2012-04-19 / Life in Leelanau

Growing up on the Thoreson Farm

LEONARD THORESON, left, “horses around” with neighbor Charles Eckerdt, c. 1936. LEONARD THORESON, left, “horses around” with neighbor Charles Eckerdt, c. 1936. Editor’s note: We continue a series of stories adapted from “The Thoreson Farm and Its Neighbors,” part of the “Images & Recollections from Port Oneida” series, based on oral histories by Tom Van Zoeren. Thanks to Leonard Thoreson of Glen Arbor for the information and family photographs.

Last month we covered what is remembered of Norwegian immigrants John & Ingeborg Thoreson, who began the Thoreson Farm in 1901. Their son Ole stayed on and spent his life continuing to build up that farm. (More about him and his wife Louise can be found in the Enterprise archives at http://www.leelanaunews.com/news/OldArchive/ News/A_ glimpse_ back_ of_ old_ Port_ Oneida.html )

Ole’s son Leonard remembers, “My dad’s family, they weren’t into hunting or fishing — none of that. We worked.”

As they grew, the kids took on different jobs. When one got big enough, he fed the chickens and gathered the eggs. Then as he grew older, he’d carry wood, cut and split it, and so on. “We didn’t have to run around for exercise. We got all we needed right there.”

Leonard’s sister Bernice “was born on the farm, but she was scared to death of animals! She wouldn’t go down to the barnyard if there was a cow within a half a mile. She was always scared those chickens were going to eat her up or something . . .

“We’d get the chickens through parcel post. And old Glen Nash was the mail carrier from Maple City; and he’d call up when they’d come in over there from Traverse or wherever we got ‘em from. He’d call up the folks and say, “Mrs. Thoreson, your chickens are in, and I’ll feed them here for tonight, and I’ll feed them tomorrow morning, and I’ll bring them tomorrow morning when I come on the mail route.” He’d drive the chickens up. Old Glen Nash, he done that for everybody. Yeah, he was a good old soul.”

Farmers at this time commonly took on boarders to help get their work done. Charles Eckerdt came from a nearby farm belonging to his grandparents, George & Mary Eckerdt, on Baker Road. His family had a small “shack” there. (All that remains of that farm now are the apple trees and bushes that grew around the house). Charles’ father “farmed his kids out. Everybody felt kind of sorry for the kids. They were good hard-working kids, all of ‘em . . . They were dirt-poor. Old Charlie, he kind of liked his drinks a little bit, so they were good people, but they had their problems. They had one daughter that died. Then later they had another daughter and she married a fellow in Suttons Bay. I think she’s dead now, too. I think the whole family is dead. But the one girl that died when she was a small child, she had crippled hands so bad ...”

Charles’ brother Chris stayed with the Thoresons one year when he was 14, filling silo, digging potatoes, etc.. “After the fall work was done, Dad talked to old Charlie —‘We don’t need Chris anymore. Maybe we could send him home.’ Well Charlie says, ‘Ole,’ he says, ‘can you use him this winter? For his board?’ He says, ‘I haven’t got bread on the table to feed him.’ So he stayed with us all winter. He was a good worker.”

Leonard’s assessment of growing up in Port Oneida: “Oh, I think it was the best place in the world. There were a lot of good times amongst the neighbors & everybody — lots of hard work. The farmers all pulled together and thrashed & filled silo and worked together; anybody that needed help buzzing (cutting) wood, they all helped. The more you helped somebody else, the more people you had to help you on yours.”

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