Krämer Family Farm – Westphalia, Michigan

Isaac Kremer/ June 25, 2020/ preservation, Uncategorized/ 0 comments

Outline Map of Clinton County, Michigan” in Atlas of Clinton County, Michigan, 1873

The arrival of the Krämer family in Michigan followed a common path of immigration starting in Prussia, crossing the ocean, traversing the Erie Canal, and settling in Buffalo. From there families moved westward in search of land and opportunity.

Michael Krämer preceded his father to the United States in 1851 and settled first in Buffalo. He married Angela Schweick in 1855. They lived in the section of town known as “Blackrock” and the family attended St. Michael’s Church. He was listed as a “peddler” in the 1860 U.S. Census.

Matthias Krämer, father of Michael Krämer, arrived in America on October 26, 1857. The passenger list of the ship Roger A. Heirn listed him and three others: Catherine (age 20), Susanne (age 17), and Mathias (age 12). Matthias Krämer got established as a “tailor” in Buffalo, New York. The property he owned was valued at $600 whereas the personal estate was valued at $50. His family that lived with him in Buffalo followed:

Household Members
Matthias Kramer, 49
Agnes Kramer, 46
Nicholas Kramer, 19
Matt Kramer, 16
Susan Kramer, 13
Peter Kramer, 11
Magdalene Kramer, 4

1860 U.S. Census

In 1873 the Krämer family moved to Westphalia, Michigan. A Michigan Historical Marker for the “Westphalia Settlement” described the mix in which the Krämer family found themselves:

In October 1836 the Reverend Anton Kopp and five other men from Westphalia, Germany, arrived in New York. They traveled to Detroit by way of the Erie Canal. Advised to settle in the Grand River Valley, the Reverend Kopp and Eberhard Platte went to the Ionia land office and on November 10, 1836, purchased 560 acres of Clinton County farmland. The original land owners were Anton Cordes, Joseph Platte, John Hanses, William Tillman, and John Salter. Leaving Detroit, these men walked along the Dexter Trail to Lyons. There, they hired William Hunt, a trapper and fur trader, to guide them to their land holdings. They named their settlement Westphalia in honor of their homeland. It was the first German-Catholic settlement in central Michigan.

Michigan Historical Marker, State of Michigan

The Centennial of St. Mary’s records the earliest settlers to Westphalia:

The first group of settlers had their pick of the most desirable lots and fared better. Subsequent arrivals had to choose from the less desirable areas. One of these in the southwest section of Westphalia was documented in an 1864 map as being swamplike in conditions with poor drainage. This is where Matthias Krämer bought 80 acres of land that already had a house on it and attempted to make a working farm.

1864 Westphalia Map
Outline Map of Clinton County, Michigan” in Atlas of Clinton County, Michigan, 1873

Matthias Krämer traded doing business in crowded and urban Buffalo for life as a farmer on 80 acres of land in rural Westphalia Township, Clinton County, Michigan.

The 1870 US Census showed Matthias and his wife Helen Anna, both age 64, living in Westphalia, Clinton County, Michigan. Their personal estate was valued at $200 whereas their real estate was valued at $150. The stay at the farm was short lived and Matthias was growing older. His second wife passed away in 1872. By the 1880 US Census he was shown living with son Peter in Bingham, Clinton County, Michigan. Matthias died in 1886.

Apparently son Michael Kramer took over responsibility for the farm, because the 1880 US Census lists Michael Kramer as “keeping farm” in Westphalia, Clinton County. His family that lived with him follows:

Household Members
Michael Kramer, 49
Angela Kramer, 47
Peter Paul Kramer, 20
Barbara Kramer, 15
Michael Kramer, 11
Elizabeth Kramer, 9

1880 US Census
House situated where “M. Kramer” appears on the earlier map.

The transition to farming was not an easy one. Michael did not know anything about farming. He purchased a farm before actually seeing it. Upon arriving at the farm for the first time he discovered that the land had nothing but rocks and tree stumps. After the trees had been removed the land had little value. The rocks and tree stumps had to be removed before the land could be farmed.

As late as 1890, Michael Kramer was still keeping farm in Westphalia. The Detroit Free Press on May 18, 1890 reported of a fatal accident that occurred on the farm:

The farm of Michael Kramer, five miles east of Portland, was the scene of a frightful accident last evening. Peter Balen, of Westphalia, Clinton Co., while working on a picket machine, was caught by the saw and thrown into the machine, the saw passing completely through the abdomen. He died instantly, and leaves a wife and two children.

Fatal Accident at Portland, Detroit Free Press, May 18, 1890

The farm was sold in 1893 and Michael along with his wife Angela moved to Lansing. By 1900, however, they were residing at 1319 Kelsey Ave in Toledo with their daughter Jennie Gass and her family. Michael at the time was listed as a “day laborer” in the US Census.

On October 4, 1910, Michael and Angela were admitted to a rest home run by the Little Sisters of the Poor, staying there until their deaths. Angela died October 29, 1915, at the age of 82. Michael died November 9, 1917 in Toledo, Ohio, at the age of 86.

Family photo of Michael Kramer.

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Isaac Kremer is a transformational leader with a track record of success revitalizing downtowns in the United States. He has written and spoken extensively. He's always on the lookout for new and innovative ideas to unlock the potential of downtown areas.

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