifty-two weeks a year. When one considers the demands of each type of animal it is not hard to see that many hours were involved, especially during the winter months. In summer the sheep, cows and horses were out to pasture most or all of the time and could feed and water themselves. We always felt lucky with our farm and its generous supply of water. Very few of the fields we used for pasture didn't have access to water from a creek or a pond. Other farmers had to haul water daily to animals in the pastures or drive a well for water, either pumping it by hand or by installing a windmill and a tank. (see Hiram Parr's Barn) Sheep on summer pasture still took regular care and monitoring. Each week, Sunday usually, we took a small pail of salt to their pasture, dumped it into eight or ten small piles spaced a few feet apart and counted the groups of sheep as they came to eat the salt. The tally told us if thieves or dogs had been active that week to reduce numbers of the flock. Also during the very hot weather we checked to be sure maggots weren't bothering some of them which had bled somehow and attracted blowflies. Those in trouble had to be caught and doused with medicine to kill the maggots. We used a strong mixture of creosote dip to kill them. The resulting mass exodus of struggling maggots as they came out of a wound remains a strong image in my memory.

Some of our chores were quite seasonal while most went on the year round. Baby chicks from the hatchery took a lot of care the first few weeks. (see The Baby Chicks Are In) Sometimes a hen would set on a nest of eggs and produce her own brood of chicks. These broods were usually put in a hen coop and had to be fed and watered several times a day. The hen coop was an a-frame large enough to hold the hen. Slats kept the mother in the coop while the chicks could go in and out during the day. At night in the coop the hen kept her chicks warm and protected from predators.

During the lambing season Dad practically lived in the barn, often going out eight or ten times to separate ewes from the flock as they were about to give birth and thus assure fewer orphans which resulted when a new mother lost her newborn among the flock and then refused to own it, that is, let it nurse. Such orphans would have to be bottle fed several times a day to keep them alive and to add to the lamb crop, a chore to be avoided if possible.

Sows about to farrow had to be separated from other pigs because often the newborn piglets became food for adults. Cows about to calve were not a major item when they calved in the barnyard or a box stall. But at pasture a cow would hide herself to calve and then leave the calf hidden. We had to search for the newborn and be sure the dog wasn't around, for the new mother would fight to protect her offspring. Mother Nature must have left this instinct in domesticated cows which normally paid little attention to the dog shepherding them as they went from barnyard to pasture.

Separator with platform for smaller cream pan, (note vise for bowl assembly)

Part of doing chores was the job of toting from house to barn and back again. Milk caused most of this work. The cycle started with milking twice a day. Milking was done by hand and four or five milk pails were needed to hold the fresh milk. These had to be carried to the house where milk was processed in the back room. Milk was strained as it was poured into the cream separator. The separator was turned by hand to spin the skim milk away from the lighter cream. Skim milk was collected in swill pails to be later carried back to the barn to feed the pigs. Sometimes some of it was saved in clean containers for cottage cheese.

Galloway Cream Separator

The cream was collected in one of many small crocks we used to hold cream until there were about 3 gallons to churn. We had two churns--a crock churn with a wooden dasher to pound (dash) the cream until "butter came", which could take 20 minutes. The other one was a barrel churn made like a wooden barrel and hung on a frame so it could be spun slowly with a crank. The trick with this churn was to turn it slowly enough to slosh the cream on each turn. If it went too fast, centrifugal force held it in one end and it wouldn't churn. From either churn the fresh butter was carefully lifted by hand out of the churn, placed in a wooden butter bowl and worked with a ladle to extract excess whey. Then salt was worked into it before packing it in crocks of various sizes or made into rolls to be sold. Buttermilk left over after churning was dumped into the swill pails for hog feed unless needed for cooking. With a little salt and the tiny butter flecks still remaining, it made a refreshing, cool drink; it also made wonderful pancakes and biscuits.

Dasher Churn

Each time we headed for the barn for chores we had to check to see what pails were full enough to carry along. The empties had to come back eventually and since we couldn't put milk in them, they were always an extra, not unlike the empty milk pails which had to be carried out when we went to milk. Eggs were easier and could be collected once a day unless it was zero weather when we had to do it oftener to keep them from freezing. In summer they had to be candled, that is checked over a light, to be sure they weren't spoiled.

Barrel Churn

Though it was not a part of the farm work itself, the household chore of washing milk pails and the separator had to be done. Pails and the strainer were washed once a day and the separator every other day in summer and perhaps less often in winter. In addition to the farm products we had to carry all drinking water from the well tank into the house. If the cistern was dry we had to bring all our water in this way adding greatly to the toting we usually had to do. For various reasons I had to help with the milk dishes when Mom couldn't do them--which wasn't very often. I hated the separator especially since the bowl had to be disassembled, carefully rinsed in cold water before being washed in homemade soap water which didn't cut the grease very well. Also, the 20 or so discs which separated the milk from the cream in the bowl of the machine couldn't be rearranged during cleaning. They had to be carefully strung on a device that reminds me of a very large safety pin. After washing and scalding (we used boiling water generously on all milk dishes to purify them) they had to be replaced in the clean bowl. Unless they had been kept in the order set by the factory, they wouldn't balance and the separator was inoperable. An extra large dishpan had to be used to wash the milk pails and the separator parts. We had a 16 quart pail, some 12-14qt. pails, the strainer, and the separator tank which was large enough to hold two or three pail fulls. Lastly, the clean separator had to be put back together.

Detail of discs, part of bowl which spun to do the job


Chapter IV - Basic Farm Work Each Year

Our farm work year started in the spring when land could be tilled for planting and the growing season began in this part of the country. Chores were done before and after field work, thus extending the working day as long as it took to get the work done. Vacations and regular work hours weren't part of the farmer's life in those days. Animals, the weather, and the unfolding growing season provided unrelenting demands on the farmer who wanted to be successful. The cycle of our day-to-day farm work as the year went by was typical of most diversified farmers at the time.

Spreading manure

When there was enough pasture for the sheep in the spring, they went out on pasture so the winter's accumulation of manure in the sheep barn was the first major job to be done. The manure spreader was driven in the basement and the packed, heavy manure was dug out by hand and pitched into it. Manure was spread on a field being readied for corn—usually an old hay field where the seeding had run out. This first heavy work with manure forks often raised blisters as the steady pulling and lifting took its toll on soft, winter hands. We didn't spend money on gloves and let hardening of our hands develop as it would. It might take a week to empty the basement which often had a 3 or 4 foot packed layer of manure on it.


The first crop to be planted was oats. Sometimes a field had been plowed the fall before, so only dragging and final fitting were necessary before planting. Otherwise, the field(s) for oats was plowed and fitted as soon as possible. Oats grows best in cooler weather and benefits from extra spring rain. This was especially true on our sandy, lighter soil.

Drilling grain

As soon as the oats were planted, fields for corn were plowed, fitted and planted. Plowing old hay field sod was hard, slow work with 12 or 16 inch single bottom plows pulled by horses. Ground was then dragged once or twice before planting which was done two rows at a time with planter. Fitting a field could be dirty work as one walked behind a drag all day when it was dusty.

Using a hay loader

By the time the oats and corn had been planted, the first hay field was ready to be mowed. Mowers cut five foot swaths as the horses walked along. After some curing in the swath, the side delivery rake was used to produce windrows of hay which were left until the hay was ready for the mow. If it rained on them, they had to be turned to stir them enough to dry again. A hay loader picked up a windrow and delivered it to the hay wagon where a man loaded it as it came to him.

Loading hay into the barn (our west barn was like this)

Full loads went to the barn and the hay mow for storage. Bulk hay loads were off-loaded one third at a time with harpoon forks or slings attached by a rope and pulled by horses. A man had to be in the hot hay mow to trip the forks/slings and mow the hay. It's no wonder we often said, "You have to make hay while the sun shines." The heat and dust of haying were unpleasant, but had to be endured until the two or three fields of hay were done.

Cultivating corn

First cutting haying was followed closely by the first cultivating of corn. Small sprouts of corn were vulnerable as the cultivator moved by them. Special shields were attached to help prevent dirt from covering the small sprouts. Should some be covered, one had to stop and uncover them. Again, all this work was done at the pace of walking horses.

Second cultivating of corn followed haying and second hay cutting followed that when there was any. Weather had much to do with this work so it had no fixed schedule.

Wheat was usually ripe by the Fourth of July. (see Cutting Grain With a Binder) Oats was ready to cut soon after the wheat was finished.


When threshing began in our neighborhood, our work schedules had to be adjusted to let us help those who exchanged work with us. We hauled our grain shocks to the buildings and built stacks there for threshing. Wheat and rye were stacked separately near the west barn and oats stacked outside the east barn so the straw could be blown into a mow for sheep feed. The sheep ate more oats so that granary was closer and only part of the oats had to be hauled to the main granary. Some neighbors chose to haul grain shocks directly to the threshing machine on threshing day. We felt it took less help to work from stacks; we also could thresh on days after rain when field shocks were still too wet.

I take time here to describe threshing day on our farm which might begin by 8:00 because our stacks were not affected by morning dew. Fourteen or fifteen neighbors came to help, to be repaid with our help when they threshed. Two men came with the rig, one to tend the engine and oversee operations and one to tend the blower and help build the straw stack. It took one man to bag the grain and four or five to load and unload the grain wagon. Four or five more men pitched bundles to feed the separator and one man stacked the straw. (Dad always did this dirty work because he wouldn't ask anyone else to do it.)

