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Historical farm honored with new sign


By Judy Reed

Now days it’s not easy to find a piece of land that has been in the same family for 50 years—let alone 100. Or in the case of one Nelson Township family, over 150 years.

That’s right—the farm at 13383 Shaner Avenue has been in the Hale family almost 155 years, giving it the designation of a sesquicentennial farm. The family was honored with a new centennial sign acknowledging the farm’s status earlier this spring.

The original homestead.

According to the family and historical records, the original 40 acres were bought by Henry Walter Hale, age 30, of New York, in 1865 in Nelson Township from Robert Sinclair. Hale had just finished serving several months in the Civil War. He moved here with his wife, Mary, and two children, Harriet and Frederick. He died in 1924 and is buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

According to Lorie Ostrom, a descendant who currently lives on the original farm, Fred and Hattie were each given 20 acres. Hattie lived in a little house on the corner of 16 Mile and Shaner for many years.  Meanwhile, Fred married Freelove Townes and had three children – Grace, Charlie and Glenn.  Glenn was born in 1896, and married Margaret Wassenaar (1908-2001), and had one son, Robert (Bob) Hale. Bob and his wife, Beverly live just up the road from the original homestead.

Bob and Bev Hale. Bob is the great-grandson of Henry Walter Hale, the original owner of the farm.

Bob has many memories of the farm, and it was noted in the records they submitted to the state. He noted that according to records, his great-grandfather, Henry Walter Hale, cleared the land and started farming it. “During that time, buildings were constructed by the community. Also, my grandmother’s family lived across the road,” he said.

He also spoke about his growing up years. “We owned 80 acres across from the 40-acre homestead, which had a large barn and housed our dairy operation. The original 40 acres was comprised of the old farmhouse, 110-year-old barn, corn crib, granary, three hen houses, and a Michigan cellar. Chickens were raised and eggs sold locally to businesses and families,” Bob recalled.

Bob’s father Glenn passed away in 1968. In 1969, he and his mother decided they would build a new home on the other side of the road, since the old homestead had no insulation and was heated with wood and fuel oil, and had no basement. But before they could complete the move, a tornado struck the new house, damaging it along with cars and a 40-foot by 60-foot barn, making them unrepairable. Instead, he had to rebuild. Buildings on the original homestead received structural damage also. 

In 2002, they decided to clean up the original homestead property. “Trees were removed, structures burned, and a new house was built on the site,” explained Bob. He added that the old barn needed a lot of work but was repaired.

He said that his mother, Margaret, was a 4H-leader for over 35 years, and he was involved with the 4H program for 10 years, and he and his wife were involved when their grandchildren had projects. He said Margaret was also involved in the Cedar Springs Women’s Club.

Sharon Jett, of the Cedar Springs Historical Museum, remembers Bob’s mother, Margaret, telling her the story of how she came to Cedar Springs. 

“Margaret told me she was living in Bitely as a young woman and got hired as a teacher here in Cedar Springs.

Her father took her through the woods to the railroad tracks, gave her a light and told her to flag down the train when she saw it coming. It was night and he left her there alone.

“She was very frightened, at that time there were wolves and bears in the area, and she did what her father told her to do. She was so afraid the train wouldn’t stop and she didn’t know if she could find her way home. The train did stop to pick her up and her life in Cedar Springs began. I’ll never forget her telling me that story,” recalled Jett.

Andrew the dog, who was killed in a drive-by shooting.

Lori Ostrom added a few things that Grandpa Bob has told her. For instance, Grandma Margaret Hale was known as the egg lady of Cedar springs back in the 1950’s.  And, there was also a dog named Andrew, who met an untimely end. “He was really Glenn Hale’s dog but Grandpa Hale adopted it until it was randomly shot in a drive by shooting. Yes, even back in the 1950’s there were mean people,” she remarked.

“Grandpa tells another story about another family dog that bit him in the britches – and he had to have stitches!” she said.  

Lori went on to explain how the original tradition of farming is carried down to today. “Henry Walter Hale is the one who cleared all the land for farming; they farmed corn, wheat, oats, spelt, hay, 17 cattle and many horses; about the 1940’s when they got a tractor, they no longer had horses. Today the family tradition is to do a large family garden that we plant Memorial Day Weekend and share the bounty.

The original barn and outbuildings.
The barn today.

“Some of the photos show the barn in the background and this is the barn that is still standing on our property today.

“The original homestead house, and additions are also pictured – but this, and many of the outbuildings were burned down by the volunteer fire fighters in a controlled burn. We are so thankful they were willing to work hard to save the old barn!” she remarked.

“Every Memorial Day weekend we go to Elmwood Cemetery in Cedar Springs and plant flowers on all the family grave markers.  It is a tradition, and now that we are older, we often bombard Grandpa Hale to tell us more stories about the old days and family connections,” said Lori.

Lori’s brother, Fred Myers, now lives in the house across the street from the old homestead. He is the family tree expert and has found many of the records dating back to the original purchase of the property. 

The Post thanks Fred, Lori, and Bob for all records and photos they passed along. Congratulations on being designated a sesquicentennial farm!


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