Bill and Emily Brook Family Information

A History of Bill Brook and Emily Coleman Brook


HISTORY from Emily's writings


HISTORY from Michaelson's book


The original, edited by Roger Brook based on conversations with Dad

I was born on May 14, 1926 in the big old farmhouse on Upton Road. I was the second child born to Mildred and Lyle Brook. Their first child, Mildred, died at birth. Years later, when I was 15 years old, my parents adopted Judy, who grew up as my sister. Judy married Roger Saylor. They had two children, David and Patti. Later Judy divorced Roger and married Alan Koepsell. Patti married Dale Cornish while still in high school. This was a a poor marriage, and after having two children, Cindy and Michael, Patti was divorced. She eventually changed her last name to Brook. She is now finishing a degree in Law Inforcement, and will graduate in June 1994. David, a graduate of Northern Michigan University in Houghton, is employed by Kelsey Hayes, in their wheel division. He and his wife, Mary Jane have 6 children.

My grandmother, Grace Booth, was born in Yorktown, Illinois, in June 1874. My grandfather, John Van Brook, was born in Ellison Township, Illinois on Sept 21, 1867. My father was born on a farm in Harrisville Township, VanBuren County, Iowa on July 25, 1903. He had 2 brothers, Glenn and Asael, and three sisters, Maude, Rachel and Marianne. Grandfather decided that he wanted his family to be in the area that had a good education system. He said that his children probably would never go to college, but he wanted his grandchildren to have that chance. The family moved to Michigan when Dad was about 8 years old. Grandfather and the boys loaded their cattle and machinery on a train, and left for Michigan, stopping at night to water the cattle and feed them, or let them graze. Grandmother and the girls took a later train that traveled straight through to Michigan. They bought a farm on Upton Road. This was "way out in the country" on a small dirt road. Grass grew between the wheel tracks. Later they bought acreage in Gratiot County, which grandfather didn't own for very long. Finally they purchased a home in East Lansing area, (which is now Brookfield subdivision), when the children were ready to go to high school from the country school.

In 1922-23, my dad and Uncle Asael, took their Model T Ford to California. They had an Aunt Beulah who lived there. After working there for about a year, the men decided to return to Michigan.

My grandfather, Frederick William Grundy, was born with the surname of Carpentier, and was adopted by the Grundy family as a child. His wife, Amelia Dragoo was born in Colfax Twp., Oceana Co., Michigan on June 16, 1868. She was the first white baby born in Colfax Township. My grandfather was a foreman in a lumber camp. Being in that occupation necessitated many moves for the family. My grandmother Grundy served as cook in the camp, which meant making meals for 25-30 men besides her own family.

My mother was born in Green Lake Twp, Grand Traverse Co., into a family of 11 children. Anna (Loree), Hugh, Bill (who settled in Canada), John, mom (Mildred Blanche) and her twin sister, Maude, who were born on Nov. 6, 1903, Hannibal Jeanne, (a nurse who was married only a short time to Nub Mead) and Patricia (Kirchner). Leah, Robert and Thomas died in infancy. My mother told of the time when her mom got tired of constant moving and trying to fix up old houses for the family, so when one day my grandfather decided to move, he drove up to the house and told grandma to start packing. She said NO, if you want to move just go ahead by yourself! This ended the constant moving. In later years, they settled on a farm south east of Perry. They made a move to a house 2 miles south of the town of Perry where they lived out their lifetime.

My parents were married in Perry on March 6, 1923. They moved into the big old farm house on Upton Road. It was heated by wood stoves in the various rooms. There were stoves in the kitchen, dining room, living room and the bedroom. The upstairs bedrooms were heated thru openings in the ceiling of the downstairs, and protected by decorative grates. What a place to lay and listen to the adults talk downstairs. The stove in the kitchen was used for cooking and baking also. There was no running water or bathroom or electri-city when I was small. Water was pumped with a gasoline engine from the well into a holding tank in the kitchen. Dad had to watch to be sure that this tank did not overflow. One day, he was thinking about something else and the water overflowed and ran onto the kitchen and the dining room floors. After that, Dad devised an overflow so the water would run outdoors if there was an overflow. Water for bathing or washing dishes had to be heated on the wood range in the kitchen, where baths were taken in a round tub set on the floor in the kitchen.

