It is early morning in mid-August at a new found painting location where my wife is practicing her craft. She is a “plein air” painter and hard at it recording the scene with oil paints and palette knife. I sit on my folding chair with my folding table next to me, covered with my daypack, Bible, magazines, paper, colored pencils, camera, binoculars, my Psalm of the week work-sheets and even my laptop.
We’ve driven by this place many times not knowing what a treasure this locale was. Eastmanville Farm is this treasure that I speak of. It was for many years the Ottawa County Poor Farm (created in 1866 and it eventually morphed into Community Haven in 1978) before being closed in 2000. Now a county park, the living quarters are gone but the barn, silo and a couple of out-buildings still remain.
Poor farms were at one time the norm in the United States, before social and sit on your ass welfare programs were instituted in the early 1930’s. This farm became home to the poor, the destitute, the old, the in-firm, the mentally disabled and those unable to live independently. Here they had a roof over their heads, were fed, and given chores around the farm as their abilities allowed.
Where I sit today, in the rolly landscape behind the barn, is peaceful and beautiful, full of birds and their singing with multitudes of crickets adding to the symphony that only God can write and direct. I look across a little dip in the land to the farm road which leads to the cornfields. Trees line this road and two trees in particular fascinate me. Two different apple trees, side by side, one loaded with yellow apples and the other with red.
I am awestruck with the idea that the farm residents ate apples from those very same trees, probably made apple pies in the kitchen, and then ate them with the other residents at mealtime. Here I am, in 2014, and able to partake in eating apples from those long-lived trees. I am able to share in the history of this place with a snack from a tree! My taste buds can experience the same joy that unknown numbers of residents, over the course of decade after decade, were able to enjoy. Here at the Poor Farm, among a beautiful, rolling landscape, I touch history…or better yet…become a continuing part of history with my apple, walking where the residents walked, among the hills where the cows and sheep roamed.




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