Last week, I had the pleasure of stopping into the Chadwick-Munger House to see what our volunteers were working on. Loretta Harjes was writing a thank-you note to an heir of the Woodworth Family.
I asked Diane Herin where the Family History was in our collection, and she took me straight to one of the oldest and most interesting families of Oceana County.
We keep those histories on our shelves, along with other related books for someone interested in researching their roots. There is an extensive cataloged library that is situated right across from our obituary files.
Many times people come to the Society for information related to their family. Our genealogical arm is very extensive. We have been clipping obituaries for decades, and filing them in alphabetical order for easy retrieval. It has grown from that first day, to a collection in the thousands. One can read full obits, and also find the names of the heirs and those that participated in their funerals. There are large tables ready to open these files and Family Histories to research these names and search for pictures that may have been donated to the Society.
Thirty years ago, I was asked by Julia Hager to administer her estate, in the creation of a scholarship fund for our Community Foundation. She was a proud resident of Leavitt Township, living just outside Walkerville on Bougue Road. Her family had arrived by oxen to Colfax Township, and have been a part of that corner of our county for generations. The Hager homestead is now occupied by the Urick family. This sets the stage for the tale I am about to tell — that of the Woodworth family.
In the years of presenting awards at the Walkerville graduation, I was very fortunate to meet and become friends with Larry Woodworth. Julia had told me of the family and how her brother Art was a good friend of Larry’s.
They would have what was called “kill day” at the farm, when the neighbors would gather at each others to slaughter and process the animals. Larry confirmed those stories, and told me a few more to boot! It was big day with families gathering for picnics and helping each other with the task. The Woodworth’s family farm was more than a centennial farm. It was a sesquicentennial farm! Calvin Woodworth, Larry’s great-great grandfather homesteaded 160 acres in 1862.
They homesteaded in a log cabin and were known for their “Sugar Bush.”
“Calvin ran a sugar bush until his death. As years passed, the operation grew until, at the largest point it reached 3,100 buckets. As a general rule, 10 gallons of sap will yield about a quart of syrup., which will in turn yield about two pounds of granulated sugar. This type of sugar is totally shelf-stable and will not separate or mold. This feature created a high demand for pioneer settlers. The family kept their needs stored in barrels in the granary with the remainder being taken to Pentwater and sent by boat to Wisconsin. Among the highlights of spring activities in the early days of Colfax were “Sugaring Off Parties” at the Woodworth’s Sugar Bush. When the sugar was ready, a large horn was blown to invite all neighbors to come and eat their fill of Maple taffy. In the winter months, Calvin gave singing lessons to all the young people who were interested.”
This is just one of the fascinating families that are chronicled in the history books at our Oceana County Historical and Genealogical Society.
We are in need of new members, and if you are interested you may call our headquarters on Wednesdays from 10 a.m. until 5 pm. at 231-873-2600. We have a very dedicated core of wonderful people there that are doing the important work of saving Oceana County History.