Martin and Emma Schmitt were tenant farmers, and very good ones.

Martin was born in Hunolstein, Rheinland, Germany (now West Germany, WG), September 7, 1887. Martin's parents were John Schmitt and Barbara Flach. Barbara died in Germany when Martin was 8 months 11 days old. Martin came to the United States with his father and stepmother, (who was also his aunt), Magdalena Flach Banner Schmitt. They came on the sailing vessel RHYNLAND embarking from Antwerp, Belgium and arrived in New York May 18, 1889. Anton Flach, Magdalena's father came with them on the ocean journey. The family arrived in Mendon about a month later, having gone to Chicago where John Schmitt was said to have had a brother. John was a carpenter and farmer in Germany, but was a farmer in his new country, living on several different farms near Mendon before buying a farm south of Mendon which extended to the St Joseph River where he and Magdalena lived the rest of their days. John died Aug 19, 1916 at age 64 Magdalena died Feb 10, 1930 at age 74. Both are buried in St Edwards Cemetery, Mendon.

Martin attended school through the fourth grade and later worked for his Uncle William and Aunt Maryann Flach who farmed near Scotts. One of his jobs was "Breaking New Ground.". Martin used to have several rattles from rattlesnakes that he had killed. (Have any of these rattles survived?) He depended on the horses to warn him. The horses would simply refuse to move forward if a snake was ahead. Then Martin would proceed very cautiously until he could locate and kill the reptile. Martin was never bitten by a rattler. Martin earned fifteen dollars a month and his board and room at this time.

Emma was born May 22, 1889 on her parents farm 1 mile or so north of Mendon at the top of the hill. Her parents were Mathias Klein and Catherine Stermer. Her father died March 3, 1900 at age 55 years. He used to sleep in their Morris Chair (similar to a Barcalounger) because he had difficulty breathing, and so that he could elevate his swollen feet and legs. (These are symptoms of congestive heart failure.) His death certificate lists heart failure as the cause of death. Her mother died Feb 27, 1902 at home at age 51 years. It was said that she had fallen on icy steps or from the porch and was said to have had internal injuries. Her death certificate lists fractured hip as the cause of death. Emma was 13 at this time. Her sister Mary was 22 and was the legal guardian for all the children. Martin was 19 and Rose was 16.

Mary Klein and Mathias Banner were married at St Edwards, Mendon August 8, 1906. Emma continued to make her home with them.

Emma graduated from Mendon High School in 1908 and attended Western State Normal School in Kalamazoo where she received a Teaching Certificate. She taught in the Cupp School District south of Mendon on the Prairie for fifteen dollars a month and room and board with the Norman Cupp family. The school year was 6 or 7 months long.

Martin and Emma were married in St Edwards Roman Catholic Church in Mendon February 13,1912 by Father Henry Kaufmann who had helped plan and build the beautiful field stone church . Both had an active part in the construction of the church. It was said to have been 13 degrees below zero at wedding time. Emma lost her citizenship at this time for marrying an alien. Emma's citizenship was restored September 18, 1941 in Kalamazoo County and Martin became a naturalized citizen on June 8, 1943 in Kalamazoo County.

Their first home was the 40 acre Luther Langdon farm 3 miles north west of Mendon. Their possessions at the time included a team of horses, called Chub and Oliver, a wagon and a buggy. Oliver, the peppier and probably younger of the team usually doubled as the buggy horse also called a driving horse. Their first child, Francis Mathias, was born on this farm in 1912. [Editors note: exact dates of birth are available upon request from email addresses at the end of this document.] Aunt Mary Banner, Emma's older sister, was there at the time and it was said that Dr. Barnager, the local M.D. was asleep on the couch at the time. They would have called him if they had needed him.

Gilbert John was born on the 35 acre David Riley farm 2 '/2 miles north of Mendon in1914. This was about one mile north of the Klein Homestead. The sisters Emma and Mary and brothers Martin and Mathias exchanged services and worked closely between the two families.

Stanley Joseph was born near Elmira, Michigan on an 80 acre farm Martin and Emma had bought when they went "North" with Francis and Agnes Flach. Francis was interested in timber and they purchased farms near by but not adjacent to each other. Stanley was born there in 1916, the same day, almost to the hour that his grandfather, John Schmitt, died at his Mendon farm home.

Mary Kathryn was born on one of the Herbert E. Custard Farms 1/2 mile west of Mendon, in 1918. The buildings no longer stand.

Lucille Eleanor was born in 1920 on the second Herbert E. Custard Farm 40 rods east of the one where Mary was born. The farm extended east to the Mendon Village limits and was 125 acres. The St Joseph River was the southern boundary. We had swimming holes in the river. One of the horses broke through the Ice in the river one winter. The buildings are in very good repair today. Lucille Dillon and Francis visited this farm a few years ago. One of Herbert Custard's granddaughters, Dagmar Horning, now lives there. She and Lucille were both impressed by the visit. Martin bought his first Model T Ford on this farm. It came without a starter, but he soon added one so that Emma could also drive it. In one of Emma's photo albums is a picture taken in a school yard. This was on a trip to Williamston, Michigan to visit Emma's Aunt Mary Van Buren. Aunt Mary Banner and one or two of her boys are also in the picture.

