Eight: Alber's Cider Mill - Civil War Spectacle

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Alber's Cider Mill

Sippin' sweet cider in the fall was one of the fancy festivities back when grandmother was a girl, and still is. It is just as American as Thanksgiving Day and pumpkin pie—and every bit as delectable.

The Alber' cider mill, last one in the Manchester area, is still grinding out apples every fall. The farm, owned and operated by Nathan Alber and his son, N. Allen Alber is at 13011 Bethel Church Road, about four and a half miles northeast of Manchester. If the weather stays mild the Albers plan to operate for several weeks in December.

The mill is part of a typical American farm—with a large white frame house—which Michael Alber, Nathan's father built 68 years ago. All of the other buildings are painted red and trimmed with white and neat as wax.

The cider mill was built in 1870 as a barn and converted to a cider mill in 1890. It is part of the 217 acre farm. There are about nine acres of apples with about 300 apple trees, which are graded and sold by the peck and bushel.

Alber will tell you the best cider comes from the presses late in the fall—when the apples are good and cold.

If the apples are good, you can expect about four gallons from bushel (50 pounds). Crates hold more than bushel baskets.

When Michael Alber first had his mill, there were many others in the area. All of the farmers had at least a few apple trees and there was a real demand for cider mills. They first had a steam engine for power for the presses. This gave way to the gasoline engine. And in 1928, when electricity first went through on Bethel Church Road, they immediately changed to electric power.

When Albers grind their own apples—they do custom work, two-pickers in the orchard load the apples for cider on a truck which holds about 200 bushels of apples. They are taken to the mill, where they are put on a conveyor and carried through a water tank and washed. Then they are put in a grinder, which is electrically operated.

The ground apples are carried down a chute to a hydraulic press, where the juice is squeezed out and pumped through a screen. The clear juice runs through a conductor to the mill basement and into waiting barrels.

Alber says the most cider he has processed is about 3,300 gallons a day. The average is about 2,000.

They do a lot of custom grinding for orchards and customers who bring in tons of apples, such as a concern at Michigan Center which sells to the Jackson area.

Work begins at sunup and takes until sundown to complete. Nothing is added to the pure apple juice. The farmer gets back the cider from the apples he brings and Alber can remember when he did it for 2 cents a gallon.

Manchester Speedway

This is the sixth year for operation of the Manchester Motor Speedway, located 2.5 miles south of the village off South Macomb street.

Some 35 people work in the pits and grounds on Friday nights when the races are held. This is a half-mile, high clay bank track and provides amusement for hundreds who jam the gates every week to watch the Sportsman modified and superstock cars tear around the track.

This is the only race track of its kind in Washtenaw County and cars are timed into one hundredth of a second during the time trials. The track is operated by a corporation headed by Veryl Schill of Manchester. Eighty cars sign in for races on Friday's with a rain date of Sunday.

Trunks Yield Yesteryear's Fashions

As the centennial plans progressed questions arose. What did great-grandmother wear a century ago? Everyone was talking about hooped skirts, leg-of-mutton sleeves and petticoats with rows of ruffing.

Delving into family trunks resulted in many interesting costumes being brought out. Mrs. Leonard Ahrens had the 85-year-old lilac and white candy stripe cotton dress belonging to her aunt, Mrs. Walter Behnke of Ann Arbor. There was lilac velvet ribbon trim and lace at the high neck. Rows of tucking and lace adorned the petticoat and bloomers. She borrowed high buttoned shoes from her motherin-law, Mrs. Harold Ahrens. An embroidered label inside the shoes reads: "H. L. Holmes Merz. Co. Chelsea-Pingree Gloria $3.50."

She found a sailor-style white hat, belonging to the family of Mrs. F. M. Reck. It dates back 75 years. Then there was the violin belonging to Mrs. Ahrens family, dated 1902.

Mrs. James C. Hendley brought out the two-piece graduation dress of white wool serge which was worn by Mrs. Alleda Case Tracy, a member of the second class to be graduated from Manchester High School, the Class of 1873. Brussels point lace forms the collar and vestee, and is repeated in the V trim on the back of the bodice. The long slightly flared skirt has several 15-inch pleats with frog trim. This is on display at Marx and Marx store.