In the house Mom and a neighbor/relative helper were busy preparing noon and evening meals for the crew. Large quantities of special foods were prepared, pies/cakes baked, and the dining room table extended and set to seat that many. I was drafted into setting up washing facilities out by the windmill.

The wash bench was carried out and held two washtubs partially filled with water. Water was pumped in them early so the sun would warm it by noon. Soap and wash basins were set out. Towels were hung on the windmill along with a mirror and combs, so men could finish cleaning up for each meal.

The threshing season provided one of a young man's first experiences at working in a crew with strangers. One learned how to take orders and observed how others responded during this period of two or three weeks. In addition to our neighborhood, we helped Grandpa and Uncle Lowell as we also did with silo filling and wood buzzing.

The slack time between threshing and corn harvest was used for special tasks such as painting the barns or fence building or repair. It was also a good time to clean out the several drainage tile lines in the marshy parts of the lower fields. The Parr Reunion was held the fourth Saturday/Sunday in August which took us to Toledo or Charlotte for a weekend, the only time we called on neighbors to milk and do chores. The potato patch needed hoeing and de-bugging at times. Weeding and hoeing in the garden came along with harvesting as beans and tomatoes ripened. We could slip away to the swimming hole in the nearby river. Sometimes Grandpa Mattern would come out and take us fishing, often in the River Raisin that ran through Grandpa Parr's farm. The resulting fish fry was a special treat.

Corn binder at work

School started in time to keep us boys out of the heavy work of corn harvest. Just before or soon after the first heavy frost it was time to fill silo. The green corn was cut just before the silo fillers hauled it to the silo. It took four or five hours to fill the wood silo and more to fill the larger cement one that replaced it. Two or three teams were needed to keep the filler going as one bundle at a time was fed into it to be chopped and blown up a pipe to spill into the silo. Handling corn was heavy work starting with the binder which had to be pulled on its steel wheels along relatively fresh worked ground. The bundles were heavy and unbalanced to load and unload and had to be picked up by hand rather than a pitchfork. Large corn stalks were welcome, but more difficult to handle.

Corn shocks

After the silo was full, the rest of the crop was cut later and cured in shocks. Cutting corn was faster with the binder, but much heavier work, lifting and shocking bundles of tall cornstalks laden with full ears. (Corn could be shocked one stalk at a time, cut with a corn knife, though we normally used the binder.) In either event after drying a spell, about half the shocks were taken down so each ear could be husked and crated for the haul to the corn crib. In the field the stalks were rebundled with the recycled twine and reshocked. Shocks of these stalks as well as those with ears were taken down during the winter as needed and fed to the sheep in the field. Others were hauled to barns and stacked for feed. All of the leaves in the shocks stayed green and valuable as feed.

While school kept us from field work with corn, we did get to unload wagon loads of crated corn into the crib. We also had to pick up dug potatoes in the potato patch and carry them from the wagon to the basement potato bin. Squash, pumpkins and cabbage came to the house on wagons for us to carry downstairs. Such was Saturday and after school work for us in autumn.

Wheat/rye was planted in the fall. Sometimes it could be planted in a harvested corn field to avoid plowing. Most of the time a separate field(s) was prepared for planting after the fall rains came and planting could take place while it was still warm enough for germination. The end of the growing season on the land had come, and the barns, granaries, and basement were full of a winter's supply of food.

All of our work was done with these implements and four horses. Some of the heavier work was done with three or four horses, but most of it was done with a team, either heavy or light, depending on the work to be done. Mowing, raking, cultivating, and some wagon pulling were best done by a smaller, faster team. We did not have fancy horses or equipment for them but we did take good care of them to be sure we could get our work done on time. Hoofs were kept trimmed but we didn't put horseshoes on our teams. We kept some ointments around the barn to treat sores that might develop under the harness collars. Also at times we put powder under the collars to keep sores from breaking open. A brush or currycomb might be used occasionally. Every day a horse was expected to work it was fed a few quarts of oats at noon and again at night. Horses got fed hay three times daily and were kept in straw bedding to keep them clean in their stalls. Since they were needed almost every day they were not turned out to pasture regularly as were cows and sheep. Periodically they were turned out to pasture where they could frolic and roll to clean their hides.

Buzz saw

As winter approached our thoughts turned to fuel for cooking and heating. Dad might cut wood alone during the day when we were in school. But on good winter Saturdays all of us went to the woods. On better days we might get two wagon/sleigh loads of buzz wood cut and hauled to be piled around the apricot tree near the granary. By spring the pile of buzz wood would be big enough to give us 100 face cords of fire wood, our year's supply. In March it took a five-man crew 5 or 6 hours to bring the pieces of split wood (the size of fence posts) and the longer poles to the buzz saw to be cut into 16inch sections. The buzz saw was moved a couple times to shorten the distance to the shrinking pile. Later, the resulting mound of firewood was worked over to split some chunks into smaller pieces for the cook stove. The wood was burned from the pile; we didn't spend time or effort building cords of wood. By the time the last of the old woodpile was gone, the fresh wood was seasoned enough to burn.

Pile of firewood (apricot tree)

Late winter was the time to turn bucks in with the ewes so lambs would come in spring. Sheep were sheared then or soon after the lambs came. We butchered a couple lambs during the winter. Hogs and our beef were butchered while it remained cold enough to refrigerate the meat outside until it could be processed. (see Butchering Hogs)

These major efforts kept farmers busy during what is now called a workday. Chores and animal care went on regardless of all else in this agrarian world. It is easy to see why farms were rented beginning March 1st.

A Small Diversified Farm

The previous material relates to how I remember life in our small farm, but almost all farms then were the same type. Together, those living that way made up the agrarian society powering America as it moved onward to grow into an industrial nation, concentrated in urban areas.

Each small farm was a self-contained economic unit, almost independent, which had a little of everything it needed, with enough left over to provide for what it didn't have, pay the taxes and the mortgage/land contract on the farm itself. It became a matter of the survival of the fittest, where the unsuccessful fell by the wayside to become day laborers, renters, or share croppers on someone else's land.

We produced most of what we ate and traded grain for flour and wool for yard goods to make clothes. Extra eggs were traded for groceries we didn't produce, e.g. spices, sugar, etc. Extra milk, cream and butter were sold to produce cash for day-to-day needs. Some of these I remember hearing about were: the church collection envelope (tied to the price of a pound of butter/quart of cream), the phone bill (.75 cents/month), the light bill (a dollar or two a month), medicines for us and the animals, gasoline for engines and the car, salt for livestock, some hard coal for the brooder stove, and soft coal for the tank heater when we couldn't scavenge enough that fell off passing trains. We had to buy fresh meat to feed crews for threshing, silo filling, and wood buzzing, otherwise we lived on our own fresh, canned or smoked meat supplemented by wild game in season. The annual sale of wool and lambs produced enough cash to meet property taxes and the land contract. In lean years there might not be enough to repay any principal on that. Dad often said if it hadn't been for our 100 ewes, we would have joined those who lost their farms during the Depression. (for a different kind of farm, see Orchards and Truck Farms)

Chapter V - Growing Up on our Farm

The 20s and 30s on Our Farm

The story of farming has been spelled out, but life continued for us on the farm as we grew up. Prosperity turned into the deep depression and although profits and prices plunged or disappeared, the work and life went on and the farm continued to take care of our basic needs. We never were hungry and even sent some of the surpluses that couldn't be sold to Detroit to help Uncle Orrin's family. I can see bags of potatoes in his Studebaker and remember stories of Aunt Bertha preserving eggs in Water Glass (a heavy solution with glycerin, poured over them in a large crock to seal away the air and keep them from spoiling without refrigeration, I believe). There probably were garden vegetables and sweet corn in season, too.

The farm was in the Manchester School District so all of us completed grade and high school there. We were taken to school mornings in the car because Mom and Dad could sleep a little longer, but we walked the mile and 8/10th home. I made history walking home at noon after my first day in kindergarten, arriving there in tears with messy pants because I hadn't asked to go to the bathroom at my regular 10 a.m. bowel movement time.

The Family Chronology

I turn now to list key events extending beyond 1930 in sentence form, with only occasional details. The list should provide perspective to the story.

1926   Grandma (Louise) Parr dies.

1927   Grandpa remarries to Bessie Torrey

1933   Grandma (Ella May) Mattern comes to live with us after Grandpa dies. With some of her small amount of cash a new furnace is installed and the archway to the old parlor closed with doors to provide her own quarters. She may have helped provide our first refrigerator which was used in the woodshed for milk products, not as a kitchen appliance. She brought us our first radio, a cathedral style on its own stand, and we had to wire in a floor plug for it in the living room.

1933   Hazel is allowed to go to Ypsilanti State Normal to start her two year teaching course after graduation in 1933. Canned foods and baked goods are sent to her the first year at a rooming house. I believe she borrowed her tuition money from Grandma Mattern, probably $50-60/yr.

1933   Uncle Orrin Mattern dies tragically, the youngest of his six children six months old.


1935   Stanley graduates and hires out as a farm hand to Martin Hoelzer in Bridgewater Twp. The next year he works for Herman Wiedman. Salary about $40/mo. and includes room and board. Hazel comes home and teaches at Spafard School for $30/mo. plus $5.00 for firing the stove and janitor work.

