Bonine House 

My Uncle Jim flew his airplane over the barn and Mr. Wood took the picture. The barn had 13 stalls and one box stall. My Shetland pony I got from x-mas was in the box stall with a bright Red Bow around his neck. He was the first of four horses. As I grew, I got bigger horses. One was a Welsh pony named Prince. We had a pair of Appaloosas, named Rex and Apple. Apple was mine always. Dad rode Rex a few times but we kept him for Jim Hayden’s cousin Shirley who spent a lot of times at the farm with me. My last horse was named Toney.

Everything east of the horse stalls with an aisle and wall was a place for equipment, Tractors, plows, discs, etc. The big tank beside the barn was fuel for the tractors. The two grain bins held harvested grain for seeding the next year. The two horses in the enclosure wire were probably work horses. We still had six.

In the back of barn was a manure pile. It was added to every day. It had best fishing worms in it, if you dug down in it. I have wished for them often when we went fresh water fishing in Florida. They were thin red worms and always caught a bunch of fish when we went to Lime Lake (Bonine Camp). Dad kept the lake stocked with fish.

Also the was a field in back of the barn I could get a good fast run for all the horses I rode. It was done right after we came out of the barn to settle them down, so we could ride them safely.

The top of the barn was filled full of hay. There was a large tall chute that went down into the horse area. The chute had a ladder up inside of it. (Now I am telling a story of myself) When they put the hay in the loft they used a double kind of fork to pick it up off of the wagon. There were two pulleys in the top of the barn to pull the hay from one end to the other. They would take the forks off and tie the rope to the top of the chute. The hay came up about three quarters of the chute. I would climb up on the stall nearest the chute, up the ladder, grab the rope and push off and ride all the way to east end of the loft. The loft went clear across the barn. I would push off from the east end wall and drop off into the hay in front of the chute. Dad never found out or he would have grounded me forever!! (I usually had a friend with me.)

The Carriage House – The bottom floor was used for extra groceries for the filling station. Canned oil and parts for the garage. The second floor was used for bags of feed for the animals on the farm. Cows at the dairy, horses, and hogs at the south barn. The filling station came into my life so probably they had slaves on the second and third floor, during the arrival of slaves. In my time the third floor had nothing. No apartment. The three trucks pickups, flatbed truck and truck with rakes were all the farm trucks. I would say they were there for seed. Shorty was the manager on the farm, drove the pickup. Shorty was Roscoe Culp.

The filling station: Had four pumps with Texaco gas. It was a small grocery store inside. Dad had his office in the west end if the building. My Great Aunt Dolly took care of all the books for the farm and the filling station & garage.


Mary Charlotte Bonine Roberts

Born July 17 1934

Holidays starting with Thanksgiving in 1940.  I was six.  We had eighteen or twenty for dinner. Aunts, Uncles, and cousins.  The real young cousins ate in the kitchen.  I was allowed to eat with the adults for the first time.   Mom put leaves in the table for more room at the table. I was really scared for the first so my cousin Frank sat next to help me.

My Dad put a beautiful turkey on the table and started to carve.  Everyone was hungry and gave him a bad time because he was so slow.   It was a great dinner even though I didn’t like a lot of the food yet.    I felt bad because my brother Jim could not see me.  He couldn’t get leave to come home from   Howe Military for Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Guess which one he chose? Xmas of course.

Christmas 1940:

My brother got home for Christmas. Dad and Jim took a tractor out to the woods to get a tree.  They came home with a twelve foot tree. Mom wanted it put in the bay window but it was too big.  They ended putting in the front corner of the living room.  When it got decorated it was so pretty I remember sitting on the floor in front of it and wishing for a pony.

Christmas day!  Dad turned the radio on Christmas music and went through the house with a set of sleigh bells. It was time to wake us! Breakfast was ready so hurry.  On the way stop and C...

Finally we went to the tree.  Oh so many presents!   Where were mine?   I looked but couldn’t see any with my name on them.  I had been as good as I knew how to be.  Well finally Dad called my name and opened the box to find a small horse inside it.  I cried and told Daddy I wanted a real pony!  He laughed and told me to open all my presents first and then we would go outside in the snow for a while. Sure enough we did and he took me to the barn.  Guess what I found in the back box stall.  My pony all saddled ready to take me for my first ride.  He put up (a cot so I could)  sleep with Spotty that night.

CHRISTMAS 1941 I was seven!


Mom and Dad decided to go to Howe to see Jim!  I went along.  Jim was seventeen and dad wanted to talk to the Commander.   Dad wanted to make sure they were being prepared 

War. SCARY STUFF!  He was a leader and Dad knew he would be drafted when he graduated the following year.  Christmas that year was pretty quiet. We had the normal group of Aunt’s and uncles. Cousins.  Grandmother Bonine and Aunt Dolly had moved to our house that summer. Aunt Dolly was Grandma’s sister. Her last name was Gage.

