DAYS GONE BY: Four Generations have called the Fritz Farm home
By Jane A. Allison, as told by Daniel A. Bougrand
Lake County Historical Society
In Poland on July 13, 1874, Carl Greening and Julia Nightingale bore a daughter they named Bertha. Bertha grew to be a fine young woman and soon became the apple of Gustave Fritz's eye. They were married and soon decided to move from the "old country" to the "new world".
Traveling to the United States afforded many adventures for the young couple. Arriving in Chicago, Illinois, they made their home and started their new life. In 1910, tiring of the hustle and bustle of Chicago city life, "Gust" and Bertha made the decision to venture north to Irons, Michigan. There, they purchased 40 acres of land on 11 1/2 mile Road in Eden Township and prepared to homestead with their young family. At this point in time the Frtiz's had three daughters. Amalia (Molly), the oldest, born in 1902, followed by Kathyren (Katie) in 1903 and Emma in May of 1910.
Gustave and Bertha soon began to worry that without the birth of a son their hopes and dreams of turning the young homestead into a real farm and source of living would be lost. Finally, on July 5, 1911, a son was born whom they named Edwin Christian Dietrich Fritz.
Gustave realized, once settled, that he should return to Chicago to work for additional income. He left Bertha and the children on the homestead and returned to work in Chicago for approximately two years. Upon his permanent return to the Farm, Gustave put the family's oxen into fulltime use, farming and clearing the 40 acres. The pair of oxen were named Jon and Jumbo. One of which Edwin later said, "had an attitude", but he didn't remember which one. Cowbells were hung around the oxen necks as they were given free roam about the property when not working the ground. Gustave learned to barter with the locals, and the family scraped by with farming, gardening, and raising chickens to support the young family. Pennies and nickels were saved to pay the property taxes.
In 1924, Gustave and Bertha purchased 160 acres for "one dollar and other valuable consideration" from the Louis Sands Salt & Lumber Company. This 160 acres neighbored the 40 acre farm and would be used for grazing and additional farming.
The children grew and flourished though times were difficult and earnings meager. Edwin would later recall that his father would barter for needed items. Everyone was willing to help if something was needed, but if you did not fulfill your obligations, a dim view was taken by all. Gustave was a wise and hardworking man and provided well for his family. Edwin would recall many moments in "farm life" and remember his mother feeding the chickens in the yard while talking to them in German.
Molly left the Farm and set out for horizons that included New York and Pennsylvania, finally residing for many years in San Diego, California. She was married and widowed three times and lived to the age of 97.
Kathyren moved to Chicago and worked in the bookbinding industry. She married the love of her life, Fred Jones, and they resided in Chicago until his death at the age of 59 in 1959. Kathyren continued to work until her retirement, at which time she returned to live on the old homestead in Irons with her brother Edwin.
Emma moved to Cadillac and married Jerry Zoubek of Irons. They had two daughters, Grace and June. Emma passed away on March 17, 2004 at 93 years of age.
Only son Edwin graduated 8th grade from the Irons school in 1926. He continued to live and work on the farm and was also employed locally as a radial drill press operator. He joined the United States Army in April of 1942 and was given the occupational specialty of Automatic Rifleman in the Infantry. Private First Class Edwin C. Fritz served in New Guinea and Luzon with Company G 136th Infantry. He received many decorations and citations including: Victory Medal, American Theater Ribbon, Asiatic Pacific Theater W/2 Bronze Battle Stars, Philippine Liberation Ribbon w/1 Bronze Battle Star, 4 overseas Service Bars, 1 Service Stripe and Good Conduct Medal. Edwin also received a Purple Heart and a Silver Star for wounds received in Luzon in April of 1945. On Nov. 27, 1945, Edwin was separated from the Army with an honorable discharge and returned home to Irons.
Before leaving for the service in 1942, Edwin had a girlfriend. However, much to his heart's dismay, she did not wait for him to return from the war. Edwin was so broken hearted he never married. He went to work for the Lake County Road Commission upon his return from the war. He was employed there until his retirement in the late 1960's.
Bertha Fritz died Nov. 22, 1958, pre-deceased by Gustave in 1945. Edwin and Katie lived at the farm until Katie's passing in March 1995. Katie was the ever attentive homemaker to her brother Edwin for many years before her passing.
Many fond memories were made at the Farm by the Fritz family. Emma Fritz Zoubek's daughter (Grace) had a son, Daniel Bougrand. He has very fond memories of visiting his Great Aunt and Great Uncle in Irons when he was just a young lad. Daniel grew up in Cadillac and was a very attentive great-nephew to his uncle throughout his life. After his great-uncle's passing Daniel returned to make the Fritz Farm his permanent home, thus bringing a fourth generation to the Irons area and renew life on the homestead.
A week before his passing, Edwin was shoveling ice and snow off his house roof. A tragic accident ensued and he survived the fall from the ladder only to die of complications on Feb. 3, 2004, at the age of 92.
Up until the week before his passing, Edwin was a farmer, wood cutter, neighbor and friend. Many years of cutting wood and storing it in his shed and barn provided a needed heat source for anyone in need. His favored 1942 Allis Chalmers tractor Model C was treasured by his neighbor, Roy Janes, after Edwin's passing. Edwin was an active, well known member of the Baldwin VFW Post No. 5315. He marched in many parades in uniform with his fellow veterans and participated in all the post activities.
From the meager beginnings of a young family in 1910 to the present day fourth generation, many memories were made in Lake County, Eden Township, Irons, Michigan.