Our farm consisted of 430 acres, owned by my father and Uncle Asael and grandfather John V. We raised corn, hay, oats, wheat, sugar beets, peppermint and dairy cattle. We rented some land over by Haslett for more peppermint acreage. This was a money making crop in those days. We had a peppermint still on State Road. The mint hay was brought to this still on wagons, and the oil was distilled out by using steam. This was a hot job in the summer. When the distilling season was finished, the men would pull on the steam whistle and signal the whole neighborhood that the job was done for the summer. With no brothers or sisters to play with, I had to invent my own entertainment. When Dad and Uncle Asael were milking, I would sometimes play catch with the barn as the backboard. Sometimes I played with cousins Bob and Barbara (Uncle Asael's children) who lived across the road. Sometimes we played board games or card games, like rummy or flinch. I also liked to rollerskate on the main wood drive floor of the barn and up and down the alleys of the basement when the cows were out to pasture.

When I was 8 years old, we got a Shetland Pony named Amos. Although it belonged to Bob, Barbara and I, I got the job of taking care of it--and probably rode it more than they did. The pony got his name from the comedy show on radio which featured two black comedians, Amos and Andy. This was a favorite radio show for us.

While I was growing up, before 1935, we had no electricity--therefore, no radio or TV. Games and reading were our entertainment. As the electric lines came through the area, farmers entertained at Saturday night parties to celebrate the event. That's where I learned to play euchere. When I was 9, I got a bicycle. I had a chance to ride it in a race at the Bath Centennial. I got second place, after a girl named Ruth came in first. I sure didn't like that!

In 1936, our big red barn burned. Luckily, the cows were out to pasture. There were a few calves inside, which the men rescued. I remember sitting on the lawn, watching the firemen fight the fire. The barn was almost completely destroyed before the firemen arrived. They had a problem in that the battery fell out of the fire engine while it was coming down Upton road from Haslett. After the old barn burned, a new barn was built in its place. This new barn let us increase our herd to 36 milking cows. It seemed to be a tradition at the time to have a party celebrating any new barn. Folks came from miles around for a Saturday night square dance. They munched on donuts and cider. A small local fiddlers band furnished the music. Our farm hosted quite a few of these dances.

I have many other memories of my early growing up years. Riding in the horse and buggy with my mom when she went to Ladies Aid at the South Bath Methodist Church, playing with the other kids while our moms were in the meeting, Boy scouts, (I became a life scout), 4-H with the fair where we had a chance to stay overnight with our animals. I remember Christmas gatherings with relatives from the Brook families (Asael and Glenn), and summer gatherings with the Grundy clan. The Grundy's came in from Canada, Detroit, Traverse City and other towns for big picnics. Other memories were of learning to swim at Lake Lansing,(then known as Pine Lake) where my Aunt Marrianne and Uncle Fred had a cottage. We also had a small 4-wheeled buggy that Amos pulled for us. During the summer vegetable harvest season, Amos and I would load up garden produce, and sell it to cottage owners along the road on the north side of Pine Lake. I spent all my school days at the Bath Schools, graduating in 1944, with a class of 24 persons. Some of my classmates had joined the army or navy before or during our senior year. I worked on the farm full time after graduation, and was granted a 2C agricultural exemption during the war because of farming and raising food stuffs. In the winter of 1946-1947, I was a referee for NCAA High School Basketball games. During this time I also enrolled in Short Course in the winter, with a 4-H Kellogg scholarship, to learn more about agriculture. Three years later I enrolled at Michigan State University. My aim was to go into Extension work, or to work on some farm magazine.

