— If it wasn’t for his great grandson’s love of trains, Bill Morgan might not have recalled the founding of Crapo Farm. But on July 30, Morgan’s great grandson was visiting him for his 76th birthday and wanted to see a train. As any grandfather would do, Morgan obliged but the trip turned into something more than just seeing a train.
When turning on Van Vleet Road and heading south towards Hill Road, Morgan said “I saw the silo in the distance, where the swamp was drained and I said, ‘My God, it all happened 150 years ago.”
Since then, Morgan, members of the Swartz Creek Area Historical Society and community members have diligently worked to plan the Swartz Creek Farm Sesquicentennial Celebration. The celebration runs 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 2 at Mary Crapo Auditorium. The event, which is free to the public, includes presentations from four speakers, lunch, a trip to the old silo on Hill Rd. and a trip to the Indian burial ground. At the silo, a wreath will be placed in memory of the farm and owners. To mark the occasion, descendants of the Crapo family are coming from Paris, France; Carson City, Nevada; Canada; Maine and Florida.
In addition to the speakers and the visits, the celebration includes a fun activity for children ages 19 and under that is reminiscent of an activity that took place at the farm in 1930. Morgan said there will be pictures of six Herefords and children will need to guess the weight of the cattle based on the pictures. The winner receives $5 dollars, composed of a $2 bill, an Eisenhower dollar, a Susan B. Anthony dollar and a Canadian dollar. There also will be displays of historical items and memorabilia at the celebration.
“There will be very interesting exhibits,” Morgan said. “The entire historical society is behind this celebration. We are very excited.”
The Crapo Farm has a rich and colorful history. The farm was established in 1860 by Henry H. Crapo, when he purchased 1,100 acres for $1 per acre. To make the farm viable, Crapo drained 600 of acres of swamp land, known as Deadman’s Swamp, by digging a fourmile ditch that was four-foot wide at the bottom and 10-feet wide at the top. In 1868, he imported four, pure Herefords from Canada and Crapo’s vision and legacy took root. Although he originally named the farm “Grassmore,” it has become known and called Crapo Farm. It also was the only farm in North America with a private side track and railroad station. Five years after purchasing the farm, Crapo was elected Michigan’s first governor during the Civil War.
Crapo ran the farm from 1860 until his death in 1869. After Crapo, his son William Wallace Crapo, owned the farm from 1869-1926 until his death. Stanford Tappan Crapo, one of William’s sons, owned the farm from 1926 until his death in 1939. The last owner of the farm, Stanford’s son William (Bill) Wallace Crapo II, owned the farm from 1939 until he sold it in 1955 at $1,000 an acre to Detroit investors for the development of new homes in Winchester Village and Oakwood Village. Morgan said that homes on Hill Road between Seymour and Nichols are on Crapo Farm property, once totaling 1,385 acres.
The Swartz Creek Area Historical Society hopes that money can be raised to purchase a tile to put a private road into the Chippewa Burial Ground. The burial ground is now accessible by using the driveway of the burial ground’s southern neighbor, Jack Gould, who has allowed the use of his driveway for more than 11 years.
“We want to impress on the community the generosity of this family, their character and contributions to humanity,” Morgan said. “The tentacles of Governor Crapo go far and wide through his descendants. The farm provided employment for this community for 95 years.”
For more information on the upcoming sesquicentennial celebration, visit www.swartzcreekhistory.com.