Remember When …

Robert Barrett and members of his family in Swartz Creek in 1935. Photo provided

Robert Barrett and members of his family in Swartz Creek in 1935. Photo provided

I n Genesee County we started out as pioneering farmers. We love to grow our own food like farm to table restaurants and the farmers markets today. The last thing Jesus did by himself, was to pray in the garden of Gethsemane for us.

This one of the most celebrated week in the world; the week leading up to Easter celebrations. I love to be in a garden, especially with my dad, as it is just a peaceful place. Even throughout my 63 years of life, I love growing things and being close to our family roots.

Coming from a family of Michigan farmers, with settlements in Genesee County some since 1830s, being part of Swartz Creek Township, Grand Blanc Township, Fenton Township and many areas in Clayton Township.

Some of my husband’s family were farmers too, even worked in harvesting the sugar beets and owned a bakery. My family still lives here and my cousins, especially Margie, 83, and Uncle Dale, 93, tell me stories from the life on the farm.

My favorite story is when my great grandfather, Robert Barnett, would call my dad in the 1960s and see if he’d managed to beat dad by getting his garden in first. The settlement farm he lived on was my third great-grandfather, John W. Burleson, in the 1830s and there were many maple trees on the land for syrup.



Robert would smoke a pipe to warm up his arthritic hands, to plant his crops each year as he grew older, he lived to be 98, the oldest gentlemen in Swartz Creek (he passed in 1965).

When we are planting our gardens this year, on our knees, say a prayer of hope for our country, while placing each seed. Planting our own food, is great for our family and will help us to teach our kids how to be sustainable and grow better food.

We think of an Easter lilies and their history. So many of our plants came from other countries. Families brought seeds with them when they immigrated here.

Does your family have a favorite holiday recipe, such as hot-cross buns? America needs a new outlook to be kind and love one another, this year especially.

Springtime each year is a new beginning, just like as the flowers, birds and animals reproduce this time of year, for new life.

As I researched our county history, with Mr. Henry Crapo’s lumbering and bringing in cattle, and the railroad to town. It’s so fun to see how we have developed from a thriving lumber, grain and farming community with people moving from all over the world.

Genesee County grew into a transportation hub to produce the most horse drawn buggies by Durant-Dort Carriage Company in 1886 making Flint, “The Vehicle City.” Flint was also known for the largest automotive manufacturing company in the world, “General Motors” started by Billy Durant in 1908.

Enjoy your spring break with your family writing down fun stories.

Remember When is a weekly column in the Burton View featuring historical stories about the community from the Burton Area Historical Society. If you have some Burton history to share, email