Mrs. Ahrens inquired around. As long as there would not be a pageant surely a fashion show would be interesting. The women in the six area churches agreed. Helping with plans were representatives: Mrs. Glen Lehr and Mrs. Maynard Blossom of Emanuel Evangelical and Reformed Church; Mrs. Ruth Sodt and Mrs. Harold Steinaway from Sharon EUB; Mrs. Paul Kappler and Mrs. LeRoy Knickerbocker from the Methodist; Mrs. Louis Vogel and Mrs. Elton Hieber from Bethel; Mrs. Loren Trolz and Mrs. Roger Trolz from Iron Creek, nondenominational; and Mrs. Ahrens, general chairman, and Mrs. William Schwab from St. Marys.

On Sunday, July 23 at 3 p.m. the High School's new auditorium was jam-packed as more than a hundred costumes were exhibited. An Irish linen sidesaddle riding habit worn in 1904 was modeled by Mrs. Robert Ross. The ensemble, tailored for her aunt, Mrs. W. P. Leech of New York City, is styled with leg-of-mutton sleeves and a skirt cut to dip on the right side. The bow for her hair, her aunt's black gloves and the original riding boots complete the costume.

Style Show

Dr. and Mrs. D. M. Petersen were models. The doctor wore a reproduction of a Daniel Boone suede costume with matching hat and shoes, and his wife's dress of gunmetal and white heavy print dates back more than a century.

Mrs. Wm. Schwab wore Mrs. Louis Merz' family heirloom black taffeta dress dating to 1847. The long bodice is styled with ruffle trim and tucking near the collar. There is heavy lace over pleated chiffon attached to the underskirt.

Monica J. Kirk had on the black velvet bonnet with satin bows that her great-grandmother, Mrs. Maria Coleman had with her when she arrived in this country from Ireland on New Year's Day 1852. Her two piece black wool dress belonged to Mrs. Tracy. The 1870 outfit was fashioned with bustle back, full skirt and fitted jacket with leg-of-mutton sleeves. Her 75-.year-old laced shoes had pointed toes and spool heels.

Miss Bess Satterthwait of Tecumseh loaned a three-piece evening ensemble made for her mother by Mrs. Fred Briegel, mother of Dr. Walter Briegel. The 90-year old creation had a cape of black ribboned silk adorned with lace.

Other exhibits included a 120-year old wedding dress made for Mrs. Sy Sloat; an 1898 white wool wedding gown owned by Mrs. Kenneth Wolfe.

William Schwab modeled a Prince Albert style wedding suit worn by George Bowins when he claimed Stella English as his bride.

Mrs. Stanton G. Roesch and Mrs. Louis Vogel were narrators and Mrs. Roesch made arrangements for ballroom gowns from the collection of William Crim of Ann Arbor to be exhibited. The gowns date back to the 1890s.

Those attending were in costume and everyone enjoyed the pink lemonade and cookies after the show.

Centennial 1967 - Look Back to Farm Days

A wheat threshing demonstration—as it was done years ago—was one of the highlights of the Centennial Celebration.

Hundreds of farmers and interested persons drifted to the Clayton Parr farm on Austin Road at the west village limits for the afternoon performance. Camp So-Ber was in charge of the arrangements.

Wheat has always played an important part in Manchester. Its location of the River Raisin was in a way based on wheat. A flour mill was built on the river and around this the community grew.

The lumbering black steam engine had chugged out to the Parr farm. It had been in the Farmer's Day parade, and is owned by the Fox Brothers of Napoleon. Years ago a team of horses would draw the tank wagon to a nearby stream and it was filled with water. During a day of threshing a water tank would have to be filled two or three times—depending on the amount of grain.

There would be coal in the fire box. Threshing coal is something different and all farmers had to have it on hand at threshing time—not only enough to thresh their own grain but to pile on the rig to be used as the steam would furnish the power to move the equipment to the next farm.

It took at least two hours to get the steam pressure high enough to be of use to the threshers.

The Avery gasoline tractor—a later model—was also on display at the Parr farm. This was used in the days of threshing before the combine. These were the days when it took 12 or 15 men to "help out" at threshing.

