On the Farm

After over 100 years, part of the farm is still there!

1985 11 29 NOLAN farm in Smiths Creek_0001
Farmhouse of Patrick Nolan and Alice Needham, in Smiths Creek, St. Clair, Michigan. It is on the north side of Smiths Creek Road, just east of Palms Road. Photo taken 29 November 1985 by Christine Bauman.

Mike’s grandmother, Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan Kukler, grew up in this farmhouse in Smiths Creek, Michigan. And no, there’s no apostrophe! Mike’s mother and her siblings would spend part of their summers with their Aunt Mary when they were young, so this was a familiar place for them.

It’s not the best photo, but by 1985, my mother-in-law had no idea who lived there, so pulling into the driveway for a better one was not possible. The 2-lane road also had no place to pull over and stop. Drive by! But the Google Street View of the Patrick Nolan House shows it was still there in August 2013 at 7890 Smiths Creek Road, looking better than than it did thirty years earlier. The V-shaped tree remains, along with the utility pole. An addition has been built on the side.

It’s now surrounded by the Leaning Tree Golf Club, so I’m not sure if it’s owned by the golf club, or if it’s still in the extended family, as an internet search seems to indicate. This property was not, however, part of the original land acquired by Patrick’s father, John Nolan. That parcel is on Yager Road, between Wales Center Road and Fitz Road:

1855 NOLAN John b 1807 land patent.JPG
“South West quarter of the South East quarter of Section Thirty three in Township Six North of Range Fifteen East in the District of Lands subject to sale at Detroit Michigan containing Forty acres.” https://glorecords.blm.gov/details/patent/default.aspx?accession=0887-256&docClass=MW&sid=i2atso2w.uuw#patentDetailsTabIndex=1 

The 1897 plat map¹ for Wales Township shows the relative locations of various Nolan properties. Patrick’s are outlined in red, (an arrow for the house location) others are outlined in blue. The John Nolan listed on this map is Patrick’s younger brother. Their father passed away in 1886, but his youngest son took over that farm.

Nolan properties, southern Wales Township, St. Clair, Michigan. John Nolan’s original property is in blue along lower boundary. Son Michael is east of him, Patrick has 2 properties north and east. Red arrow identifies location of Patrick’s house (above).

John Nolan was born in Ireland (possibly Clonegal, County Carlow, like his children) around 1807². He married Elizabeth Mary Halpin[e]/Alpin[e] (her spelling is very flexible!) and had their first three children: Mary, Ann, and Patrick; before moving everyone to Michigan in 1855. Michael & John were born in Wales Township in 1856 and 1860.

In 1870, Patrick² was 19 and still in his father’s house. By 1880, he was married³ and living on his own—sort of. His father, John, was still on the original property. Newlyweds Patrick and Alice are living in a house with a slightly older couple. Both men are “farmer,” rather than one being “farm laborer.” The other wife is “House Keeper” instead of the more typical “Keeping House.” The agricultural census4 that year tells us about Patrick’s farm (I don’t see the other man on that schedule):

  • Patrick owned (not rented) it
  • 25 acres were tilled
  • 0 acres were in permanent meadows, pastures, orchards & vineyards
  • 28 acres woodland and forest
  • 0 acres otherwise unimproved
  • The farm land and building were worth $1000
  • His farming implements and machinery were worth $25
  • The livestock was worth $250
  • He spent $0 building and repairing fences in 1879
  • He had no hired labor the previous year
  • The estimated value for his total farm production was $240
  • There were 3 acres mown, and 0 acres not mown grasslands and 3 tons of hay, 0 bushels clover seed, 0 bushels grass seed
  • On 1 June 1880, he had 2 horses, and 0 mules, 0 working oxen, 2 milch cows, and 1 other cattle. Two calves were born.
  • Regarding cattle, in 1879, he purchased 0, sold 0 living, slaughtered 0, and 0 died, strayed, or were stolen and not recovered.
  • Zero gallons of milk or butter were sold or sent to butter or cheese factories in 1879, and 200 lbs butter, 0 lbs cheese, were made on the farm in 1879, with 0 on hand 1 June 1880.
  • In 1879, he had 0 lambs, purchased 0, sold 0 live, slaughtered 0, with 0 killed by dogs, 0 dying of disease, and 0 dying for stress of weather.
  • In spring 1880, he had 0 shorn fleeces weighing 0 lbs.
  • There were 1 swine on hand 1 June 1880, as well as 9 barnyard poultry and 0 others.
  • 40 dozen eggs were produced in 1879.
  • His 1879 crop production was:
Crop Area in Acres Bushels
Indian Corn
Oats 6 214
Wheat 4 60
Canadian Peas
Flax seed Tons of straw Lbs. of fiber
Sorghum Lbs. of sugar Gal. of Molasses
Maple Sugar Lbs. of sugar Gal. of Molasses
Broom corn
Hops Lbs.
Potatoes (Irish)
Potatoes (sweet)
Apples 1 No. of trees Val. Of orchard products sold $0
Peaches No. of trees
Vineyards Lbs. grapes sold Wine made
Value of Market Garden Produce sold
Bees Lbs. honey Lbs. wax
Wood Cords cut Value of products Sold or consumed

That’s a lot of detail for one page! Only 10 farms were reported per page, with it broken into 4 sections to hold the information. Obviously the form was created for farms all over the country, so not everything applied to Michigan. Patrick also had a lot of blank sections. Either he

  • didn’t have anything to report in those areas
  • didn’t have records to know how much to report for those items
  • didn’t trust the government, so played dumb, anyway.

He was a fairly young farmer at the time, just getting started, so any of them are possible. I know from his 1904 obituary that he was considered a livestock dealer. We get a slight foreshadowing of that from this snapshot. While his livestock holdings aren’t huge, this farm is definitely not concentrating on grains or other crops! I think most of what he grew was used for the livestock he did have, with some for their own use.

Some time between 1880 and 1897 Patrick expanded his holdings around the house and acquired the 70 acres farther west. I’d need a road trip to go camp out with the land deeds to figure out when those pieces came together. In the meantime, we get this little glimpse into the early workings of his farm. It’s also nice to see the house still there all these years later.


¹”U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), citing Standard Atlas of St. Clair County, Michigan (Chicago; Geo. A. Ogle and Co., 1897), plate 49, “Wales Township”. Entry for John NOLAN, accessed 5 March 2018.

²1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Wales Township; Page 33; dwelling number 266; family number 272; line 25; John NOWLAND [NOLAN] household; accessed 30 September 2018. Patrick NOWLAND, age 19; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 699; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Wales Township, e.d. 393; Page 32 (written); dwelling number 309; family number 315; line 31; William MATTHEWS household; accessed 22 August 2018. Patrick NOLAN, age 28; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 605; digital image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

41880 U.S. census, “Agriculture schedule”, Michigan, St. Clair, Wales, e.d. 393; Page 25 (written); line 10, Patrick NOLAN; accessed 24 August 2018. Population schedule page [ ], line [ ]; NARA publication; T1164, roll 55.

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