1937   Stanley dies in January of cancer after a 6 month illness. I graduate in June, get a University of Michigan Alumni Tuition Scholarship and enter there for four years. I can earn room money ($2.50/wk) summers but borrow money for books from Grandma Mattern. (see Back to My Michigan)

1939   Leslie graduates and also goes to U of M. Hazel and Jesse Walker are married and set up housekeeping on his Lamb Road farm. (see Jesse Walker Barn Raising)

1940   Grandpa Parr dies.

Leslie, Hazel, Clayton, Willo, Floyd, Howard - 1943

1942   Floyd graduates and becomes the only boy to remain on the farm, helping Dad, earning money by working rented land with Dad's equipment until he starts accumulating his own, and takes an outside job. He is rejected by the Army for physical reasons. He attends Short Courses at Michigan State College. Uncle Walter comes to live with Mom and Dad.

1945   Grandma Mattern dies.

1946   Howard returns from the war, marries Lenora Haab, and continues teaching.

1947   Leslie completes college after the war, marries Pauline Deneau, and starts working as an automotive engineer.

1948   Floyd marries Florence Ashfall, moves to Ed Logan's farm they had bought.

Farming Changes in the 50s and 60s

Uncle Walter

When Dad started farming he needed a hired man to help. As we came along he didn't. By the time we had all left, electric power, tractors, and new machinery were available to permit him to get most of the work done alone. Uncle Walter was available to help with chores and work that didn't involve machinery. He never adapted to its use or learned to drive a car.

Farming continued as before but was easier as changes came along. Dad's first tractor was a John Deere H Model which could do the work of a team of light horses and had a pulley for belt work. Horse drawn tools were pulled by a shorter tongue (usually sawed off old ones) fitted with a tractor hitch. Horses were kept for some work and to be used at times by Uncle Walter because he preferred not to run machines and continued to do things the old way. The John Deere H was very economical and in a full day only burned 5 gallons of 15 cent/gal. fuel. But, this had to be purchased, unlike the "fuel" for horses. The Fairbanks and Morse engine was no longer needed as the "H" ground grain and buzzed the wood. Attachments for the tractor made cultivating corn easier and faster even though they had to be manually controlled. (Stanley provided a humorous cultivating story when he worked for Hoelzers. In the monotony of cultivating with their John Deere, he overran the fence at the end of a row as he yelled frantically to the "horses" to stop, forgetting to pull the clutch.)

The effect of modernization slowly crept into many aspects of farming that had required many workers and long hours. A John Deere B Model tractor was bought later because it was larger. The Surge Milking Machine allowed one man to do what had been done by four or five of us. The Galloway Separator was electrified to replace the person who once cranked it. Eventually there was an electric churn. An electric pump delivered water to a spigot in the house, doing away with trips to the well with a pail. Armfuls of wood weren't required for the bottled gas range, though the old stove was kept for heavy duty work. The vacuum sweeper eliminated carrying rugs outdoors to be hung on the clothesline and beaten with a rug beater. Mom couldn't resist the salesman who came along selling small Hamilton Beech electric motors to be hooked onto her sewing machine and eliminate the need for pedal power. More trips to town with the car might be made between the scheduled Wednesday and Saturday night shopping trips, though Dad didn't give up these nights in town to "visit" while Mom delivered butter/cream and shopped for groceries (she said she learned how to cut our hair by watching the barber cut hair as she sat in the car waiting for those "visits" to end.) (see Education of a Farmer)

The economic effect of these changes eroded the independence of the small farmer as more cash became necessary to purchase supplies no longer produced on the farm. The independence of a farmer also was slipping away as federal government programs began to control production and prices. Allocations for wheat and corn were introduced in an attempt to limit surpluses, and selected subsidies were set up to support basic prices. Farms were measured, allocations assigned for crops like corn and wheat, and surpluses purchased by the government to create shortages intended to raise prices. Dad worked for a time with the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) set up for farms, but never was a supporter of government involvement in farming. He was better than some who could then get away with simply ordering government men off their farms.

Clayton, Liz, Marcia and Hoppy - 1951

Increased efficiency gave him time to spend on other activities. He became a Justice of the Peace, holding court in the living room at times as he tried the small cases assigned to Justices. He was elected to the school board. He served as secretary to the M.E. Church Board for 40 years. He was also elected as Manchester Township Supervisor, serving in that position for nearly 20 years. As Supervisor he visited every farm in the Township annually to assess property for taxes, including personal property and a livestock census. Township Supervisors also met as a group to manage county affairs at monthly meetings in Ann Arbor. He took the time to get this outside work done as he continued farming.

As the years went on and major machinery changes took place, tractors and farming methods changed, but our farm stayed the same size and kind. The horse drawn equipment first modified for a small tractor was replaced by larger, more complex equipment. The grain binder and threshing were combined (hence today's term Combine) in one field machine. Grain could be cut and threshed in the field. In the hayfield, swaths of hay were picked up and baled in one operation, eliminating bulk hay handling. Hayloaders, slings, and hot haymows became a thing of the past. Corn started to be husked in the field and thrown into wagon boxes (called bang boarding because as men walked down the rows picking corn, the ears were thrown against a wide board above one side of the wagon box before falling back into the box). Soon this slow process was followed by corn picking machines which picked and husked the ears of corn and elevated them to a towed wagon. Gone were corn binders, corn shocks, and corn husking by hand in the field, as well as hauling crates of corn to corn cribs. With the introduction of hydraulics and its mechanical advantages, much larger and more powerful machinery was possible, to come into use on the larger fields which came as fences were removed from diversified farms as they changed into the cash crop farms of today.

Changing of the Guard

In 1965 Mom and Dad celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary at home. In March the same year they decided to retire and bought a house in town. Instead of building a new one, they found an old one on Main Street. Dad said he liked it especially because when he left town, he turned the same way to go to their new home as he had when he went to the farm. He also picked an old house because he didn't have to wait for Maple trees to grow around a new one; he loved the ones he'd always had at the farm.

The Clayton Parr auction

Though this portion of the farm story doesn't describe the kind of farming I grew up with and have tried to describe earlier, it does involve the farm as well as Dad's plan for passing it on to his heirs. Income taxes, which started about the time the Folks were married, had grown to a major item. A quick calculation for capital gains alone showed he had paid a total of only $7500 for the land and buildings. Land alone now was probably worth several hundred dollars an acre and there were 250 acres, including his purchases, as well as the buildings. All increase in value would be subject to heavy taxes. If he picked a real estate agent to get the best price for it, his fee would be 10% of the selling price, costing even more. He wanted the highest amount possible to go to his kids, and came up with this plan to do it. In his words, "Your Mother and I didn't work fifty years to give what we earned to the government."

He picked an amount close to what he felt might be left after real estate commissions and the taxes on a market price, and sold it to his boys on a land contract at this lower price. This kept the amount owed the government the lowest he could. When we started paying off the land contract and he realized he owed all or most of our payments to the government as income taxes, he halted that process. Each year thereafter he endorsed the contract down $3,000 for each of his sons and to be fair, wrote Hazel a check for the same amount. Three thousand per year was the maximum "gift" allowed without taxes under the IRS rules. When the contract was paid off that way, his heirs had been treated equally and his sons had the farm. Taxes had been kept at a minimum. That's the way he wanted it and it was Justice of the Peace legal.

Chapter VI - Parr III

Leslie Parr, Howard Parr, Floyd Parr

Parr III was the name chosen for the Limited Partnership organization we picked to run the property. Ownership was split into three equal parts. It was a simple, flexible way for us to operate because each year's activity could be summarized, divided, and added to our individual tax returns. Parr III carried on, replacing Dad as we now paid taxes, filed government papers, used the house, which became a family club house, and took charge of what farming we undertook with the auction leftovers and what we bought or borrowed. Dad even left Bobby on the farm to be our watch dog, taking table scraps to him each day as he went to the farm to check things out. He couldn't see him as a "town" dog after so many years by his side on the farm.

Bobby, our watch dog

To those driving by, things looked much the same as they had in recent years. No new names went on the mailbox or the barn, and a lot of Dad's stuff was still in evidence. The sheep, cows and horses were gone, but the garden was planted as usual and the house looked the same with the same curtains in the windows, wood smoke rising from the chimneys, and no new additions or alterations.

But underneath many changes took place. The place was empty most of the time during the week, but filled with activity on weekends. Les and his boys came almost every Friday and settled in. Floyd and his boys stopped in more often during the week to work some fields or check on things. We came less often partly because of our family style and the fact that I wasn't as interested in farming. Also, there wasn't as much for our girls to do on the farm and Clayton was much younger than his male cousins.

Dad and Mom only took from the old house what they wanted for their town house so it too looked almost the same inside. Stoves and refrigerator stayed along with a smattering of furniture in almost every room. Even the canning jars and crocks were left. We gradually added what I call "eclectic recycle, auction, yard-sale items", whatever we could or thought we might need that cost very little or nothing. Later after the shack was built by the lake, there was another relocation of some of this collection for use there.

The same kind of thing happened in the out buildings. Dad didn't strip them at the auction, but sold only major items, leaving many others behind. Slings and harpoon forks stayed in the barns along with harness surpluses and many others. There, too, we began collecting "bargains" we could use. It was a motley collection of farm tools and equipment, but served our needs most of the time.

I turn now to a list of events taking place on Parr III, rather than a detailed account of direct experiences I took part in.

Parr III Undated Chronology

Cut native granite fireplace replaces Round Oak stove in the living room.

Put oil burner in furnace for standby heat when no one is there.

John Deere H tractor purchased—used.

Bud Knorpp pastures race horses and stables them in the barn.

We build an earthen dam and fill "Lake Someday" ("Some day we're going to make a lake").