Donald Eugene was born on the 140 acre John Haas farm 3 1/2 miles northeast of Mendon in1922. This was a good farm and they lived there 9 years. Martin bought a Fordson tractor. Francis and Gilbert used to drive this tractor when they were too small to crank it when cold. Martin would crank it the first time in the morning and afternoon and the boys did their best to keep it from stalling. In 1924 Martin bought his 2nd Model T. One good year peppermint oil brought 25 dollars a pound, the usual price was 3 to 5 dollars a pound, and as a reward to his children who worked hard that year, Martin and Emma bought a Robin Egg Blue 1926 Pontiac 4 Door Sedan. This was a classy car and it would go more than 70 miles per hour. This was also a fun place to live. Often on a Sunday one or more families of cousins would come for dinner and church: the Martin Klein's from Kalamazoo, Leon and Gladys Happel, Mathias and Mary Klein, Mathias and Mary Banner and Peter and Clara Schmitt. There is one picture that includes all the above families on the same day. What fun that was! These families also reciprocated and more often it was only two families at one time. The Happel's were especially good at making home made ice cream.

One hot summer afternoon when Donald was about 2 1/2 years old he began gagging and coughing. No one knew what he had in his throat. This was before the days of the modern emergency rooms. Martin and Emma in desperation took him to Kalamazoo where they were able to find a nose and throat specialist who removed a 2 1/2 inch bearded barley head. (It could have been Dr. Fast.) When Don was about 5, the children were playing with an old buggy used to coast down the small grade toward the water tank and cow barn. Don was riding on the back and fell off and fractured his left femur. He spent a long time in bed that summer with leg traction supplied by a pulley system with a #10 can in which the load was adjusted by placing stones to get the desired amount of traction. He became a great contortionist before the healing was completed.

The school for the Haas Farm was south at the end of the road, less than a mile. The School Board met annually and would vote to close the school another year and send the only kids in the district, the Martin and Emma Schmitt children, to the Mendon Schools. Martin and Emma also seemed to be the only people interested in the contract to haul the kids. The Model T and later the Pontiac was the usual mode of transportation. If the snow was too deep for the car, sometimes used the bobsled or even a cutter if some of the kids were ill and the number of riders was down.

In the muddy roads of Spring, sometimes it was the surrey.

Norberta Jean was born in 1931 on the 200 acre Albert J. Sprinkle Farm 3 miles southeast of Kalamazoo on what is now Sprinkle Road. The buildings were south of the present Knights Inn and some of the maple trees from the yard still stand. The move was completed in March 1930 and Stanley, Gilbert and Francis were able to complete their school year in Mendon. This was a dairy farm which the folks rented for cash rent. This was the nicest house in which they had ever lived. It was a full two stories with full attic and basement. It had a Delco Electric plant, indoor plumbing, a big room with pool table, dumbwaiter, central heat and other fine features. this was an ideal place for a large family to live and it was a real fun place, especially when our cousins or friends would visit us.

The big kids went to St Augustine's High School in Kalamazoo, the smaller kids went to the one room country school 1/2 mile south. The Frank Reddy family lived a mile away and they matched our family just about child for child. Vincent Reddy was the best friend Francis ever had. He still fives a mile away but in the opposite direction since he married Margaret Beckwith and their home has been a Centennial Farm for many years. A John Deere Put Put tractor was added to the equipment of this farm but later was returned to the seller. Things were going well until the Depression Years came along and the bottom dropped out of the milk market. The $200 per month rent payment could no longer be met and the opportunity came to move a mile away to Cork Street.

Cork Street FarmThe Cork Street Farm

The Gilbert Farm on Cork Street was the most fertile land Martin and Emma worked. Vern Gilbert, the owner, was also a horse trader, a very ambitious man used to turning a profit on every move he made. He liked Martin and Emma with all their strong, wiry, easy to manipulate sons and beautiful daughters. This farm was 200 very fertile acres. Vern rented every vacant piece of land as far as Martin would agree to travel to make the spread in acres very much greater than the 200. They combined Martin's beautiful Guernsey herd with Vern's ugly, giant, heavy producing Holsteins. The combined herd reached as many as 60 milkers. The Oliver tractors came in these years. Vern furnished many horses and mules. There was a runaway team on occasion. The association was good for Mr. Gilbert and for Emma and Martin and their family and it continued for over 20 years. All their children were married while they lived there and many of their grandchildren enjoyed visiting The Farm.. At about age 45 Martin developed a heart condition which was diagnosed by their nephew of whom they were very proud, Lawrence R. Banner, M.D. Larry treated Martin so successfully that Martin outlived Larry by many years. Meanwhile Mr. Gilbert had died and the farm was inherited by Mel Stevens, and when he died, by one of Mel's relatives who lived in Detroit who never came to see the folks about continuing the operation of the farm. Martin was 66 at this time so they decided they should retire. In 1953 they had a sale to dispose of the possessions they would no longer need and moved near Otsego in 1954 on a neat 3 acre parcel with lots of planted evergreen trees and a very generous garden space on M 89, half way between Otsego and Plainwell.

Their retirement home was the only property they really owned. They enjoyed 17 peaceful years and their children and grandchildren visited them often. Martin died August 26, 1971 in his own bed at age 84. Emma continued to live at 1316 West M-89 and later lived with Mary for a short time. She died at Ridgeview Manor Nursing Home in Kalamazoo February 9, 1976 at age 87. Martin and Emma had 59 1/2 years of marriage. They had 62 grandchildren and at the time of Emma's death 61 were living. They are buried in St Margaret's Cemetery, Otsego, on M-89 a half mile from their home.

All names mentioned are those of real people.

A sincere effort has been made for accuracy. If you discover any errors, wish any deletions, or have further information to contribute, please communicate them to the writer.

First draft, June 15, 1987 by Francis M. Schmitt, DDS



2nd draft, July 9, 1987 includes suggestions offered by: Norberta Schmitt Renauld and Father LaVern Flach

3rd Draft, August 17,1987

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