By Jan Corey Arnett
Some people love to tell you about their grandchildren and eagerly open a wallet or tap a screen to share photos. For others it is pictures of pets, and for still others it is their barn. Yes, barn.
Bill Hayward, Hillsdale, is a barn lover and a lover of all things “farm.” One of the first things he wants you to know is that his is a centennial farm that has been in continual operation since 1874. In fact, the farm is nearing its 150th birthday.
A historical article about the history of the Hayward farm and lineage reveals that Bill’s great-grandfather, William Rochester Montgomery, attended school in Hillsdale, enlisting in the military in 1864. Barely a teen, he served in the Civil War and returned to Michigan before moving to Laramie, Wyo., for a couple of years to work on the Union Pacific Railroad. But Michigan was in his heart, calling him to come back, and he bought a farm just east of Hillsdale in 1874.
“My great grandfather was the first to have registered Jerseys in Michigan,” Bill says proudly. “There are two barns on the property. The main barn is pegged and is tremendously well-built. I helped to put loose hay in it before there was baled hay. I still have the original grapple hooks for lifting the hay and the original rope.”
Bill explains that the 35-by-52-foot barn closest to Milnes Road has laminated 2-by-6-inch and 2-by-8-inch planks with stringers 16 inches apart running top to bottom on all four sides.
“There are no bulges in this barn!” he says.
A metal roof replaces old roofing, with some work yet to be done as the use of the barn has transitioned. At one time there were 24 stanchions, and at peak production he was milking 30 cows.
Bill’s father farmed for a time with some outside help.
“My dad had a tenant on the farm who had nine kids to help him before I took over in 1958 after being discharged from the Army in 1956,” Bill explains. “But I was on my own. Before I married, I had the farming to do on over 200 acres, plus all the milking and all by myself. I was working from 4 a.m. to after 8 p.m.”
Hayward’s story of long hours is one shared by many farmers, who are also familiar with adjusting to a changing agricultural environment. After Hayward gave up dairying in 1961, half of the barn was modified to create a farrowing area. After hogs were no longer raised, 65 head of Herefords, Angus and some cross-bred cattle were kept. Hayward learned to do artificial insemination and added some European breeds to his stock, including Dutch, Swiss and French lines.
Also used in the operation was a barn that is set farther back on the property and is about 40 by 60 feet in size.
“That barn was dismantled on another farm where Hillsdale Hospital is now and reassembled here in about 1938,” Hayward points out. “I sure wish I knew how it was all done.” Hayward would love to know if photos of the process were made for documentation purposes. Both barns are used for straw storage.
Hayward and his wife, Elsie, have a daughter but lost their son to a farming accident. The pain of their loss is still evident in his voice. But then, his tone brightens. “We have had students here from other countries and have traveled to 44 countries ourselves. We keep in touch with some who have even come back to visit us.”
He is proud of the fact that his wife is well known in the Hillsdale area for her work with the local hospital.
“When we were first married, people used to ask her, ‘Are you Bill Hayward’s wife?’” He chuckles. “Now they just want to know if I am Elsie’s husband!”
“This farm will stay in the family,” Hayward says with certainty as he considers the work to be done in the coming months, which includes tree removal near the barn’s foundation. “I want it to be in good shape.”
Arnett writes from Battle Creek.