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Mason County Memories

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Barns & Byways #4 History Column 203 Dave Petersen It's a beautiful morning, crisp and cool with a hint of what's to come and a sprinkling of color in the treetops. Take in a deep breath of that fresh autumn air, and SAY! Wait a minute! What are you doing drinking a cup of coffee and reading the paper? You should be packing up the kids or the grandkids and heading out for the Barn Tour this morning. It's not too late for you to get there on time, it'll run from 10 AM to 4PM today. Stir up some of those old memories and share the G rated ones with the grandkids as you tour the old barns on Conrad Road. So make your coffee to go and GO! Have some fun, drink some cider, talk to Bob Conrad about his barn building tools on display, and check out the Farmers Market in Scottville. There is a lot to do and to see, don't miss it. One of the barns on the tour was at one time owned by the County and was used to provide a shelter and means of providing meals for the less fortunate. Farms like this existed all over the country in the days before social security. Poor Farms, Pauper Farms, the Poor House were all names applied to these havens for the poor. The admonishment of you better watch out or be careful or you'll wind up in the poor house was one I remember hearing from my elders who lived through the depression and knew what that meant. Poor Farms were taken on as a responsibility of local government but in many areas of the country their upkeep was not a high priority and the conditions were not always the best for elderly people who had a limited ability to fulfill the expectations of physical work that came with residency. Some areas even referred to their charges as inmates. In looking at the historical photographs that accompany todays article it does not appear to have been the case here. You can see a clean organized farm with ample room, buildings and animals. At the Mason County Poor Farm the residents had gardens for vegetables, and this was in the day when many many families canned and put up or stocked a pantry for the winter. There were cattle for meat and milk which provided the basis for making butter and cheese, chickens, geese for weeding the garden and pigs. The poor farm provided a roof, a warm bed and the means to provide for sustenance. Charles Bretschnieder purchased the farm in 1942 and built it into one of the premier dairy farms in Mason County, he was indeed proud of his accomplishments in that area and adapted an old Buick commercial to meet his needs, "When better cows are bred, Bretschnieder's will breed them." Ed Bretschnieder received his grandfather Charlie's share of the farm in 1972 and became a part owner at that time, today Ed and his wife Francine continue the farming operations at the site. Other barns we have not yet talked about include the Manley Barn, owned by Roger and Karen Manley. The original farmhouse on the property is gone and the barn has been remodeled to meet the needs of Roger's growing graphic sign business but the inside of the barn still boasts several original features including the stall and the hay loft. The Polcin barn is located on that stretch of Conrad Road where those beautiful maples line both side of the road and the turkeys are always playing in the middle of the road. When you head out that way keep in mind that deer and the wild turkeys think they have the right of way and its not uncommon to see them at all times of the day. The original barn on the property which has been in Mabel Policn Gunberg's family since the 1880's burned down in 1939 and was replaced. When I drove past on my way home I could see that they have been bringing some farm equipment and an old cutter sleigh out for display. The Amber Elk Ranch has a barn that dates back to the 1880's when Fredrick Keson purchased the property. There has been a story although unsubstantiated that some of the lumber used in construction of this barn was from timbers of an old schooner. If anyone can provide clues or information that could be used to verify that rumor it would make a great story for another days column. Today the Elk Ranch raises elk of course for the velvet, horns, meat and breeding stock. If you have any stories or photographs you would like to share with our reader please feel free to contact me at 757-3240, davep@blackcreekpress.com or in Care of the Ludington Daily News PO Box 340 Ludington Michigan 49431 Pictures Steve I don't have my list of the pictures I sent, you can easily match the pics to the captions This is one of two pictures taken from the water rower that was one the farm and shows the men's dormitory and the power house at the poor farm. This view is of the barn before the extensive renovations Ed's family expanded the barn significantly in order to provide individual stall for each of the new Holsteins. Chick chick everywhere a chick, raising chickens and eggs provided some of the meat and of course eggs for the residents of the poor farm

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