Fred and Chris Balli, Mom's brothers, settled at Hubbard Lake, Michigan in 1900. They persuaded Mom to buy 66 acres next to Uncle Fred's farm with money she had earned teaching grade school from 1905 to 1910. Dad, Mom and I decided to visit Hubbard Lake in the summer of '21. Mom and Dad were anxious to see if the purchase was a "pig in the poke" or the "promised land"? My mind was full of the excitement of the train and boat trip.
The trip was great -- a train to Cleveland and a D & C paddlewheel boat to Detroit and Alpena. The boat from Detroit to Alpena broke down so everyone struggled to buy tickets for the train. Now a boat full of passengers will overload a train even when they add two or three cars. There was "standing room" only for the men.
Farmers brought filled 10 - gallon milkcans to the railroad stations in the morning and the milk was transported by train to Detroit. Then in the evening the train carried the "empties" to be refilled. The men decided that Henry Ford must be in the milk business too as the train stopped frequently that night to discharge the clanking empty milkcans.
Near noon we arrived at Alpena, but Uncle Chris wasn't at the depot. So Dad hired a carriage to ride into downtown Alpena to a restaurant. On the street, Dad saw Uncle Chris, who was perplexed by the boat - train mixup. Uncle Chris loaded us into his Model "T" touring car and we were off to Hubbard Lake.
Chris was quite a driver. He would forget to release the gas lever on the steering column. When he turned a sharp corner, everyone held on for dear life while he fooled around with the clutch and brake pedals. Around Hubbard Lake many roads were logging trails and on one long, steep hill, his car would "run out of gas" since Model "T" engines did not have gas pumps. We would push the car up the hill or he would let it coast to the bottom of the hill. Once again on level ground, he'd crank the engine, turn the car 180 degrees with the gas tank now being above the engine, and drive it up the hill in reverse.
When Chris bought his car, it was delivered to his field where he could practice driving. However, there were a few stumps left in the field and after hitting one, he decided to remove them. In later years, he drove Uncle Dan, Uncle Dan's wife, and their daughters to Spruce and back. Many of the roads were like roller coasters and the women would come home with wet pants. Uncle Dan, Mom's great - uncle, lived in Cleveland. He worked for the railroad as a gandy - dancer and was able to get passes for his family to travel from Cleveland to Alpena by train.
Uncle Chris also owned a rowboat with an inboard engine. Sometimes the engine would run, oftentimes someone had to row home.
Uncle Fred was building a brick home. He and his wife had two boys, George, a year older than me, and Walter, a year younger. George, Walter, and I went swimming in the lake and, when urged, sawed wood for the cookstove. We would watch Uncle Fred plow a field with his team, inspect his equipment around the barn, or watch barn swallows in the haymow.
Stumps from Uncle Fred's fields were cleared with his stump machine, which was a capstan - like winch with a long heavy pole. The winch was on a weighty skid and the unit could be chained to posts. He would release the winch, letting the cable free to extend to a root or stump, attach the cable to the stump, and engage the winch. He would hitch the team to the pole and the team would circle the winch, wrapping up the cable, thus tearing out the stump. Later Dad used the stump puller to drop 42" diameter tiles for our wells.
Most of the northern part of the lower Peninsula of Michigan was logged in the late 1800's and stumps indicated that some of the trees had been three feet in diameter. The stumps were charcoal black from the forest fires that ravaged the area as the limbs and dry needles fed the fires after logging. People from Alpena or Posen fled into lakes as the fires wiped out everything combustible, even the railroad ties. Muck like peat smoldered in swamps when Chris and Fred came to Hubbard Lake in 1900.
Mom's land had a sheep shed and twenty acres already cleared of trees and stumps. It faced Hubbard Lake, as did Uncle Fred's farm, on relatively flat ground. Much of the ground was sandy with areas of clay interspersed. Second growth Norway and white pines grew on the slopes along the lake. On the north side was a swamp with cedar, balsam, spruce, and elm trees. The other areas were forested with poplar, birch, and an occasional ash, oak or maple.
Dad and Mom were pleased with their "estate" and our vacation was over. The trip back to Oil City was wonderful. This time the boat was operating properly between Alpena and Cleveland. On the boat I roamed the decks and marveled at the large staircase and the huge engine that ran the paddlewheels.
3. Oil City
4. Boat Trip
Next - - - 5. Chris's Home
6. Hubbard Lake
7. Hunting and Fishing
8. Our Farm
10. The Depression and the 30's
11. Michigan State University
13. Our Home
16. The Tropics
17. With The Kids
18. It Is Written