Will Carleton Farm Festival

An absolutely perfect day (if you ignore the brief and shocking showers in the afternoon) brought many visitors to the Farm Festival and Sharron Watkins Memorial Cruise In, which was organized by the Bicentennial Car Club. Along with the old tractors from the Center Adams Antique Power and Machinery Club, the old cars were a good match. 

Family of the late Sharron Watkins were present for the Cruise In that was organized in her honor

Family of the late Sharron Watkins were present for the Cruise In that was organized in her honor

Family members of the late Sharron Watkins gathered to honor her memory, along with those of us in the Society who were fortunate enough to get to know her.





The Vanished Hillsdale Sixth Reunion was marked by a presentation by Dan Bisher on early settlers and settlements. The VH Facebook page has a video of Dan's presentation.

video Block
Double-click here to add a video by URL or embed code. Learn more.


Lewis Emery Park Awarded an Official State of Michigan Historic Marker

Thanks to the tireless efforts of Barb and Bill Smith, Lewis Emery Park will receive a State of Michigan Historic Marker and be listed in the state records as a historic site. Two noteworthy events occurred at the park.

In 1862 the 18th Michigan, newly organized by Henry Waldron, trained there after being offered the use of the land by Lewis Emery, whose house still stands.  The camp was called Camp Woodbury after Col. Dwight A. Woodbury, who had organized the 4th Michigan. It was located at the top of the hill to the east of the current entrance to Lewis Emery Park. 

The 92 acres that would become Lewis Emery Park were a swampland until the 1930s. In an effort to end the Depression, the government set up public works projects that would employ the out-of-work men. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) eventually offered construction jobs to almost one-third of the nation's unemployed. In Hillsdale, the swamp was turned into park land and rearing ponds for trout for anyone to enjoy.

The Society received a grant from the Hillsdale County Community Foundation to supplement its own funds for the purpose of covering the cost of the sign. The dedication will be as soon as the state is able to complete the sign.

General Membership Pot Luck

A rather chilly and windy evening moved the Pot Luck into the Poorhouse where good food and good conversation prevailed. Two new Board members were elected: Kathy Fowler and Morgan Grubbs. They joined reappointed Board members Jim Braman, Mike Braman and Bob Sawyer

Dedication to "The Ladies of Oak Grove Cemetery"

A crowd of 60 to 70 people braved the possibly bad weather and were rewarded with a cool but pleasant evening at Oak Grove Cemetery. A monument to The Ladies of the Oak Grove Cemetery Association, who did so much to enhance the beauty and peacefulness of the cemetery, was made possible by the dedicated leadership of Carol Lackey.The project was made underwritten by memorial donations in the name of Jim Taylor, who worked tirelessly to document the graves not just at Oak Grove but also in other cemeteries in Hillsdale County. His daughter, Diane Taylor Philipp, gave a moving tribute to her dad. Stone mason John McCormick created the monument. Re-enactors from the 18th Michigan Infantry brought to life five of the people who were involved in the Civil War. Frank Engel, Oak Grove Cemetery Sexton, honored Jim Taylor and all those laid to rest in Oak Grove with a moving rendition of Taps.

Show & Tell


Carol Lackey with  a pictorial story of how the top of the original gate at Oak Grove Cemetery, once abandoned in the woods behind Potter's Field, was brought to the circle to honor "The Ladies of the Oak Grove Cemetery Association" who did so much to add beauty to the final resting place for so many.





Bob Sawyer borrowed from Pat Flynn a decorative pitcher from England that was used for hot cocoa. Since the bean was so expensive, servings were probably very special and quite small.







Darin Sheffer with items from the marvelous Motown years. How many generations have enjoyed this unique music!












Dorothy Kruse-Berry with two flour sifters. The smaller is for a child and the larger has lids on both ends so that the flour could be sifted more than once.








Jean Letherer with an old-fashioned glass spice rack and a sock darner in the shape of a shoe.








Paul Schneider with wood measureing tools. The one in his right hand folds out and the others are like calipers. 





Rosemarie Schneider with a Bavarian hand painted plate. 











Sally Anspaugh with a rolling pin made by a teenager for his little sister.










Sally Fallon with two child's banks. One is an Indian that is quite heavy and the other is a glass log cabin that originally contained mustard. The instructions for how to seal the top and turn it into a bank for a child after the mustard is gone are still printed on its bottom.




















Christmas at the Poorhouse

A large crowed visited the Poorhouse on Dec. 3 & 4, 2016 for the annual Christmas open house. The decorations were lovely, the goodies delicious and the atmosphere warm and welcoming.