The dam and lake

Purchase surplus Army pickup.

We buy old railroad rights of way to consolidate our holdings.

Buy chainsaws for wood cutting.

1969 Vandals set fire and burn the barns. They are gone in 30 minutes on a morning when there was a strong west wind. Granary with scorched north wall and other buildings saved.

Move granary back on old railroad to service Knorpp's horses.

The shack

We build a shack on Lake Someday out of recycled railroad ties, poles from the woods, and some sheet metal roofing. Complete with lofts, well, wood range and furnace, 12 volt lights run from car batteries, and outhouse. Concrete floor made by rototilling cement and water into the gravel floor.

We buy 20 acres on the SW corner along Austin Rd. (See p. 13 plat map for property listed there as owned by M & L Partlow). The west boundary of the farm now runs l mile north from Austin Rd., ending at the Sharon Twp. Line.

Les purchases 10 acres of the farm to build his retirement home.

Corn Roast (Bud and Marie Knorpp, Paul Eisele)

Hunting Club formed. Members supplied with Put-and-Take pheasants (3,000/yr) from the cages we built, German Short Hair hunting dogs from our kennel supplied. Fields planted with cover for the birds. Membership corn roasts by the lake to start the season; afterglows in the house after hunts. Game dressed for a fee during afterglows.

Start planting low cost pine seedlings on open ground near wooded areas. Eventually there were 10,000 of them
Hunt deer and small game in season, frog giggin' around the new lake, stock it with fish and start fishing, trapping in season, sucker catches in the spring in the creek.

Rebuild the dam when the first one washes out. Record catch in first lake—a 42" Northern Pike.

Skating parties on the lake, tobogganing on the hills, doodle bug rides, demolition derbies, euchre parties and liver fries in the shack.

Family Bonds Are Built

Les, Floyd, Dave Knorpp, Tom, Bud Knorpp

The list has been compiled as items came to memory. There are no recorded dates for most of them, but I have tried to place them in a semblance of order. All in all the Parr III years served to pull the Clayton and Willo Parr family together as few are, during these longer periods of time spent together at the farm. It was an excellent place for boys to grow up and let them experience nature directly as participation and opportunities came to them. The direct work experienced on the farm wasn't available in town. Mistakes of adolescence there weren't as likely to be police matters as they might have been in the city.

Doug, Florence, Tom, Lenora, Miriam, Kenny, Alice, Linda Crichton

Girls could plant trees, experience the natural settings as they wished, or just pick an oak tree to climb as they read a book or "get away from it all for a while". One of our girls just enjoyed being alone back on the farm where she could yell her head off and know no one was bothered by it. Shared experience by the older set pulled them together, too, and probably wouldn't have happened otherwise. Hazel's farm was close by enabling her and her family to mingle and become a part of the group.

Bud, Floyd, Howard

Andy, Kenny, Alice, Chris, Clayton, Miriam, Steve, Bobby

Liz, Mame, Tom, Willo, Miriam, Susan, Alice, Chris, Stan, Steve, Clayton, Clayton, Kenny, Doug, Richard, Marcia (picture taken by Nancy)

The Passing Years

1975  Mom dies
1979  Dad dies
1980  Jesse dies
1981  Uncle Walter dies
1994  Pauline dies
1995  Hazel dies
1997  Leslie dies

Parr III Dissolves

In 1995 it became clear that Les's cancer was so serious that the future of Parr III was in doubt. Once more Parr reasonableness came forward to preserve what we had grown to love on our native farmland.

We were again faced with the impact of inflation and taxes on what had happened since Mom and Dad left. Floyd found a promising developer who could be negotiated with directly, again avoiding real estate fees. Developer Beck worked out a plan to build roads to serve the 24 plots he laid out on the 287 acres. These lots had deed restrictions preventing subdividing, clear cutting and hunting. Eight of them were lake front lots and they ranged in size from 6 to 34 acres, many in the deep woods. Les's house was included. The farm house and dooryard were sold off. The new roads were blacktopped and all utilities were buried. As a result when one drives through the area today, it still looks very much the way it did before development. Most of the houses are hidden in the woods and can't be seen as you drive along. Before the deal was closed, we harvested 1800 native trees from the woods. Skillful cutters were able to remove that many trees and not produce an atmosphere of devastation so usual with careless loggers.

We couldn't escape the tax man this time, but our "farm" should remain indefinitely, still to be enjoyed in memory by those remaining to take sentimental journeys along its new roads.

Thus ends what started as my farm story and grew to cover 1915-1995, eighty Parr years on one farm.

A Note to Family Members

As family members read this material, many recollections should come to their minds based on experiences at the farm. If these can be added to what has been set down from one person's viewpoint, the story will be broadened and improved. In this enlarged form it can become truly the story of a family for eighty years. I think here of Lenora's credo about the written record: "The material things given our children can be lost or perish, but what you give them in writing can last forever." Finis.


In due time, an unusual family collection will be complete. Four generations of Parrs and their spouses (17 in all) will rest on that Oakgrove Cemetery hillside overlooking the small, insignificant Clayton Parr farm and farmhouse which became birthplace to all of us, and such a large and lasting part of the lives we lived out " our little corner of the world..."

Howard E. Parr
December, 2011

Vignettes About My Life on the Farm

The Baby Chicks Are In

If I hadn't ruptured myself when I had whooping cough as a baby, I probably wouldn't be writing about helping raise chicks on our farm. My three brothers worked with Dad helping with the heavy farm work, but I had to help with lighter things, like baby chicks.

We ordered baby chicks from the hatchery so they would arrive in late March. Many things had to be done before they came and there could be no hitches or delay. We were always ready for them.

Our brooder house was portable and could be pulled around with a team of horses. Dad believed new ground was free from disease and each year picked a new site on the edge of a hayfield abutting the door yard to minimize the chore of carrying feed and water.

The brooder house was a frame building about 10 feet square made of home-sawed lumber with a sloping roof almost high enough to let one stand up at the low end. There was one door, one window and a stovepipe hole through the metal roof in the corner. Each year all of the old dirt had to be cleaned out before we could use it. Old wash water with added lye was used to clean the floor and lower walls as they were scrubbed white. Once it dried out, the floor was covered with layers of clean newspaper and we were ready for chicks.

During the off-season the brooder stove was stored in the granary. We uncovered it and carried it out to be set up in the center of the brooder house. It was in two parts – the stove and the hood. The stove was cast iron the size of a five gallon pail. The galvanized sheet iron hood in the shape of a Chinese coolie hat sat on top of the stove. The tight fit at the top combined with its shape kept 200 chicks as warm from the stove as a brood hen.

The stove burned hard (anthracite) coal which we bought in bags to store in the brooder house with some kindling. A thermostat opened and closed the draft and check draft opened enough to keep the fire going. In milder weather the damper might stay closed too long and let the fire go out. That meant starting the fire all over again. We lived in constant dread that the fire would "get away from us" and "cook" the chicks or go out and let them chill. Either way the chicks might suffer injury from which they would never recover.

After the brooder house and stove were ready, the feeders and watering cans had to be scrubbed and scalded to clean away last year's dirt. We fed our chicks milk so there was a special gallon cock feeder to be cleaned, too.

At last we were ready for that card in the mailbox which said, "Your baby chicks are in". We had to go either to the post office or the freight office, pay the freight cost and bring them home in the car. At that season both the post office and the freight office were filled with boxes of chicks in shipment, accompanied by their chirps.

Baby chicks were shipped in special heavy cardboard boxes, punched with rows of dime-shaped holes for ventilation. Each square box was fitted with a cover that had inch wood blocks glued on top to permit stacking and ensure ventilation during shipment. The interior was divided into 4 sections which held 25 chicks each. I liked to lift the cover and hear them chirp as I gently nabbed the downy fuzzballs, but there never seemed to be much time to do this.

A brooder stove

Water in saucers was nearby and as each chick was taken out of the box, its beak was dipped in water and held there for a moment to start the drinking process, I guess. (I brood.) We counted the chicks as they taken from the box and usually found an extra one in each section of the box – good hatchery men gave customers extra measure in case a chick or two might be injured in shipment. When we were through there were 208 chicks staggering around our feet and we stepped very carefully moving to the door so that none were crushed under foot.

Now the steady grind began. Heat, water and food were needed each day and more were consumed with each passing day. All of it had to be carried to them. We started our chicks on oatmeal and then converted to commercial chick starter. MasterMix feeds came in 100 lb. calico bags, large enough to be made into dresses and aprons. When we went for more food we had to get the right kind as well as match the calico of the last bag, or find a better pattern, if possible.

After a month the chicks were ready to be let outside. During the day they frisked about and preened in the spring sunshine and began to eat grass. I had to watch the skies for a sudden rainstorm to be sure they're back inside before it hit. If they got wet a new fire was started to dry them out so they didn't crowd together for warmth and possibly smother some in the process. No matter what the weather was, they had to be shut in at night to protect them from predators. Mother never forgot to check with me at bedtime to be sure the chicks were shut in. I had to make that trip before going to bed even if it were dark and I had washed my feet.

We aimed to raise 200 chicks each year. Ours were Plymouth Rocks or Rhode Island Reds. Chicks were not separated by sex in those days so half were pullets and the rest roosters. Roosters were for eating and pullets added to our laying flock. We didn't mind brown eggs and settled for fewer of them than the white eggs Leghorns laid. We felt Plymouth Rocks or Rhode Island Reds were bigger birds and more flavorful than Leghorns.