I remember the time my Dad and I decided to clean out the ditches down by the muck field. We had dynamite sticks which we would place in the ditch, and light the fuse. One time we had just a little too much dynamite, it rattled the windows even as far away as the Bath school. We also didn't realize that we needed to protect our hands while handling dynamite--it numbed our fingers, so we decided that we had to wear gloves. When I was a junior, I was engaged to your mom, Emily, and we were married during my senior year. That summer we got a job keeping house and cooking at Governor G. Mennen Williams Lansing home. Mom did the cooking for those who stayed at the house, and for the Governor when he was in Lansing. Mom was a Home Economics teacher in Olivet and then in Elsie.

Added by Roger Brook, July 2011

Mom graduated from MSU in 1948, and started teaching in the fall of that year in Olivet as the Home Economics instructor. Uncle Walter Schroeder was teaching VoAg in Oliver at that time. Mom and Dad lived in Olivet in a 2-car garage that had been converted into two apartments, with a shared bathroom. Dad commuted to MSU to work on finishing his BS degree. Because of apparent differences with the principal, she left Olivet. Mom’s next job was as the Home Eocnomics teacher in Elsie, starting in the fall of 1949. Dad says they moved to a house in Elsie that fall. However, because she was pregnant (teachers at that time were not suppose to be pregnant) she was fired at the semester break (December 1949). Dad renembers Christmas dinner with Yerkies and Schroders at the house in Elsie. He says it snowed hard that day, and their guests had to make their way home through the storm.

After the New Year, they moved into the Upton Rd. house, occupying the room that I remember as Doug’s bedroom (and maybe the back room that I remember as a junk room). The only bathroom (apparently indoors by then) was on the first floor.

End of addition by Roger Brook

After graduation from MSU in 1950, we moved to Kalamazoo where I was the County Extension 4-H Club Agent. We lived a short time in an upstairs apartment before buying a house on a 1/2 acre lot in Portage, just south of Kalamazoo. This was the first home for Douglas. In January, 1952, we sold this home and moved back to the farm to begin full time farming, living in the small house on the farm. We also began raising our family, little thinking we would have six children. We had hopes of raising two, I didn't want to have an only child.

After Brian was born, we quickly outgrew the 2 bedroom house, so my Mom and Dad decided it was time to change houses with them. (Besides the small house had automatic heat (oil) and the big house was heated with wood and coal--hand fired. One day, Dad and I drove a wagon up to the front door and started loading our furniture into it, and transferring it to the large house. Then my mom decided what furniture she wanted to move, and suddenly we were in a different home. For quite a few days, grandma and mom were exchanging pictures, etc. Of course, mom had trouble finding some of her things, because Dad and I just stuffed loose items into drawers anywhere we could find a space. All that space in a house bothered the small children. They were afraid there were robbers hiding in the living room and upstairs, but gradually they got used to having all that room.

While living in the Bath area, I was a Sunday School teacher, and active in various church offices as well as directing the church choir. I was a member of the Township appeal board, and became active in various farm organizations: Farm Bureau, Dairy Herd Improvement Association, MacDonald Dairy Board in Flint, National Milk Producers Association, and was a representative on the American Institute of Cooperation. I was a member of DRINC, (Dairy Research Incorporated), which was a dairy product research group. For two years I was president of the Michigan Agriculture Conference, which was made up of delegates from 37 Michigan farm organizations. This type of organization gave me a chance to meet many other farm leaders and also the governor of the state. During the time I served on these boards, mom and I went to conferences in many other states, California, Texas, Colorado, Illinois, Lousiania, New York, Pennsylvania, Florida, Washington, Virginia and other states. These conferences lasted about three days, giving us a chance to visit interesting sites in the area.

Also during this time, I was elected to the local Bath school board, where I served for 15 years. I was in on the planning of a new high school, now the middle school (or Junior High school).

