Posted on 09 February 2017.
This photo shows the original brick home built by Bill Bolthouse Sr. in 1953, which adjoined the property he farmed that many call “the muck fields,” “onion fields,” or “carrot fields” on 17 Mile Rd, east of the city.
Bill Bolthouse Jr. and his wife, Nora.
By Sue Wolfe
One of the advantages of small towns is the personal and trusting friendships that develop and are often carried through with future generations. Such is the case with the Bolthouse and Stout families.
Bill Bolthouse Sr. and Carl D. Stout were local business owners who also shared time together as friends in Cedar Springs starting in the late 1940s. Their sons, Bill Bolthouse Jr. and Leon Stout continued a relationship as fellow businessmen and friends. In 1953, Bill Bolthouse Sr. built the brick home located on 17 Mile Rd, about one mile east of town, adjoining property often referred to locally as the “muck farms” or “carrot fields.” For many years the Bolthouse family raised carrots, celery, onions, and other crops in the fields running along both sides of 17 Mile Road east of the homestead. Bolthouse Farms was founded in 1915 in Grant, Michigan and sold the business to Madison Dearborn in 2005. Bill Bolthouse Jr. is a 3rd generation of farmers in his family and graduated from Cedar Springs High School (CSHS) in 1958 as part of the last graduating class from Hilltop School.
“My father was operating three farms in 1953. Cedar Springs was in the middle of the Grant and Sheridan locations, making it a desirable location for our home,” explained Bill Bolthouse Jr.
The Bolthouse family sold their home to the Russ and Angie Kniff Family but retained ownership of the farming land then deeded over to Bolthouse Farms and later Bolthouse Properties LLC. A few years ago, Bolthouse Properties LLC, now based out of Bakersfield California, put the 17 Mile Road farming property into a Wetlands Reserve Program overseen by the US Department of Agriculture, who holds a perpetual conservation easement deed.
“After graduating from CSHS, I left for college. Our family had a good life in Cedar Springs,” said Bolthouse Jr. “Upon college graduation, my wife Nora and I built a home on the Grant farm. When this opportunity to support Cedar Springs arose, I was happy to give back. I am also grateful Leon Stout assisted me in putting the property into a Land Conservation Reserve Program. This program not only preserves a natural green and animal habitat space for the community but also protects the trout beds where many locals enjoy fishing, including Leon Stout.”
About a year ago, Bill Bolthouse Jr. and Kevin Pike, owner of Bliss, Witters, and Pike Funeral Home and a nephew of the Bolthouses, were discussing the need for a Community Building in Cedar Springs. The discussion carried forward with long-time friend and local realtor Leon Stout, co-founder of Stout Group.
Leon stout with daughter Debra Stout and son Jon stout.
In early 2016, Bill Bolthouse Jr., Leon Stout, and Kurt Mabie, President of the Community Building Development Team (CBDT) began sharing ideas and options. In November 2016, the 195-acre property was appraised at $315,000 by John A. Meyer Appraisals Co. Then, in December 2016, Bill Bolthouse Jr. and Bolthouse Properties signed legal documents donating the property to the Community Building Development Team. Local businessman and attorney Thomas Cronkright Jr. donated his professional services thru Sun Title for the closing. The property will remain titled to the CBDT for three years, with a lease created for the purposes of fishing, hunting, and recreation to include an option to buy being overseen by Stout. The leasing party wishes to remain unnamed, but will be paying $10,000 per year. The funds earned from both the lease (after taxes and insurance) and eventual sale will be used to continue building the “Heart of Cedar Springs” on property owned by the City of Cedar Springs, which is located on the northwest corner of Main and Maple Streets, and surrounds the Community Library currently under construction. A community building, amphitheater, boardwalk along the creek, Veteran’s Clock tower, and more are included in the master site plan, but is dependent on donations from community members in order to be completed.
Leon Stout, along with his children and business partners, Debra Stout and Jon Stout, provided their professional real estate expertise and community-focused services at a greatly reduced fee for the transfer of property and leasing arrangement. Leon Stout hesitantly shared some of his interesting history within our community to include sailboat and piloting adventures. He has dabbled in beef farming and quarter horse racing. His hobbies include hunting, fishing and traveling around the world. Stout, now in his mid-80s, continues to stay active with his various business endeavors and is always looking for ways to serve a community that has provided him with generations of meaningful friendships that still carry on today.
“The Bolthouse property was a wonderful gift. The CBDTeam would like to thank Bill Bolthouse Jr, Leon Stout, and Kevin Pike for investing their time and resources for the greater Cedar Springs Community,” said Mabie. “These significant leaders will join the ranks of others that have chosen to leave a legacy and help to make the Cedar Springs Community even better,“ he added.
“All community members are encouraged to get involved by attending the one-hour monthly team meetings, monthly board meetings, and/or various other committee meetings. The CBDTeam needs each member of the community to share their ideas and help to find ways to complete the various opportunities. Each person has a special talent that can help bring this all together,” said Mabie.
The CBDT now meets at Creative Technology Academy (CTA) located at 350 Pine St on the third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. while the board meets on the second Tuesday at CS Tool Engineering at 7 a.m. The various committee meetings are scheduled as needed. These open meetings allow residents to exchange suggestions and information.