Our laying flock produced more than enough eggs for our use. Extras were either sold at the farm or traded in town for groceries. Stores allowed us less than their retail price for the balance against our purchase. Sometimes you received cash back and at other times you paid the difference.

At the time I was caring for baby chicks it was difficult to remember all the good things our chickens did for us.

Howard E. Parr
November 3, 1992

Fiddling Alfalfa

Dad usually was the one to call us each morning just in time to get the chores done before it was time to leave for school—we didn't get up any earlier than we needed to. I was a light sleeper and could hear Dad's joints crack as he got out of bed downstairs, moved around to dress before going to the kitchen. I could hear him shake the range grates, open the top of the range and stuff a few sheets of crumpled newspaper into the firebox. Then he used the butcher knife to shave several slivers of kindling from a chunk of an old cedar fence post which always stood next to the woodbox. When the wind was right during summer months, some smoke perfumed with burning cedar drifted through our upstairs bedroom window.

After filling the tea kettle and setting it on the range, Dad went to the back room (called woodshed in spite of the fact that nearly everything but wood was kept there). There he picked up a five gallon pail of swill (usually skimmed milk, potato peelings and dishwater) and a couple clean milk pails. With his hands full, he had to kick the screen door open; at that point he called my name and I had to arouse my three sound sleeping brothers. If Mother called us, it was out of the ordinary and always a half an hour earlier. She only did it when Dad was sick or in the early spring when he fiddled alfalfa.

An exact day for fiddling alfalfa could not be chosen in advance because fiddling had to be done when the ground froze and thawed just right and there was absolutely no wind. When Dad found these conditions at dawn, he set the day and would be at work in the field by the time Mother called us.

The fiddle and alfalfa seed from the granary were picked up by Dad before he walked to the field of wheat which had been planted the previous September and was starting its spring growth.

A fiddle was a hand seeding tool consisting of a couple suspenders holding a canvas bag on a board fastened to a crank driven disc. The bottom of the bag was a six inch square board with an adjustable hole with a shutoff in the center of it; the canvas was tacked round the edge of this board to seal it. The metal disc had four ribs atop it and could be spun with the crank.

About a peck of seed (alfalfa, clover, timothy) was placed in the bag after the size of the bottom hole had been adjusted for the seed to be sown. To fiddle, the operator had to open the hole, spin the crank at a uniform rate and move straight back and forth across the field at a brisk walk. At the edge of the field, the seed was shut off while he paced the distance for the right point for the return walk. This distance had to be just enough to assure there would be neither gaps nor overlaps in the seeding. The disc threw seeds evenly over an area 25 feet wide, as the operator walked, cranked steadily and there was no wind. It didn't take Dad long to finish one of our fields (5 to 10 acres) and join us as we were finishing the chores.

Fiddling alfalfa

Mother Nature finished the rest of the seeding. As the soil thawed and re-froze each day there was enough soil movement (solifluction) to cover the tiny seeds. A gentle rain at the right time helped. Drought or flooding complicated germination so there was lots of checking to see if there was a "good catch". The seedlings grew along with the new grain crop. When we didn't get a good catch, the seed had been wasted and an old hay field might have to be used another year before we could fiddle again to start a new one.

I'm sure Dad had a lot of personal pride when he got a perfect catch—especially in fields along the road for neighbors to see. The uniformity of his new seedlings always amazed me. How did he know the right distances, walking speeds, fan speeds and seed quantities to use?

He still protected new seedlings at harvest time. Shocks of grain were not left on a new field long enough to kill young plants under them. Rather than leaving them there until we could get a rig to thresh them from the field as many others did, we took them to the barn as soon as they were dry enough and put them in the barn or stacked them outside to await threshing day.

Cutting Grain with a Binder

The most complex machine used on our farm in the '30s was the Deering grain binder we used to cut oats, rye, barley, or wheat. Like most of our equipment it probably was purchased at some farm auction when Dad started farming. As long as a used piece of equipment was in running order and the price was right, brand names didn't make much difference. Each inventor-builder felt his design and performance was best and said so in his advertising, but there were no standards for farm machines and for both new and second owners, reasonable performance at an affordable price became the rule of the day.

A Deering grain binder

Grain binders were built for use under widely varying conditions. Some grain stood six feet tall in the field while another variety might be 18 inches high when it was ready to cut. Height of the cutting knife from the ground was adjustable by cranking the wheels up or down as the machine was set up. While grain was being cut, minor adjustments could be made with a lever which tilted the machine forward or backward when going up or down hills. The purpose of all this flexibility was to enable the grain operator to cut all the grain stalks long enough to be bound into bundles and to keep from digging into the ground when going uphill or being above the stalks when going down hill.

Even more adjustments were needed to adjust for variations in the length of the different stalks as they accumulated to form a bundle. Packing arms and a butter were used to form and tie bundles—the end product of the binder. Bundles needed to be tied mid length of the stalks or they wouldn't shock well and some of the grain stalks might fall out. A different lever controlled this and could move the butter closer or further away from the needle and knotter which tied each bundle with binder twine. The size (weight) of bundles could be changed by adjustments in tension on the springs which tripped the knotter when the desired number of stalks had been packed into the butter. Usually all bundles for any type of grain were the same size and settings weren't changed until a different type of grain was to be cut. A slow moving reel hanging just above the cutter bar nudged the newly cut stalks back onto moving canvasses which carried the grain away and into the butter. This reel could be lowered or raised as the length of the grain changed or when going up or down hill to be sure the cut grain always fell on the canvass in about the same spot.

Binder in the field

What has been described above takes place when grain is being cut in a field. However, to get one into a field to cut took a different kind of adjustment. Ours was a five foot binder, that is, it cut a swath that wide. In the cutting position a binder was too wide for the gates. One might think that it would be easier to make wider gates than to make changes in the binder, but that didn't happen. While in storage and when traveling to a harvest field, the binder tongue was attached to the end of the machine—90 degrees different from the wide operating side of the binder but narrow enough to go through a gate. In this position, on special utility wheels called trucks, the binder could only be moved along its path—it could not operate to cut grain.

The 8 fenced fields we tilled ranged in size from 5 to 18 acres so we had to go through this process each time we moved to a field and each time we went from one field to another. In addition, two railroads cut through the farm and each crossing had two standard gates. Binder work was done with three horses that needed to be hitched and unhitched to move to the field and to set up for cutting grain.

The tongue was so long that it was removed from the binder in storage and hung on the shed wall. When the binder was needed, the tongue had to be removed from the wall, fitted with the three horse evener and whiffletrees and attached to the binder. Then the binder could be pulled out of the shed and parked under the Maple trees to be prepped for use. There it was possible to install the three canvasses which moved cut grain from the table and up where it could fall into the butter (binder) section of the machine which also had packer arms, a needle, and a knotter. Canvasses were about 40 inches wide with wood slats riveted to them every 8-10 inches. Leather straps bound the ends together to make them into a conveyor. A single canvass on the platform moved cut grain toward the pair used to move the grain up to where it fell into the packers. Canvasses had to be protected from mice and usually were stored hanging on wires from the ceiling of the granary. When repairs were needed it was rough on Mother's Singer sewing machine to patch them, but it had to be done in spite of the needles that might be broken. Straps and buckles were stitched with the awl and riveted as necessary. Canvasses had to be tight in order to move on the driving rollers, so tight that unless loosened at the end of each day in the field, night moisture would shrink them and pull the rivets from the straps.

After the canvasses were in place, the reel was checked for any loose or broken slats, the cutting blade was inspected for loose or missing sections or guards, and the knotter lubricated and threaded with twine from a fresh ball. With a special crank the action of the binder's chains could be operated manually and all points requiring it be lubricated. When everything worked as it should, we were ready to hitch up the team and head for the field. We usually did this late in the afternoon in order to "open out" the field because everything was at its driest then and cut easier. But before the binder could cut grain it had to be changed from the trucks to the traction and operating wheels and this had to be done as soon as you were through the gate in the standing grain.

Horses were unhitched, the tongue removed and placed on the long side of the binder. When the "bull" wheel (traction wheel) was cranked down, it picked up the weight of the binder and helped set the height of the cutting bar. The tongue could then be reattached and used as a lever to get the remaining non-traction wheel in place. When the horses were hooked to the tongue, the floating weight of the machine was on their necks and the bull wheel took the rest. (It took a lot of human muscle to lift the tongue up and snap it onto the harness straps.) After the canvasses were tightened, the reel set, and the butter adjusted for the height of the grain, we were ready to cut again.

Opening out a field was the hardest work to be done. To do this it was necessary to cut around the field at the very outside edge of the grain. The horses and the binder were in standing grain, a full five feet of grain was being cut, the reel was likely to strike branches sticking out from the fence row and the binder action was sluggish from storage. Often there were horse flies in the bushes which irritated the horsed more than usual. Someone had to follow the binder and throw every bundle into the cut area out of the way for the next round which would go the opposite way so you drove in the cut stubble. We were always glad to get this round behind us after many stops and much prodding of the team in its first experience with this most demanding work.

When the first cutting round in the opposite direction was complete, we usually quit for the day and parked the binder for the night. Canvasses always had to be loosened and a canvass cover thrown over the machine especially if it looked stormy. The next day's cutting would be routine as we went round and round the uncut grain dumping bundles into windrows as the rack holding a few was tripped as we drove along. This was probably the hardest work done by our horses because of the power needed to run the binder in the relatively soft ground, the weight of it on their necks, and the heat and flies. Plowing and fitting ground was hard work too, but in the spring it was usually cool and there was no heavy weight hanging on the horse's neck.

