BY DONALD WALECHKA AREA RAILROAD HISTORIAN
During construction of the Wisconsin-Michigan Railway through Western Menominee County in the 1890s, a large number of horses and other livestock was needed. To insure an adequate supply of teams and enough feed for them, the railroad's owners developed a farm in the area which became known as Swanson. (Swanson is located west of Daggett on the corner of Co. Rd. 577 and Swanson Road.) As the track progressed through Faithorn and into Dickinson County (it eventually terminated in Iron Mountain), the farm was no longer needed. It was sold in the Spring of 1912 to Eugene, Sr., and his wife Elizabeth Steinbrecher of Denmark, WI. The Steinbrechers raised all eight of their children on that farm. Mr. Steinbrecher was a neat and fussy farmer and the garden and buildings in this week's historical photo proves that. He also fancied fine cattle. At one time, a small herd of dairy cows was shipped to the farm by the C&NW Railroad, The Steinbrecher family herded the cows along the road to Swanson. The Steinbrechers also raised between 200 and 300 hogs each year. The fields yielded fine crops of hay, corn, grain and potatoes. Much of the information about the family and farm was given to me by the only surviving member of that family, the youngest son, Robert, who will be 92 in July. He said that, as a young boy, he picked potatoes and helped load those potatoes into boxcars. He said his father was a friend of John Marsch, the last owner of the local railroad. When Mr. Marsch toured and inspected the line, he traveled in a private coach, coupled to the rear of the passenger cars. The private car would be backed on to a siding at the farm. The farmer and the owner of the railroad would then visit around the Steinbrecher kitchen table. When passenger service was discontinued, Mr. Marsch traveled the line in a Model T Ford fitted with railroad wheels. A chauffeur drove the vehicle. Robert now lives near the present family-owned potato farm just west of Felch, MI, on M-69. The family still owns the farmland in Swanson and Robert still drives to it from Felch in his 1930 Ford to work the land each year so it doesn't become overgrown with weeds and brush. Over the years, all of the farm buildings have been destroyed by fire; only their concrete foundations remain. The barn, seen in the background of the photo, was built alongside and up against an embankment thus permitting two levels. The lower level was divided by a stone wall down the middle. Horses occupied the outside half with the windows, while the inside half was covered with a thick
concrete ceiling reinforced with lengths of rail. This room was used for cold storage of farm-grown produce and other perishable foods. The second floor also sheltered horses. The third level was used as a hay mow. Robert said that, with the elevated water tank (center of photo), there was enough water pressure to supply running water to every building on the farm. At the far left corner of the house roof, one can see the vent pipe for the bathroom facilities. The house, built in 1905, had an upstairs bathroom. The farmstead had two silos at one time, built between 1915 and 1920. Robert related that the garden on the hillside contained raspberry, blackberry and strawberries (in the half barrels). There was also a large strawberry patch to the left of the photo. The vegetable garden was on top of the hill. The shed with the sloping roof on the far left in front of the granary, was divided into three parts. The first was the icehouse, the second the smokehouse (used to cure hams from the hogs), the third was the family's woodshed. This farm, a connection with Menominee County's past, is slowly disappearing back into the forest from which it was carved. The fields will perhaps face the same demise should they cease to be cultivated and another connection with the Wisconsin-Michigan Railroad will be gone.