My neighbor shared this crisp late-summer view of the Bluecircle Farm from recent aerial photography of the Pomona Point area on Paw Paw Lake. Pines, spruce, poplars and oak march like ragged battle lines across the grass.
As Pomona Point approaches its 150th anniversary Bluecircle Arts recently tried its hand at publishing and crafted a brief history of the Point and its neighborhoods. This is now an e-book: “Pomona Point Neighbors at Paw Paw Lake” http://www.blurb.com/ebooks/586338-pomona-point-neighbors-at-paw-paw-lake . The book expanded a March, 2015 post on this blog about the history of the Bluecircle land to tell the resort history of the peninsula.
Sebastian Smith was an early resident of Watervliet who moved from Maine in 1854. He eventually owned approximately 100 acres of orchards and even shipped apples to England. Engravings depicting his farm and the outlet bay of Paw Paw Lake accompany a 1890 biographical sketch of him in History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers.
D. W. Ensign & Co., Philadelphia 1880. In these images his orchard extends over the hill that would be platted as Fair View in 1922 and the adjacent Bluecircle farm land. His cows graze along the road that rounds the bay and lies at the foot of the hill known in 1900 as Hetherington Hill. Until 1960 this road, identified as M11, would remain a main route connecting Chicago visitors with northern destinations in Michigan. In the 1880s he built a pier here that would identify the adjacent lakeshore as Smith’s Landing. What has been described as the first cottage on Paw Paw lake would be built there in 1887, another would be located “in Sebastian Smith’s cowpasture”, and within a few years lakeside development had blossomed at several locations around the lake. This period of Paw Paw Lake history is reviewed by R.L. Rasmussen in Paw Paw Lake – A 100 Year Resort History (1890’s-1990’s) Southwestern Michigan Publications, Coloma MI.
Smith’s pier was only a hundred feet from the short stream that connects Paw Paw Lake to the Paw Paw River. Watervliet’s shops, lodgings, and a rail depot were two miles downstream and for some years steam launches navigated the shallow waters. Even larger steamboats ferried passengers around the lake itself as tourism and resorts proliferated in the early 20th Century. Today the site of Smith’s pier endures as a Watervliet Township swimming pier and small park, the last remnant of the public beaches of Fair View. When Abraham Botto purchased Smith’s Landing from Sebastian Smith the boundaries of the property must have been poorly defined. Botto’s estate remained in and out of probate court from 1920 until 1949 before a conventional description of Fair View was entered by his daughters and Smith’s Landing was finally laid to rest.
Gaff-rigged sailboat at Smith’s Landing
Some of the family’s farm roots were the subject of a recent post, and these paragraphs will try to capture how planting seedling trees on fallow ground led to the naming of Bluecircle Farm.
For ten of thousands of years trees grew here. Between 1864 and 1887 a local papermill and other uses for the virgin oak, tulip, and walnut stands led to clear-cutting and initial cultivation of the hilltop. A successful apple orchard planted by Sebastian Smith survived for about 80 years, although the land was owned by a Chicago banker in the 1920s. Around 1970 the orchard was replaced by vegetables cultivated by the Israel and Marion Dixon family who also owned farmland a mile to the east. Following Mrs. Dixon’s death in 1987 only scrub honeylocust, cottonwood, stunted maple groves, groundhogs, snakes and mice survived periodic mowings of the field by its new owners.
A last rough tearing, cutting and burning of high piles of brush and trees in mid-summer 2010 prompted our purchase of the farm. In a song written during the VietNam War, Harry Chapin speaks of the cycle of living and rebirth :
All my life’s a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
Moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.
All my life’s a circle;
But I can’t tell you why;
Season’s spinning round again;
The years keep rollin’ by.
It seems like I’ve been here before;
I can’t remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;
That we’ll all be together again.
No straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;
There’s no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.
I found you a thousand times;
I guess you done the same;
But then we lose each other;
It’s like a children’s game;
As I find you here again;
A thought runs through my mind;
Our love is like a circle;
Let’s go ’round one more time.
As in our lives, time and the changing seasons impose a predicable circle of life and rebirth on the land. The opportunity to plant again on ground once home to native trees, and to so restore both a family heritage and a small part of the dignity of the place is a gift. It is an opportunity to celebrate and live in a Bluecircle between the adjacent lake and clear autumn sky.