Dad usually ran the binder at home, but when I worked for Grandpa Parr (1938) I had to do it alone. Uncle Walter wouldn't operate machines, though he faithfully walked along behind me all day shocking bundles as they were made. His remark when he picked up the last bundle in the field still amuses me: "If I'd 'a known where you was this morning, I'd 'of done you first."

I liked to operate the binder. Sitting high in the air above the machine one could see everything that was going on, reach the control levers to adjust for hill angles and the height of the grain, change the position of the butter when necessary, and keep the reel in the proper position to always nudge the cut grain back onto the platform canvass. If you became too smug and complacent in your lofty perch, something was sure to bring you quickly back to reality. Often it was the realization that you were out of twine and were dumping untied bundles onto the field. At other times it might be a large bunch of green thistles that had plugged the flow of grain and had to be removed with bare hands.

Most of these problems melted away as you cut the field into smaller and smaller rectangles, leaving no uncut grain and only rows of well-tied bundles to be shocked. The best feeling came when you had to restore the binder to its moving position for the trip back to the house. Even the horses seem to share the feeling of satisfaction and moved more swiftly with their lighter burden, for they knew the wait for water, oats, and hay would be short and a long night of rest awaited them.

We Had Scarlet Fever

When I was four years old, "we had scarlet fever." It was one of the dread childhood diseases along with diphtheria, whooping cough, and what we called "hard" measles (Rubeola—Morbilli). We kids ranged in age from seven to one and a half years, and I'm sure as symptoms developed, my Folks consulted the "Doctor Book." In 1915 the R.C. Barnum Company of Cleveland, Ohio published a three part Peoples Home Library. Section one was the People's Home Medical Book, two was Home Recipes, and three was The Home Stock Book to be used for farm animals.

The Medical Book listed all types of diseases and illnesses, contained color plate illustrations, furnished recipes for medicines, salves, ointments, liniments, and described symptoms, and listed remedies and nursing procedures. My Folks spent many hours perusing this book, learning symptoms of various diseases so they would recognize them when any of us got sick.

I have copied pages from the book for scarlet fever. There was also a full page color plate to show how the scarlet rash looked on a boy's body.

When my Folks felt that we had something too serious for them to handle, they called Doc Scheurer, our Manchester family doctor. He became a legend in this community for his service and was quoted as saying he knew something serious had happened when he received a call from our place. I'm sure that when he responded to our scarlet fever call he soon confirmed Mom's diagnosis, issued his orders and dispensed medicine before tacking the large black and scarlet lettered Quarantine sign on the house. It was called for by law and meant no one could leave or enter until it was removed when the disease had run its course.

Since we lived on a farm, that sign meant more than it would have in town. Dad needed to go outside several times to work and do chores. Technically he was not supposed to reside in the house and do this during quarantine. Possibly because of the economic effect enforcement of this rule would have on our family, coupled with Doc's knowledge of my Folks, he permitted Dad to stay with us and to care for eggs and milk in the back room, quite removed from the sick rooms.

The first floor was turned into a hospital with each of us in a separate room. I lay on a couch in the living room near a porch window. Hazel had a mild case and Les who was still nursing wasn't hit hard. Stanley's mouth and ear was affected. His tongue peeled as if it had been cooked and his ear drained for some time afterwards. I was hit in the kidneys and experienced severe swelling in both legs which developed black blotches on the skin. Pillows under my knees kept me comfortable.
Doc prescribed a mysterious pink powder to be taken with lots of water. I still think the water probably did more good than the powder which may only have been an innocuous concoction he used to get patients to drink the amount of water he wanted them to. I might have been given some Belladonna to help me rest. The Doctor Book recipe listed on a table elsewhere called for: "Put 10 or 15 drops of the third dilution into half a glass of water and give two teaspoons every 1 to 3 hours."

I can recall seeing relatives bring oranges onto the porch and waving to me before they left. I learned later that for a couple days when I was the worst Mom had cried most of the day as she worked because she didn't think I'd make it. The quarantine lasted 6 weeks and that meant lots of nursing care, changed beds, and extra cooking along with all the regular farm house work.

When the quarantine was lifted there was more to be done. All books and non metal toys we had played with were burned. Other items were sterilized, probably in boiling water. Bedding was boiled on the stove before it was washed and hung in the sun. Mattresses were hauled outside, beaten with the carpet beater and left in the sun for a day or two on each side. Braziers of coals were brought into the sick rooms and sulfur was sprinkled on the fire to produce a dense, yellow smoke which was sealed there for a few hours. Then every room was scrubbed thoroughly with strong soap before being returned to its original use.
We were thankful we didn't lose anyone as many families did. The lingering effects on us were not as serious as those whose eyes had been damaged or who had been left with draining ears for life. I'm sure a lot of the aches in my legs as I grew up came from the fever, so did the varicose veins which developed much later. However, I took the aches for granted and, when I complained my Mom told me they were just "growing pains" and would soon go away. You know, I believed that for years and it made me feel better.

Howard E. Parr
June 17, 1987

People's Home Medical Book, page 48

People's Home Medical Book, page 49


Old Maude

Old Maude

Floyd on Old Maude

Our little bay mare
Was known as Old Maude
But some things that she did
You would never applaud.

Like an unannounced stop
Just for toiletry
When the crest of a hill
Loomed up imminently.

And balking in fear
On the slippery, planked bridge
A bob sleigh full of wood
Fresh cut from the ridge.

Or shying in fright
At the loud bumble bee
When mowing the meadow
So its crop could be free.

The rattle snake sound
Unheard but by her,
Made her stop, ears laid back,
Tight down to the fur.

Many good traits, too
Through the years they were there
First Mom's horse for the buggy
Then Brother's toy—not to share.

Floyd and his shay - c 1933

He had his own rig,
A small, shay-like gimmick
Which he used with Old Maude
His father to mimic.

He walked under her belly,
Climbed up her tail,
Our chides to be careful
Never were to avail.

If she hadn't been gentle
And so easily led,
I'm sure we'd have soon
Seen Brother Floyd quite dead.

Yet it seems to me now
Still she'd be with us here
If Dad hadn't gone modern
And bought that John Deere.

Howard E. Parr
April 3, 1986; revised 5/6/

Butchering Hogs

Much of the independence and self-sufficiency of small farmers came from work done by each family to provide its own food and comfort. Few activities demonstrate what had to be done better than butchering hogs—usually in the spring before it warmed up outside. With no refrigeration cool weather was essential to keeping fresh meat until it could be processed later by salt curing, smoking, canning or storage in crocks.

Each family might butcher differently. Lenora's family pooled two or three family's hogs and made a family bee out of butchering. Several men worked at slaughtering and dressing the animals. The women and children helped process the carcasses. Their aim was to finish most of the work in one day, though smoking and curing might take additional time.
In our family we usually killed two two hundred pound hogs. Processing might take several days and curing the hams/bacon took six weeks in salt brine before smoking.

It was often said that every part of the hog except the squeal was used and there is a lot of truth in this as one looks at the process.


Butchering day started early when the cast iron kettle (cap. 50 gal.) was set up, filled with water, and a fire started under it to heat the water. After the second stoking of the fire, the water was warming and would be at scalding temperature when needed.

Hogs to be butchered were coaxed to a feeding trough, shot in the forehead with a .22 rifle or slugged with a maul there to render them unconscious. Then their jugular veins were cut with a sharp knife to let them bleed out. (We didn't make blood sausage, so we didn't have to catch a supply of the blood as some folks did.)

It then took a couple good men with meat hooks stuck in the pig's mouth to drag the carcasses to the water kettle area. There a plank work table on saw horses had been set up and an empty 55 gal barrel filled with boiling water leaned against one end of it. From the table the hog was eased down in the water to scald the skin, making it easier to scrape away the hair and dirt after the hog was pulled back up on the table. A hog scraper in each hand was used to scrape off all the hair. (A hog scraper was a hand tool—a metal disc with sharp edges about 4" in diameter with an upright hand grip. One was used in each hand to scrape away most of the hair. Dad then finished up by shaving the few remaining hairs with an old straight razor.)

Scraping hair off scalded hog

Scraping hair off scalded hog

The cleaned carcass was then prepared for hanging by slitting the hind legs to gain access to the tendon in each hind leg. A stout slat of wood was pushed behind each tendon and a rope tied around the wood. We butchered near an apricot tree with low limbs we could use to pull the hog upright as it came off the table. A slit along the belly line from top to bottom released the intestines and gave access to attached organs. Pails of cold water received all of this, the organs (liver, heart, kidneys) in one pail to be eaten) and intestines (large and small in another to be cleaned for use as sausage casings). If there were lacy strips of "leaf" lard, that too was saved for rendering. About the only items of no use were the stomach and lungs. The head was cut off, tongue and jowls removed, to be used made into head cheese later. The tongue went in the liver pail and eventually ended up cooked with them as "pig fry". Jowls were made into bacon.

After the carcass cooled, it was cut into the usual cuts, hams, shoulders, ribs, pig's feet and hocks, pork loins, etc. All extra fat was cut away and kept separate to be rendered into lard, along with the leaf lard mentioned earlier. Leaner trimmings of almost any size, along with varying amounts of fat, were set aside for sausage.


Cool weather allowed us to spread a lot of the work over a few days, sausage grinding and making, lard rendering, and curing the hams, shoulders and bacon. We didn't try to finish all the work in one day as Lenora's family did with their multi-family work bee approach.