Renovation/Preservation/Beautification Awards

Three homes and a barn received awards for the way their owners have returned them to their former glory.

The Church home and barn in Camden

The Church home and barn in Camden

The Church Farm - Preservation

In July 2016 Barbara Church and her husband moved into the Camden home her parents had inhabited until they died at ages 99 and 101! The barn was originally too far from the house so it was moved with horses and a sledge. It had plastic letters on it that were nice in identifying to whom it belonged ... but they were damaged and not particularly true to the period of the barn. When the painter worked on the barn he carefully drew around the letters and then removed them so he could hand paint new letters. Amish were hired to remove the sheds around the barn because they were not salvageable, and the barn, tilted out after settling, was pulled back into place.

the Church barn in camden

the Church barn in camden

The Kessler-Seaney Home - Preservation

Richard Kessler and Roger Seaney are only the third owners of their 1840 home, which they rented and then purchased in 1963. It's probably the oldest wood home in Hillsdale, a fact deduced by the side lights and fan window at the front door, which were used until the 1860s. The Kessler-Miner Funeral Home was one of the largest in Hillsdale in the 1800s. At an auction, Kessler and Seaney found the stained glass windows that were originally in the funeral home. They were included in the addition to the back of the home, which was true to the Greek Revival architecture of the original. In 2013 all the siding was removed and replaced by cedar siding. Only the replacement vinyl window keep this home from being "renovated" (which requires that all materials used to have been available at the time of its building).

The Kessler-Seaney home in Hillsdale

The Kessler-Seaney home in Hillsdale

The Robert and Barbara Watkins Home - Restoration

In 1835 William Burke received a land grant for the land on which this home sits. In 1859 William and Mary Watkins purchased the land. Then William and Eliza Watkins purchased it in 1920, William J. and Maud Watkins in the 1950s, Victor and Mary Watkins in the 1970s, and now it is owned by Robert and Barbara Watkins. The 12-room home in Allen was built in 1879 as a 3000 sq.ft. Italianate. It's supported by a brick cross that goes from the 1st floor to the 2nd floor. Amazingly, heat was part of the original house.

A separate small house is also on the property. It was used by the younger family, while the big house was for the grandparents. Astonishingly, no children were ever raised in the big house.

After 34 windows were replaced by Robert and Barbara, the first floor was renovated. Many layers of wall paper were removed, with samples of each layer kept so that a period match could be found. Barbara has lovingly created gardens, each surrounded by stones found on the property.

Robert and Barbara Watkins home in Allen

Robert and Barbara Watkins home in Allen

The Donald and Mary Smith Home - Preservation

The Sesquicentennial Farm of Donald and Mary Smith was built in 1860. It is a very small home that has been lovingly restored and filled with antiques from that period. It was made of split field stone.

In 1839 James Cook, Mary's great-great grandfather, came to Hillsdale County. He bought the property in Litchfield in 1853. Electricity had been added in 1947. Donald and Mary are the sixth generation to live in the home. They bought it in 1984 and began the laborious process of bringing it up to date without destroying its historic nature. Donald took the interior walls down to the stone so he could insulate them. Double doors and shutters had been removed and stored in an outbuilding. They were retrieved and replaced. An addition, consistent with the original home, was added to the back. The Lantis family rents the land to farm.

Sesquicentennial farm of Donald and Mary Smith in litchfield

Sesquicentennial farm of Donald and Mary Smith in litchfield

The Little White House on the Hill - Fairgrounds Museum

Fair Week wasn't so great weather-wise, but that didn't keep lots of people from visiting the Museum and the Peanut Tent. Our special exhibits this year included treasures from all four historical societies in Hillsdale County: Allen Area, Litchfield Area, The Grosvenor House Museum and Hillsdale County. It was very special.


The Will Carleton Farm Festival

August 6 was a beautiful summer day ... perfect for the annual Farm Festival, co-sponsored with the Center Adams Antique Power and Equipment Club. We thank the crafters who gave us their time and talent at the Farm Festival: flint knapper Norm Blaker, wood carvers Norville Cramer, Roger Poley and Leo Barr, needle worker Gloria Clark and quilters Clair Booth, Robin Bartels and Velia Lauerman and weaver Katya

Along with the threshing machine, the old tractors and their proud owners provided a fun show. 

Our New Roof!

Braman Roofing replaced the roof that originally was installed in 1987, when the Poorhouse was being renovated after being deeded to the Hillsdale County Historical Society by Bob Evans Farms. (Here's more about that massive effort if you'd like to see what it entailed:  http://www.hillsdalehistoricalsociety.org/renovating-will-carleton-poorhouse/.)

isn't this lovely!

isn't this lovely!