Dad has a great idea for Christmas!  It was what he called a “white elephant gift”.  It started with mom. Her wish for Christmas was something special.  I’m pretty sure she had     hinted about her wish sometime during the year.  Her gift was a beautiful fur coat. Grandma Bonine was the next one with a White elephant.   She received a new Desoto car.  Dad hid it in the garage.  She never realized his car was sitting outside.  When she saw the car, she cried.  It was such a surprise!  The next White elephant was for Aunt Dolly.  She did all the accounting for the farm  and she had wished for a new modern typewriter and calculator.   The last White Elephant was mine. In l951 I got a beautiful new Spinet piano.

Our Christmases were still so special even after we left the farm in l953.  We stayed the same at the holidays with children even now.


My Grandpa Bonine died in 1935. He was Doctor James Gordon Bonine. I never knew him because I was born 1934. I do know he was a doctor in private practice. He had his own office in his home in Cassopolis, Michigan. (Grandma B. told me)   He inherited the Elk Park from Issac A. Bonine, his father. It had pretty much sat vacant for around 35 – 40 yrs.   Grandpa gave the farm to my Dad, Gordon Elwood Bonine, when he was 34 yrs old. He had graduated from Michigan State College. He was newly married to Ruth Lucille Morse. She was 30 yrs old. Grandpa gave them $40 a month to survive on. (It is a good thing merchandise was cheap then) At least food was. I’m sure the first thing mom did was start a garden for vegetables.

Dad had my grandma and her sister move to the farm. They sold the Bonine house in Cassopolis where grandpa had his private practice. It became the Portor House across from the school Grandma Bonine's sister was Dora Irez Gage. She was my great aunt. Aunt Dolly was four foot eight inches tall, very energetic and loved by all children. She lived until she was 98 yrs. old. She went to work for dad as a bookkeeper. He had an office in the west end of the filling station across from the main house. She did all the books on the farm and on the filling station.

Grandma B was like my second mother. Dad after becoming a State Senator, following in Grandpa Bonine’s footsteps. He had to be in Lansing a lot. Grandma tried to teach me all the history of the farm and family she could. Guess it worked, Huh?! The house was also already furnished. All Antique. A Grand Chickering Piano with beautiful carved legs.

Everything was covered in sheets. (I almost can see them uncovering each piece and oohing and aweing!) They decided to take care of the first floor and move in. They never went upstairs. When winter came that first year they were having a big problem. Grandma Bonine said they had a coal furnace and two fireplaces burning and it was like living in a barn.

Dad did go upstairs at that point. Snow was blowing in through a bunch of broken windows. He boarded up the windows and closed the Staircase to the second floor to keep all the heat on the first floor. It was much warmer after that.   I really think Grandpa was testing mom and dad to see how strong they were.

The first really bad time for the farm was when I was 2 or 3. This was told to me by my Grandma Bonine. Probably around the 1937. Dad was breeding hogs down at the south barn. He had a bunch ready to be sold. They were away from the main house because of the smell. There wasn’t anyone living at the time in the house at the south barn.  Anyway “Shorty” (Roscoe Culp) told dad he needed to come down to see the hogs. Some of them were sick and infecting others. Dad had “Shorty” go for the vet. The hogs had cholera and had to be shot. They burned the bodies and buried them. The vet all said no more animals in the area for 3 to 4 years. South barn became the farm equipment barn. 

The hogs were dad’s first big loss. He decided to only grow grain after that. Wheat, Oats, Rye, Alfalfa, Corn and much later Soya Beans. He still had a heard of milk cows and two prized Guernsey bulls. He had about 125 milk cows and milked around the clock. He would pasteurize and bottle the milk selling it to his customers. That was Elk Park Farms Dairy.

That takes us to the next time that turned out bad.  Everything always happened at night. I would say I was eight or nine years old.  (1942)  I can come close to the year because of my age.  We were all asleep for the night when someone was pounding on the front door. They were there to tell dad that the dairy was on fire. Mom woke me up to go to Vandalia to sound the alarm for the volunteer firemen to come to help.  When we got to the dairy Dad and Shorty were moving the cows to another pasture.  Dad then went to the barn for the two bulls.  He couldn’t get them out so he had to shoot both of them.  When he came out of the barn he was crying and the roof caved in.  I will never forget that night as long as I live. That was the end of Elk Park Farms Dairy.

In 1946 we had a bad thunderstorm. Lots of lightning. This was in the middle of the night. We were all asleep (kind of anyway.) What got us up were truck horns blaring. My brother, James Elwood Bonine was home on leave from the army. We both hit the front bedroom on the second floor all the same time. Jim yelled fire at mom and dad and couldn’t get out of bed fast. A pump was on fire at the filling station. We had a large fire extinguisher in the laundry. Jim ran down the back stairs to get it and ran out the front door.   Mom and I went to Vandalia to get the Volunteer firemen out to the fire.  In the meantime my brother is reading (by the light of the fire) how to use the extinguisher. One or two then came from the trucks to help. One of them made a comment to Jim. “Hey buddy you need to figure it out fast!” Anyway to make a story short, the fire was put out. Everyone had a hot cup of coffee and lots of thanks to everyone.