Curing our hams and bacon took six weeks. It took a 30 gallon crock to hold four hams, four shoulders, the belly and jowl bacon from the two hogs. Salt brine prepared to a 100 lb. recipe was poured over the meat and weighed down with a large platter and a stone and allowed to stand in the basement for three weeks. Then the meat was removed, salt added to the brine as it was re-heated, the meat re-packed in the crock in reverse order (top on bottom and vice versa) to be covered and allowed to stand for another three weeks. After that, it was ready for smoking. The finished produce needed no refrigeration and usually hung on rafters in the back room covered with recycled 50 lb. flour bags until it was eaten Hams were basted with a mixture of diluted molasses and red pepper to help ward off insects, but I recall no incidents of any spoiled meat.
Lard was an important item for food, preserving and, finally, for soap. As mentioned earlier all extra lard cut from the meat was set aside to be cut into cubes which could be heated in large kettles on the range for rendering. When it was done we called the solid residue cracklings (not unlike today's pork rinds.) The cooled lard was snow white and stored in crocks for use as shortening during the year. Some of it might be used to preserve fried down sausage in storage crocks. Ultimately lard used for frying or produced by frying was collected in a recycle dish kept on the range and known as the soap dish. This discolored fat ultimately was purified somewhat by cooking potato slices in it and then made into laundry or soft soap. Laundry soap was allowed to cool and harden in old cardboard boxes. It was cut into bars just before it became solid. Glycerin was added to some to keep it from hardening—hence soft soap (today's Murphy's Oil Soap).

We did use just about everything from the hog but the squeal, but it was a lot of work for many willing hands in a world without refrigeration or a lot of cash.

Hog Crate

Hogs were difficult to handle in many ways. With their snouts and strength they could push openings in all but the strongest fences and could rip up ground like a plow. They couldn't be led with a leash like cows or horses; they couldn't be driven in groups like sheep. Their bodies were so solid and rotund that there was no easy way to take hold of one and, if you could grab on somehow, to move-control 200-250lbs in rock-like mass was a challenge to even the strongest man. It was easier to build a crate big enough to hold a hog, entice it with food to walk in, shut the gate, and lift it onto a wagon or truck. Larger numbers of hogs went to market by being driven up specially built ramps. At the market another ramp or chute was available for off loading and penning them until they were moved again. It didn't pay for most farmers to build chutes for the few hogs that needed moving, so they used homemade crates to move what they had.

On our farm we used the hog crate when moving a boar from our hog lot to a neighbor's in breeding season. That way every farmer didn't have to feed and put up with a boar just to breed a couple sows once or twice a year.

Orchards and Truck Farms

These recollections are from the 1920s–30s when I was growing up on our farm in Sec. 10, Manchester Township, Michigan. That was a world without many trucks, before extensive use of refrigerated (iced) railroad cars, and one served primarily by rail transit. Fresh fruit and vegetables had to be produced locally and distributed fresh as best it could in small surrounding areas. In this agrarian economy each small farmer family produced what they wanted. In villages like Manchester many residents had their own buggy horse, a cow and some chickens along with a small garden plot to produce some of their own produce.

I am speaking here of the farms specializing in orchards and large production of special produce such as celery, dry onions, carrots, potatoes, radishes, green onions and cabbage to supply on either a retail or wholesale basis the demands of those without gardens in the surrounding area. Some of it was shipped as far as rail transit would allow before spoilage occurred--perhaps Detroit, Ann Arbor, Jackson or Adrian. Oranges, lemons, grapefruit and bananas might stand longer trips, but not perishable fruits and vegetables.


Three local orchards operated around here. Alber Orchard, Higgins and Weinlander Orchard and Schumaker Orchard. Alber was in Freedom Twp. and the other two in Manchester Twp. Higgins and Weinlander operated both an orchard and a truck farm on about 110 acres, an L-shaped farm between the west edge of the Village and Grossman Rd. where it went south along the east side of that road to what is now the Sportsman's Club. Trees covered the higher ground and "marsh" or lower areas drained with tile so the muck could be used to grow vegetables. The orchard was cared for in the winter when it was pruned, early spring when it was sprayed, and late summer and fall during harvest. The truck garden was taken care of during the prime, summer growing season, rounding out a full year of work for the operators. Extra casual labor was needed during both harvest seasons.


The onion field was across the road from the monument in Oak Grove cemetery, behind and west of the barn, part of which still is used for today's Feed Store. Instead of the marsh/pond there today, there was a tillable field of rich black muck, made useable by a well-tended system of drainage tiles. It was plowed with horses and then tended by men with hand tools. Onion seeds were planted with a one-row hand planter. The new sprouts were thinned by hand with a hoe. Hand cultivators pushed along between the rows kept out most of the weeds. Gangs of 10-12 jr. high boys were hired to pull the weeds between onion plants a couple times in summer.(I was one of them and received $1.25 for a 10 hour day of weeding on hands and knees.) When the bulbs had formed and the tops started turning yellow, onions were pulled and left to dry in windrows. At the right time more boys were brought in to top them at 3 cents a bushel so they could be shipped to markets and stores.

Celery, Carrots and Cabbage

Fields of these were along Grossman Road on the lowlands there. Carrots were sown like onions. Cabbage and celery were transplanted as young plants into holes pressed into the ground by spikes on a measuring board. (The Society has a special tool, a dibber or dibble, a cast iron pistol-like tool with a pointed end instead of a barrel, used by Jake Weinlander to punch holes by hand in the small areas that couldn't be marked with the longer measuring boards.) These plants could be cultivated and hoed by hand until mature. At harvest time extra help was needed to trim and pack each bunch of celery and head of cabbage for shipment. (In Old Manchester Village, p.44, crates of celery are shown in front of the cemetery monument.) Additional help was needed and this work was done at a few cents per case or bushel to pack the harvest for shipment by rail.

Apples, Peaches and Cherries

Orchard work during the year dovetailed with truck farm work. Orchards were pruned during the winter. They were sprayed in the early spring. We lived near the orchard and I recall hearing the gasoline engine spray rig through my bedroom window at night when it was operating near us. A horse drawn rig with a wooden water tank went up and down the rows of trees so operators could spray each tree. Water to make the spray mixture was drawn by special arrangement from the Village hydrant near today's Wolf's Westside Auto because the orchard well was too small and slow. Spraying was done in the still of moonlight nights so each tree received a full treatment. Some orchards brought in hives of bees to pollinate the blossoms. Higgins and Weinlander may have had their own bees and produced their own honey, I don't remember, but I'm sure our bees were close enough to do part of the pollination. Once the fruit began to grow, it could be left on its own until harvest in late summer and fall.

This orchard didn't permit "pick your own" but picked ripened fruit and sold it at the store or to local cider mills for juice. (At one time Manchester had an apple drying factory which needed apples to dry, but I don't recall Higgins and Weinlander working with them).

Some varieties of apples were ready for use in late summer while others could withstand early fall frost. Harvest apples were ready for threshers' pies in July, while Spys, Greenings, Wagners, and Steele Reds weren't ready until frost. Apples were sorted as picked and stored in crates in the barn for the steady flow of customers coming to take them away. Mass storage was not needed.

Radishes and Green Onions

Chuck Wurster specialized in these on his smaller truck farm in Bridgewater Twp. Parts of the farm and the buildings remain there today and one of his boys operates a large garden producing vegetables for sale there or at his home in Clinton. The larger fields across the road near a small stream are no longer tilled. Earlier, larger quantities of radishes and green onions were grown there and could be washed with water from the stream before being trucked to market.


The land now held by Du Russels in Freedom was operated by Tom Walton before them but I don't know who raised potatoes there earlier. This flat, rich loam soil produced fine potato crops, and still does. I can't recall other farms specializing in potatoes. I suspect many individual farmers may have over produced potatoes and sold their small surpluses locally. I recall that when my folks worked a farm on shares they grew twice as many potatoes as they needed and delivered half of them to the landlord who sold them. A large number of small farmers doing this would supply lots of potatoes to nearby families without gardens.

Hiram Parr's Barn

Fourscore and seven years ago, Hiram and Louisa (Cash) Parr brought me forth to serve part of their needs for the 200 acre farm purchased a few years before. It was an L-shaped farm wrapped around a bend of the Raisin River and extending from E. Austin Road up to Parr Rd to Hogan Road and then east to the township line. Two of the fields were east of the houses along Parr Road in the village.

Hiram Parr, c. 1935

Hiram planted a row of catalpa trees from the village line along Parr Road to Hogan Road. I have enjoyed a spectacular scene of their white flowers each spring for nearly all my years.

I was built as a cow and horse barn. However, when I was brand new and still clean in 1909, the farm workshop next to the granary was spruced up and used as a bedroom by the three Parr boys (Walter, Clayton, and Lowell) during the summer while their new house was under construction.

Feed and grain for the horses and cattle was stored upstairs on the grade floor. In the basement there were four horse stalls and a box stall, a row of stanchions for nine cows and an open basement area for feeder cattle. Under the ramp to my main floor was a large cement tank to store water for the animals. The windmill up at the house could be set running with the water valve switched to fill this tank. Often the windmill ran for a whole day at a time to fill the tank. Water was piped from the main tank to the smaller one built for the horses and cows. A float valve in the tank (similar to what is in a toilet tank today) let in more water as needed. Eventually, another pipe was laid to the 1926 barn where lower tanks were filled in the same way to water the sheep. But, I wasn't a sheep barn and had nothing to do with them.

