Land HO!

Over the past several years I have looked over the microfilmed indexes to deeds, available through the Family History Library (FHL), for Abram Rosa several times over, and never found an entry for him. Which I always thought was weird because several census records have him listed as being a property owner, with a mortgage.

Then last year I found an article from a 1909 Michigan newspaper informing its readers that Abram was selling land to his son Alby (his name is incorrectly stated in the newspaper as Alley).

Herald Press St. Joseph, MI 03-26-1909p3

Here was printed proof that I wasn’t crazy. So now I was determined to find those deeds.

Figuring that the FHL wasn’t going to be any further help, it hadn’t been so far, I decided to try for local sources. Remembering how I found all kinds of great deeds from Ohio at the various county register’s websites, I thought that I might find the same resource at the Berrien County office. Sure enough, they do have deeds online, and a search of their index found me 3 land deeds for Abram.

I still don’t understand why he wasn’t showing up in the FHL microfilmed records, but I didn’t care anymore, ’cause I got some of them now, although for a fee. (In Ohio they are FREE! Just sayin’.)

The first land record I ran across is in regards to fruit trees.

I don’t know if you are aware of this but Michigan is a big fruit state, and there are a lot of different fruits that come from the state other than blueberries. In this case it is peaches. It looks like Abram was paying for the honor of having 700 peach trees planted on his land, or paying someone part of his profits from the fruit, as part of money he owed for the trees.

To be honest I can find no record of Abram having actually owned land himself any sooner than 1894. And this contract indicates that Abram signed this lease in 1871 (this particular record is merely transferring the lease to a different party at a later date).

It looks like Abram was part of the peach rush of the mid 1800s. But as per his usual luck, the rush came to a dismal end when in 1868 a disease started showing up in the peaches which became known as “the yellows,” because of the odd deep yellow color around the pit, it also made the flesh of the peach mealy. The disease spread quickly to the whole county over the next few years because the farmers were pollinating healthy trees with pollen from unhealthy trees. So by about 1872 the peach boom was a bust. About the time of the above lease being transferred, peach trees were starting to be destroyed in vast numbers across the county to stop its spread. (On a more positive note by the 1880s the peach industry was making a comeback.)

There are 1870 and 1880 agricultural censuses for Berrien County. So I decided to see what was going on on Abram’s property at this time. I was unable to find him in the 1870 listing (which means he might not have owned property at this time), but I did find an entry for him in 1880:

ABRAM ROSA–owned 60 total acres; 30 tilled; 10 permanent meadows pastures, orchards, and vineyards; 20 woodland and forest; farm valued at 3500; implements and machinery worth 185; livestock worth 100; hired 25 dollars worth of labor for 4 weeks; value of all farm productions for 1879 300; grass lands 6 acres mowed; 9 acres not mowed; 5 acres of hay; owned 3 horses; 2 cows; 3 other; calves dropped 1; sold 1 living cow; made 60 pounds of butter; 7 swine; 60 poultry; 40 doz eggs; 4 acres indian corn 120 bushels; oats 7 acres 200 bushels; wheat 2 acres 25 bushels; potatoes 2 acres 20 bushels; apples 2 acres 20 bearing trees; PEACHES 0 acres 00 bearing trees; value of produce sold 50; amount of wood cut 10 cords; value of all forest products sold or consumed 10.

Here is the agriculture census page for Abram, he is line 4.

I can find no record of these 60 acres that he owns in 1880, (however, I will eventually). But the big takeaway from this census record is the fact that in 1875 he has 700 peach trees on his land and 4 years later…NONE.

The loss must have been devastating for the family. Maybe the family went broke and he lost the land as a result.

In 1894 Abram purchased about 19.4 acres in Hagar, which he owned for about 15 years before selling to his son Alby. It is possible that he was leasing this same property for several years before buying it, because in the 1892 directory of the area his entry states that he was farming in section 12 on 19 acres, the same description as in the actual deed of sale two years later. At the time of his selling the property to his son he was a widower, and no doubt looking to retire from farming.

Abram’s purchase of 19 acres, which he was possibly leasing before this.
Berrien County, Hagar Township Plat 1887[?]

At least I have one property nailed down, and I am closing in on the property Abram Rosa and his second family owned in the ’70s and ’80s. The plat map above also helps because many of the same names show up in the 1880 census, which gives me a sense that he was living in the same general area in the ’70s and ’80s, but we just don’t know where exactly. But, at least we know that in 1892, and later, he was living on the spot marked by the arrow.

In the images below there are several views of the property. One has the partial property description of NESW right on the edge of Harris Lake. Street View does not go down Martin Road, where the property is located, so you can only see down the road a bit in that image. I did get a good image from Apple Maps of the location as it currently looks. Apparently some folks like living on mosquito breeding grounds with fetid looking water views. Then there is the larger overview of the property’s location.

I decided that this year the old man and I are taking a vacation/genealogy trip to Michigan. I will visit the graves of my Smith and Rosa families, and check out the land where they lived and maybe visit an archive or two.

As an added bonus, I will finally get to see Michigan! We can check out a few tourist sites and then take the ferry home over Lake Michigan. (Which means that I will have taken ferries: from Washington State to BC, island hopping in Hawaii, and now Michigan to Wisconsin. Can’t wait.