Underground Railroad Society

of Cass County, Michigan

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Kate and Ernie Porath's Bonine House Memories
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Bonine House


by Kate Porath Torrans and Ernie Porath

Seeing the article about the Bonine farm near Vandalia brought back some wonderful memories my brother Ernie, my sister Agnes and I have of the time we spent at there in 1937 to 1938. My father worked as a farm hand there and we lived in the tenant house on the corner southwest of the Bonine house.

The Bonine house was a beautiful home, and I trust this picture of Ernie and me can contribute to helping restore it as it was.

They had a hired man to take care of the outside yard and it always looked nice. He took care of a garden in back of the house. There was a fish pond there. Ernie helped carry the fish to the basement of the house so the fish wouldn't die in the winter.

We remember such good times. The Bonines had a daughter, Mary Charlotte, who was younger than we were.They also had a son James, who joined us in some of the activities. We played games like Monopoly and were served refreshments. They also had help inside the house. A beautiful grand piano was in the living room.

​One of the fun things we did was skating on the pond where the elk roamed. I was a bit leery about skating there, but the elk never bothered us and we never bothered them.

Across the road west of the house was a big field of sugar beets. Across the road (M60) south of the house was a gas station and a small grocery store, and a carriage house. On the back of the carriage house movies were shown on summer nights. East of the gas station was a big barn filled with horses. They also had a dairy farm south of the corners. Ernie recalls helping to hand cap milk bottles there.

We earned a little money pulling mustard weed from the fields and in the fall picking up chestnuts and putting them in little cans. Elwood Bonine's mother supervised the picking of chestnuts.

Ernie and I wanted to share with you some of the special memories we have of living on Elk Park Farm. We hope the picture might also help show those who are planning to restore the house the detail of the house, as the 'wraparound' porch can be seen in the picture as well as the lion in the front of the house.