Underneath the peak of my roof they hung an iron track. It was equipped with a hay car used to unload bulk hay from the wagons and to pull it into the hay mow. One-third of a load of hay was unloaded on each pull and did my rafters and joints creek from the strain. Each sling or double set of harpoon forks lifted about as much hay as is in a large round bale today.
This work could be dangerous. Once when Hiram was driving the horses on the hay rope, he made the mistake of standing in the bite (loop) of the rope as he was bringing the team back to the barn. The hay car safety equipment misfired somehow and the hay plunged back to onto the wagon, jerking the rope back with it. Hiram's feet were caught by the loop of the rope and he plunged backwards to the ground. He suffered a broken shoulder blade and damage to the nerves in his arm from which he never recovered. No wonder he always cautioned his boys and grandsons, "Never stand in the bite of the rope". But that problem arose from store bought equipment attached to me and had nothing to do with my dependability.

Howard Clark was the carpenter-builder for my project. Most of the materials came from the woods on the farm. Clarkie went into the woods the season before I was built to pick out the kinds and sizes of trees needed. Trees were felled, logs cut at the sawmill sawed into beams, plates, rafters, and roof boards. When these came back to the site, they were cut, bored, and fitted to make mortise and tenon joints to hold my frame together.

The siding, cedar shingles, nails and spikes, windows and door hinges and hangers were bought from a hardware store along with that infamous hay car. I was painted red and trimmed with white. Red lead came as powder in wooden kegs. This was mixed with turpentine and linseed oil with lampblack to create the right shade of red. White lead was used to make paint for the trim. When all was completed you could read the following as you stood in from of me: H. Parr 1907.

One of the reasons that I have stood so long has to do with the two-foot stone walls used for my foundation. William Urh Sr. and his sons Fred (Mildred and John's father) and young Bill (Earl and Mae's father) were hired as stone masons. They cut and set the field stones gathered from the farm to form the walls. Uhrs were good masons and later were hired to do the beautiful stone work on the foundations and front porch of the new house. The concrete foundations used for the new barn in 1926 failed years ago and that barn was razed because of it.

I served Hiram until he died in 1940. Son Lowell then bought the farm and I served him until the 70's when he retired to town. We knew that when the state decided to route M-52 through the farm, many changes were to come. And, they did. Farming ceased as I had known it, some of the fields made the right-of-way for the new road and others were stripped to furnish gravel to build causeways. The rest was sold to speculators.

Then the part of the farm where I stood was made an industrial park. I could see the handwriting on the wall. Fortunately I wasn't to be removed by burning is the case with so many barns. Don Limpert was selected to take me down and he uses old barns as recycled material for modern projects. He made me stand naked for several weeks after he removed my siding to be used for barnwood themes somewhere. In mid-May I had to say good-bye when he cut apart part of my frame and gently pulled what was left of me into the old barnyard. No doubt he will disassemble me and, who knows? One of my beams or posts may end up in your home as a fireplace mantel or be used to patch some other barn's rotting frame. I may no longer be a barn, but parts of me will be around Manchester for another four score and ten years, I hope.

By Howard Parr, grandson of Hiram and Louise, along with his brothers and sister: Leslie Parr, Floyd Parr, and Hazel Parr Walker.

(from The Manchester Chronicle, June, 1994)

New Fangled Water Systems on the Farm (c. 1900)

Since writing the description of my grandfather's house for the Historical Society Calendar this year, I have become interested in why he built parts of his house and his farm buildings in the manner that he did. Specifically, I have often wondered who designed the water system for the house and for the farm buildings. I suspect he knew rather in detail what he wanted and hired workers to complete the projects.

The water system in the house depended on rain water and since this was stored in a cistern it was often called cistern water. Eaves troughs were constructed to drain from all sides of the house into the masonry cistern which was built into a corner of the basement. The exterior walls in a corner provided half the enclosure; stone walls two feet thick were built to complete the rectangle. The inside surface of all walls was plastered to make them waterproof.


Before electric water pumps became available another part of the system was built within a small room on the second floor. It was called a tank room because a galvanized tank was installed there. The bottom of the tank was about three feet above the upstairs floor level. Thus, all plumbing fixtures in the house were below the water level in this tank. This assured constant water pressure. Some of the eves were designed to fill this tank; there was also a hand operated force pump in the basement which was used to pump cistern water into the tank as needed.

The cook stove was also part of the water system. A range coil was installed next to the firebox and plumbed into the system. Pressured water kept this coil filled and when the range was fired, the heated water rose to fill the nearby range tank. From this tank heated cistern water was available as needed throughout the house.

Toilets were flushed from this system and the water was available to fill the hot water boiler used to heat the house. The only water need not filled by this system was drinking water. This was supplied from the well which was drilled just outside the back door for convenience. Another system was installed for drinking water and it served both the house and the farm buildings where the animals were housed.

A large windmill was installed above the well. It was built high enough to extend above the house roof so wind from any direction could operate it. This system used a pump which was made to force water under pressure. There was a control lever which could be switched to pump a pail of water for the house or to pump water to a large tank near the barn.

The barn tank was built of concrete and located under the drive ramp to the main barn floor. It probably held 10,000 gallons of water. The windmill could pump all day and not overfill the tank.

From the main tank pipes were laid two or three smaller tanks placed at lower levels. One of these was placed high enough to be used by cows and horses. The others were low enough to be used by sheep. About the only animals not served were hogs and poultry.

The system was relatively automatic if you remembered to set the windmill running. At each small tank a valve was placed at the end of the supply pipe near the bottom of the tank. From the valve a strong wire was attached to a float which was set at the water level desired. Pressure on the float shut off this valve at the water level desired; when animals drank water, the float dropped to allow water to re-fill the tank.

Both these water systems were energy efficient and easy to use. They were dependable through many years of use and needed virtually no attention. I think of this sometimes when the power goes off and we are "out of water."

Howard E. Parr
February 12, 1986

Jesse Walker's Barn Raising

Hazel's notes about logs required and timber dimensions

Lumber list for the barn

Susan and Nancy playing on timbers

Stockpile of timbers awaiting assembly

Nov 1, 1949 – Raising the first bent (A bent refers to one assembled section of a barn frame)

First bent, almost in place

First bent, end view

Cross members connecting bents

Second and third bents up

Four bents in place with plates by the end of the day (Nov 1, 1949)

Rafters going up, Nov 2, 1949

Siding begins

Milking parlor addition (cement block)

Unknown, Ella Kemner, Alta Parr, Clella Simpson, Rena Girbach, Arnold

The new barn and addition


Education of a Farmer

Dad's time pre-dated formal, structured educational programs to prepare farmers for their life's work. A boy who wanted to stay on the farm most often grew up on one. There he learned from his family members as well as others with whom he associated. Dad was such a boy and his parents were successful at farming as well as patient, good teachers.

State Agricultural Colleges began throughout the country with the passage of the Morril Act in 1864 which provided subsidies to get them started. In Michigan a new college and farm campus was started near Lansing, known as Michigan State Agricultural College. Its special purposes included training in farm methods and management, preparatory courses for veterinarians, vocational agricultural teachers, home economics teachers, as well as short courses (held during winter months) for farmers in specialized areas (shop training in wood and metal working, animal and plant husbandry, to name a few). Bulletins from the U.S. Department of Agriculture were fed through these colleges to inform and educate about good farm practices and innovations.

Uncle Walter attended such a course in 1911 and Dad spent the winter of 1913 there in a course in Farm Mechanics, practical work in woodworking and metal working skills which might be useful to a farmer. Floyd later attended, specializing in poultry as I remember it.

Clayton standing 6th from left

Dad took advantage of many other ways to gain knowledge about improvements in farming. He subscribed to magazines such as Successful Farming, Country Gentlemen, and The Michigan Farmer. He continued to learn from the U.S. Ag. Bulletins on a wide variety of subjects as they came along. He belonged to the National Grange organization. Local, County, and State Fairs offered competition to exhibit the best in what was then largely an agricultural show. The better (more productive/profitable) breeds of farm animals, plant types, and farming practices could come to his attention and be tried out on the farm. For example, when he found that the champion butterfat producing cow was a Holstein, we began adding them to our herd. He gave Stanley his first dairy animal and her name was Fannie Sieges, so named when she was registered in the Holstein-Friesian system. Her heifer calves from that registered line were added to our herd as time went on.

Added information about what worked on farms was available in less formal ways. Dad's "visits" to town on Saturday night might uncover what a neighbor was doing. Our annual visits with relatives in Charlotte and Toledo also were an opportunity to exchange ideas and discover helpful practices. The quiet hours spent working in gangs during threshing and silo filling provided added exchanges which might provide new ideas or evidence of bad experience.

It took a willing and energetic person to use all the means at hand to learn about good farming, and Dad was such a person.

Back to My Michigan



Though this Farm Story comes mainly from one individual's memory, augmented I'm sure by the many later repetitions, some details come from the printed sources listed below.

Pictures of old farm tools and equipment come from the assortment of information available today on the internet. Some are from agricultural tool museum collections and others from commercial catalogues and archives. I regret the site of each one used here cannot be cited, but offer thanks to each one and advise interested readers to browse for themselves. Without the efforts of John Snell and Chris Parr and their knowledge of computers, this very helpful source of information couldn't have been tapped.

Scenes involving our use of the farm come from family archives now divided among the children and descendents of Clayton and Willo Parr.

Hazel Parr Walker
Howard Parr
Leslie Parr
Floyd Parr