Out-of-state tuition

A few weeks ago my dedicated neighbor George’s efforts to till the central part of the Bluecircle came to an abrupt halt when the rotary tiller encountered a 6″ honey locust stump.  A few hours and a greasy mess later he was able to repair the broken chain drive, but collateral damage included a broken tine on the tiller.  Worse yet, the gear box emits a nasty clacking and will need further diagnostics by the local repair shop.  As George put it, “No matter what college you go to, you have to pay tuition”.  A Google search of this phrase produces 4,120,000 hits, but it appears to be a unique bit of Chicago construction site wisdom.  

We will be in the stump-removal business before any more work tilling in this area, and add the tiller repairs to lessons learned in the field.  I think I may also mark the remaining stumps a bright Hoosier Red as a reminder of this entry-level course in field preparation.Image


The Godfather of Fair View

Downtown Chicago 1906 near Abraham's hotel.

In 1922 Sebastian Smith sold his remaining farm and orchard land to Abraham F. Botto and his wife Katherine, both of Chicago.  Based on 1890 census data Abraham was born Antonio Botto, and at that time was a Chicago saloon keeper.  A vignette of him is found in Best’s Insurance Reports 1902: “Botto, Abraham F, is one of three heirs of a wealthy Italian, who left property valued at several hundred thousand dollars.  He formerly ran a saloon at 331 W Madison street but has retired from active business and is now engaged in looking after his property.  He lives in the second story of a frame building on W.  Madison street over a cigar store in property owned by himself and also owns the La Fayette Hotel at the corner of Madison and Des Plaines.  He is estimated worth $50,000 clear.”  In October 1903 he married Katherine Schomer, who was then 37.  Nineteen years later they would be credited with developing Smith’s Landing and adjacent land into a plat of 145 lots in Section 14 of Watervliet Township, and naming it Fair View.  The plat was bordered to the south by  an unnamed  bay at the natural outlet of Paw Paw Lake, and to the north by what is now Bluecirclefarm.  Unfortunately Mr. Botto did not survive to sign the dedication of the Plat, filed June 23, 1922 and signed by Katie Botto (widow) as proprietor.  He has been credited with designating nearly 800 feet of beachfront as “Sunset Park”.    A small portion of this park remains open to the public as a Watervliet Twp. park.

1922 Plat of Fair View, Paw Paw Lake

Mapping the hilltop orchard

Schwarting Property, 1929

Sebastian Smith was the second owner of the Bluecirclefarm hill.  Some of the apple orchards he planted between 1864 and 1890 would last for almost a century.   Historians credit him with exporting apples to London in the late 1800s and helping establish the area’s reputation for fruit production.   By 1900 Paw Paw Lake had become a popular vacation destination with summer cottages, shoreline hotels and attractions and some of his orchards were replaced by new cottages on Hetherington Hill.  He sold the last of his holdings in 1922 to developers.  C.J. Schwarting, misidentified on this 1929 map as “Swarting”, served as trustee for the area which would remain orchards for most of the 20th Century and eventually become home to the Bluecircle.

Remnant of Smith's orchard legacy, 1960s

Pomona Point and Hetherington Development, 1903

1887 Map of Property Owners

Marion’s Golden Bears

Marion Atwill owned the hill that is now the Bluecirclefarm from her second husband’s death in January 1958 until hers in 1987.  This was apparently a time of transition for both her and her land.  In the 1950s she was a successful golfer at the Berrien Hills Country Club, placing on the leader board there and in nearby Benton Harbor golf tournaments.  Presumably her years of occasional “backyard practice”  explains the many golf balls that have surfaced as we work to remove the furrows from the land.  The “Nicklaus Golden Bear #4” found on a recent frosty morning is difficult to date accurately, but similar balls date to the 1960s.   It was a difficult decade for Marion.  Her mother died in 1963 and a son was killed in a local bus-car crash the following year.  Six months later Marion was hospitalized after her own car crash and was named in a personal injury suit but another driver.   There are no further reports of her success at golf in the local newpapers, and  it is likely this phase of her life came to a close.  Within a few years the last of the fruit trees in her orchard were gone as well.