The grain separator, used at the demonstration, was brought in from the Walter Blumenauer farm in Freedom Township. The separator does what the name implies—it separates the grain from the chaff.

Several farmers used antiquated flails. This was the method used for threshing grain by hand. These consist of a wooden handle at the end of which a stouter and shorter stick, called a swiple or swingle, is hung so as to swing freely. The operation is called winnowing. The process calls for some wind, the cut grain and chaff is dropped and the wind blows the chaff away. The grain falls into a basket.

Centennial Seal Winner

Robert Chapin, a senior at Manchester High School, was proclaimed winner for his original seal to be used on all Manchester Centennial official communications.

His entry showed clasped hands—Agriculture and Industry—depicting how the two have worked together through a Century of Progress in the Community.

Chapin received ten dollars for his efforts. The other nine in order of rating were: Ray Meyer, Mike Randall, Michael Berry, Sandie Trolz, Myrtle Spaur, Richard Weir, Cindy Blossom, Carolyn Haab and David Westfall.

Manchester Planned Centennial

Some time ago, Gale Koebbe, village president, appointed a committee to sound out the thinking of a representative group of residents to see just what type of celebration the community wanted.

It was not surprising that a group of some 70 people were in agreement not to hire outside help. Manchester would go it alone: "If we can put on an annual Chicken Broil second to none—we can do this, too."

It wasn't that the committee wouldn't appreciate the professional help—but the group felt it did not want to commit the community to have to pay several thousands of dollars for this help. The cost, the committee reported, would vary with the size and length of the celebration.

Incorporation papers were drawn up and the centennial program for the summer was on the way.

Centennial Boat Race Successful

So successful was the River Raisin Boat race on Saturday, April 22, that many were expressing the desire to have a repeat performance, possibly have it an annual event.

High winds discouraged 11 of the registered entrants, but 31 canoes and rowboats each manned by two oarsmen battled the wind and the current for the approximately nine miles from Fellows bridge to just north of the Main Street bridge.

Charles Hough and Allen Clark made the arrangements for the race on the River of Grapes.

James C. Hendley, L. Dean Sodt and Allen Clark checked the boats and entered them at the Fellows Bridge starting point. The race started promptly at 1 p.m. At the finish line, just north of the Main Street Bridge, was Irvin Gill, Allen Alber and Doug Hughes. Centennial committeemen were stationed at strategic points along the route.

Winners in the father-son canoe event were Alton Grau and his son, Michael, with a time of 40 minutes, 28 seconds. Second were David Hoeft and his son, Rodney, with a time of 46 minutes, 16 seconds.

In the choose-your-own partner, or open canoe race, Hal Poucher of Brooklyn and Therman Green of Manchester were victorious in 37 minutes, 31 seconds. Larry Kouba and Ed Waltz were second with 37 minutes, 50 seconds. In third place was the team of Gale Koebbe, Manchester village president, and Eldon Lamb. Their time was 38 minutes, 57 seconds.

The only entry in the father-son boat competition was the team of Don Paukin and his son, Lee. Their time was 65 minutes, 5 seconds for the nine mile winding race.

Winners in the open boat rowing were Merle McKeever and Larry Sturdevant of Manchester in 44 minutes, 33 seconds. Second were Gary Guenther and Paul Buss with a time of 51 minutes, 14 seconds. Duane Roller and Curtis Day were third, bringing their boat through the course in 51 minutes, 31 seconds.

Centennial Launched March 18

The official opening of the centennial celebration was 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 18 with a downtown parade.

Leading the procession, which started at Main and Beaufort Streets, was the police escort for cars carrying centennial committee officers.

About 60 "Brothers of the Brush" marched. Leading them were the pallbearers carrying a casket complete with the razor. Pallbearers were Art McGee, Merle McKeever, Dave Walton, Jackie Smith, Ken Brokaw and Lauren Bertke.

The centennial band was under the direction of Roger Marrison who has been named to direct all musical functions of the centennial.

Going along Main Street the parade stopped at the official centennial headquarters at Rymack's Printing Shop. Last "rites" were held with Rev. Oscar Cooper acting as chaplain. The casket carrying the razor was deposited in a window display at headquarters.