When I started farming with my father in 1952, our cows were milked in stanchions, and the milk was carried to a milk house, where 10 gallon cans were filled and set into cold well water to cool. This involved a lot of stooping, squatting, lifting and leg work. In 1955, we built a new freestall barn and a connecting milk house, with a milk room with a steel pipeline which carried the milk into a large holding tank for keeping the milk cold. I helped with the building, laying blocks, etc. We had a new area for the cows who were milking. They stood on a raised platform, and we who milked them were below their level. We had an openhouse when we finished this facility. Many persons came, because this type of milk parlor was quite new. After milking, you older children had to come to the milk parlor and help scrape the holding pen. At this time, we also built two large upright silos and a feeding floor with cement bunker feeders. Feed was augured from the silo into the bunkers. All of this area was scraped with a scraper fastened to a tractor. In the spring we had the smelly job of cleaning out the free stall barn. Bedding built up during the winter, and had to be hauled to the fields. One of our neighbors said, jokingly, "If the smell would help my yard, my grass would certainly be the nicest in the neighborhood. Yes, the smell was really terrible. You boys had a contest to see who could climb to the top of the 80 foot silo first! My only rule was that when you felt scared or dizzy, you must come down and try again later. Finally you made it to the top. Informing mom that the view up there was spectacular, she said that she would be happy if we took the camera up and brought down some pictures--she wasn't about to climb up there!

The big old barn was remodeled to a calf raising area. There was still a large main floor, where we stored chopped hay for winter. We installed a 7 1/2 horsepower fan, with an air duct that forced air through the hay and finished drying it, so it wouldn't overheat and cause a fire. This fan could be heard by all the neighbors. It was loud, but after a few days it just seemed like part of the area. After about a month, the hay was dry enough to turn off the fan. Quiet prevailed. After living in this big house for a while, we decided that there should be some improvements. First was a oil forced air furnace, which was great for keeping us warm. There was even a register in the bathroom downstairs, so we didn't have ice buildups in the bathtub. BRRR! We insulated the whole house, built a screen porch on the west side, and painted the whole outside, as well as updating the wiring--a 200 amp service assured that we could turn on a light as well as make toast in the morning without blowing the main fuses. We also remodeled the upstairs, adding a second bath, and making the rooms so no-one had to walk through another bedroom to reach their own. Closets, which were almost non existent, were added to some of the rooms. We felt that this was a great place to raise a family, especially after adding the 1 1/4 acre pond, stocked with fish. This area served as a party-picnic place, where we entertained church groups, and family groups for swimming, softball, volley ball and games. We spent many wonderful times there with our family for picnics.

By the 1970's, there were rumors that I-69 would be going through our farm, taking out some of the crop land. By then Doug and Marsha were a part of the family partnership along with Grandpa, Grandma, mom and myself. We decided that we would have to relocate in order to have enough income to keep three families going. So, the search began for a new farm. We traveled over many parts of Michigan looking for the "right" place. Finally we settled on the Ovid area. Things looked great--we thought. So we built a large barn, with the latest in milking equipment. No one could forsee that the interest rate on loans would skyrocket from 5.25% to about 17% or more. The interest almost killed our profits. Also the first summer we lived in Ovid, there was a severe shortage of rain. The wheat crop which came with the farm, shriveled and was worthless as a cash crop. Also there was a frost the end of June the next year, which killed our corn crop. After moving into the new milking facilities, we purchased some additional cattle, which carried the bacteria for IBR--an influenza that killed about 25% of the cattle, and cut our milk production almost to zero. The veterinarian visited almost daily. Yes, this move wasn't the best!! But we did survive. However, farming was never the same after those setbacks.

Added by Roger Brook July, 2011

Dad had two horses that I remember. Susie was a mare, and the mother of Barney. Dad remembers riding Susie to MSU to have her bred to an Arabian horse. Hence, Barney was half Arabian and taller than his mother. Prior to Susie, there was apparently a poney named Smokey, who had been a working horse on a ranch out west. Mary Jane Weaver had an arrangement with Mom and Dad whereby she could come and ride the horse(s) anytime, in exchange for being their primary baby sitter.

End of second addition by Roger Brook


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