A good time!  The farm was running smoothly. “Shorty” was in charge with dad coming home from Lansing every weekend. Lots of grain, a new self-propelled combine for the thrashing. Money coming in yearly. Not many problems.   On the home front Grandma Bonine, Aunt Dolly and I were getting along fine. I had been taking piano lessons since I was six. Dad decided it was time for me to get experience, besides the farm. I hung around alone too much in the summer. This was when I started going to Interlochen National Music Camp. In 1945, I went for 8 weeks. What a wonderful time that was and I got to go until 1951. 

The next bad thing that happened was in 1948, I was about half way through camp and my brother showed up. I thought he was still in Korea. I was so glad to see him. He told me we were going to the office of Dr. Maddy, who was the founder of Interlochen. I asked if I had done something wrong. He said No, Dr Maddy was waiting for me in his office. He was the director of the Interlochen Music Camp. Dr Maddy told me my dad had an accident and Jim (my brother) was there to take me home. The counselors were packing my trunk. This really scared me. Jim told me he would tell me more on the way to the farm.

When we got started for home my first question to my brother was “is daddy dying?” Jim proceded to tell me dad had lost his arm in a Ray baler accident and both of us had a job to do. He lost his right arm and both of us were left handed. Mom was the one to tell me what actually had happened. The baler tied the bales together and it had stopped tying. It was dropping the bales on the ground untied. Dad told the driver to stop but left the tractor going. Dad said something and the driver thought he said “start-up”. Dads arm was in the baler and lost it below the elbow. By the time he got to the hospital, he was in shock. He went straight to surgery. By the time Jim came to get me, Dad had come home.   Jim was home on emergency leave from the Army. He was discharged because he was the only son. He hated the farm.

Dad did real well healing. He wanted to get back to work and Shorty as his Manager, the farm 1st was running smooth. He had received a clamp to use for heavy work and a hand that looked like his left hand. Mom had a problem emotionally about the clamp so he only worked with it. One time though he wasn’t thinking and went to shovel a path to the garage. We had a snowstorm that night. About 15 minutes after he went out he came back in. Mom and I were in the kitchen. He burst out laughing and said “Momma, I broke my thumb!” Sure enough he was holding it in his hand. Mom never complained about the clamp again.

I continued going to camp until 1951. Big things were happening in my life. I was getting ready for my Senior Piano recital. I was practicing three hours a day, doing lessons twice a week. No time for camp. My teacher Jo Kelly from Niles, invited me to go to Grealy, Colorado to do intense music for my recital. It was a dude ranch with everything a dude ranch has. She picked her best students to go with here. Shirley Holcomb went also.

I graduated from high school in 1952. It was the first class to graduate from the new school. (I believe it is the elementary school across from my grandparent’s old house.)   I was in Ann Arbor going to the university in 1953 when Dad sold the farm. I was a good piano player but not great. The competition with the Juiliard students was too much. I stuck it out for a year and quit.

I came back to Lansing where my parents were and went to business School. That made me ready for the businessworld. (I met my first husband there.)   In 1993, I came to Michigan, with my second husband Ben. We were trying do genealogy on my mother and I came to dead end on that. I already had my dad’s genealogy reported to the genealogy log history in my church (thanks to Kenneth Bonine). I am a Latter Day Saint. 

In 2002, I came alone, north again, for my 50th school reunion. It was so cool to see my schoolmates.   Jim Hayden had a key to the house and asked if I would like to see it. I was so upset when I did see the condition of the house, I could not go inside! I asked Jim at that time if he could find a Historical Society of some sort. I knew its history and could not figure out how to help it. Bless his heart, he did figure out and asked me to send pictures, I did and here we are.

My old home is coming alive! The Underground Railroad Society helping and all the people who care. I can’t help it with a lot of money but I can with my love and for the farm and my good memories of the farm. I’ll never forget my life growing up on Elk Park Farms. It will live in me until I die.   Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. (I know Mom and Dad are looking down on all of you and saying thanks to all of you all also.)

April 29 2014

Mary Charlotte Bonine Roberts

Barbara Woods and I spent quite a few weekends together. Our families were friends and Barbara loved to ride. They lived in Niles.  We were getting ready for a ride. We were standing next to the smoke house (alias tool shed). Her dad did photography as a hobby.

The trellis was behind the Smoke House. I believe they were planning the back yard because the Lilacs were not planted yet. They divided the croquet yard from the garden beds. Of course the bird house (for the Martins) was in the middle of the flower bed.

This photo shows the front of the house more clearly. I forgot about the sidewalks. The two came to a point. When they rebuilt the road it was much higher and took out the steps.

My brother Jim is sitting on “Lucky”. This was where he sat when he wasn’t with Dad. We were allowed out front. Jim was around 8 or 9 years old.

Outback in the picture is a trailer. They are either bringing storm windows or screens out of storage in the barn. Behind the trailer is the Smoke house.

Dad and me!

I spent a lot of time with him growing up. I became a bit of a tomboy. I was two here.

Mary Charlotte Bonine Roberts:

Growing Up in the Bonine House 1934 - 1953

Mary Charlotte Bonine Roberts and her family (State Senator G. Elwood Bonine was her father) were the last Bonines to live in Bonine House. These are some of her memories.

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Underground Railroad Society

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