Centennial certificates, buttons and bows went on sale along with certificates commemorating Manchester's 100th birthday at all merchants and from E. G. Mann's Mill in Manchester and Bridgewater, Pleasant Lake Tavern and the Pleasant Lake Grocery.

The committee pinpointed four major dates for celebrations: Memorial Day (May 30) with a community picnic, July 4 for an old time celebration, a tie-in with the Chicken Broil and conclusion of the celebration during the community fair, Aug. 22 to 26.

Centennial celebration officers are: Irvin Gill, chairman; Ted Curley, co-chairman; Harry Macomber, secretary; Douglas Hughes, publicity; Gary Brokaw, chairman of the Brothers of the Brush; and LeRoy Marx, treasurer.

Other committee heads are: Don Limpert, finance; Allan Alber, rural participation; Mrs. Clarence Schaible, chairman of village decoration; Lauren Bertke, membership; Don Ross, Keystone Cops chairman; Mike Scully, Kangaroo Court and Bill Wilson, traffic and safety.

On the Board of Directors are: Allan Alber, Ted Curley, Irvin Gill, James Hendley, Charles Hough, George Koda, Harry Macomber, LeRoy Marx, Don Limpert and Ray Tirb.

Farmer's Day Fete

People came from miles around to watch the Farmer's Day parade. Allen Alber and L. Dean Sodt headed a willing committee which worked for weeks rounding up farm equipment worthy of this parade which started at the K & W Farm Supply at the north village limits. It continued along Ann Arbor Street to Main Street and ended at the E. G. Mann & Sons Warehouse on Union Street.

There were real museum pieces which had been assembled from the four townships surrounding Manchester. Alber and Sodt are members of the SoBer Chapter of Brothers of the Brush. The name combines part of their names.

Four township supervisors, Clayton Parr, Manchester; Russell Fuller, Sharon; Russell Hughes, Bridgewater and J. C. Miller, Freedom, representing the form of government known a century ago, rode in a surrey at the head of the parade.

Household paraphernalia, long outmoded, from churns to washing machines and clothes boilers gave onlookers a glimpse of "The Good Old Days."

There was smiling Centennial Queen, Vicki Roberts and her court waving to the people along the streets. Many were in centennial costumes and the whole effect was most colorful. There were American Flags flying in front of every place along Main Street and the business houses on the side streets.

There were horses and buggies and a few old time floats. And there was the covered wooden wheeled lumber wagon with hand carved wooden hoops holding the canvas top. Herb Jacob, who owns the antique is proud that the hoops are of wood and not steel. Other displays include a one-horse wooden-frame cultivator, a walking plow and cradle, used a century ago to clip off the grain.

A pitch fork, with a handle long enough to toss the hay high on the stack, was something to behold. The reaper, forerunner of the grain binder, and pulled by horses, had a place in the line-up of tools of bygone days. The chugging old steam engine and separator' added color to the moving spectacle.

The caravan stopped at the E. G. Mann Warehouse, an historical spot. There some of the machinery was put in operation.


Lake Shore Depot

The warehouse itself was built in 1856, and became combined freight house and New York Central passenger station. Oak lumber from the farm of the grandfather of the late Byron Hall was used in the construction of the sturdy warehouse. These solid 10 inch square beams are about 60 ft. long and were pinned together.

There are those, today, who remember the 30-foot ramp which rose from ground level to the top of the building. There teams of horses tugged heavy loads of grain to the top where it was unloaded onto hand carts which ran along steel tracks between two rows of storage bins. The 16 bins are of 2 x 6s of solid oak laid flat.

The ramp is long gone but the bins which hold 1,600 bushels can be seen at the warehouse. The late Fred Widmayer used to tell his son Herbert how the farmers butchered hogs in the winter and brought them frozen to the freight house. They'd be stacked like concrete blocks until there were enough for a shipment. Not very rigid meat inspection in those days!

Centennial Parade

The third of three main events for the holiday weekend (July 4) was the centennial parade. With the county spotlight focusing on Manchester for the big celebration it would be safe to say that no one was disappointed.

The whole atmosphere was that of a century ago. Residents in centennial dress and their guests sat in yards and watched as the colorful spectacle passed. And the spectators created quite a picture, too.

Bill Hainstock and Mike Schneider co-chairmen for the parade said that when they arrived at the east village limits (starting point of the parade) at 7:30 a.m. some were already getting into position. There were more than 50 entries and over 500 people involved in the parade.

"Bring a cheery word, a camera and wear a centennial costume," said Hainstock in an open invitation.

The parade route was along City Road to Riverside, onto Main and out to Carr Park. No cars or trucks later than a 1936 model was allowed.

Grand marshall was 93-year-old Carl Wuerthner. Riding with him in a 1921 model car was Mrs. L. C. Kent. Her husband, the late Dr. Kent, served this community for more than 50 years.

Queen Vicki Roberts and her court were on a float following the high school band directed by R. C. Sortor and Roger Marrison. Eight or nine floats depicting yesteryears added lots of color and lots of laughs.

Horse drawn buggies, a sleigh on a wagon, horse drawn, horses of all kinds, marchers in costume, cars of antiquated vintage, a sheriff's posse, antique tank wagon, fire engine and tank truck.

One of the focal points along the two-mile parade route was the First Michigan Light Artillery of Detroit. Later, at Carr Park, there was a demonstration which included the firing of some of the Civil War cannons.

The Aowakiyas Indian baton group from Tecumseh, including some 40 girls ranging in age from 4 to 14 years had a spot in the parade.

There were refreshments at the park sponsored by Jaycees. There was shuttle bus service between the park and starting point of the parade for those who needed it. Most of the merchants had their windows decorated for the big parade which exceeded most everyone's expectations.

Civil War Spectacle

Probably no other event connected with the centennial celebration had such impetus as did the appearance of the 8th Michigan Cavalry which arrived in the village for the demonstration skirmish on July 2. They came on the invitation of Don Limpert of Manchester. He is a member of the organization and one of the state's leading Civil War buffs and researchers.

As Manchester relives its early history it can't brush aside the Civil War. Company B, consisting of about 90 members of the 1st Michigan Infantry, was recruited and departed from Manchester at President Abraham Lincoln's first call for men. This is history and the people who watched the show were cognizant of it. Many had relatives who enlisted and fought in that war.

It was a spectacle of nostalgia with men, women and children decked out in the costumes of the 1860s sitting in chairs and on the grass on the hillside at Carr Park on a day that must have been "handpicked." It was cool but the sun shown bright. There was a soft breeze.

Limpert had arranged to have four teams fire four musket events. These four represented cavalry, artillery, Union Infantry and the Confederate soldiers. They are all members of the North-South Skirmish Association (NSSA).

According to Limpert, the muzzleloaders of the NSSA are required to dress in authentic Civil War uniforms, fire Civil War weapons and generally follow in the footsteps of the men of a century ago.

The original 1,117-man 8th Michigan cavalry left on May 2, 1863 in pursuit of the rebel raider, Brig. Gen. John Morgan. He was captured near New Lisbon, Ohio on July 26, 1863. The original regiment included the great-grandfather and great granduncle of Ray Russell of Rochester, a charter member of the group that came on July 2.

Today's units are organized to take part in skirmishes and other Civil War Centennial observances. A skirmish is a marksmanship contest with pageantry to bring out more vividly than history book could the events of the Civil War. They also aim to promote better relations between the north and south.

The U.S. Army regulations of 1863 are the authority the "new" 8th Cavalry unit uses as its final authority, including the manual of arms.

The 1863 model .58 caliber Springfield muzzle-loading muskets are the firearms.

That was not the last that Manchesterites were to see of the Civil War buffs. The Loomis Battery of the 1st Michigan Light Artillery of Detroit marched in the mile and a quarter long parade July 4th at Carr Park. Some were in original Civil War uniforms. Two Civil War cannons were inspected by curious spectators.

R. C. Sortor and Roger Marrison directed the High School Band in several selections.

The crowd moved over to the south side of the park to listen while a narrator explained how the cannons operated. Then there was silence as the old cannons blasted away into the marshland.