On January 14, 2023, Janice Weaver Duke donated a scrapbook to the museum. While looking through this scrapbook, (which covers stories from the early 1900s) I came across a story entitled “Old Indian Fort.”
This story detailed the reception held by Frank Yoder on his farm on Bordman Road for members of the Detroit Y. M. C. A. Leading this group was the Y. M. C. A. director, Dr. James B. Modesitt, who brought with him 21 of the leaders and directors of the gymnasium in Detroit.
Two things made this story jump out at me. First was the reference to an “Indian Fort” and second was the reference to Frank Yoder’s farm as Valley Brook.
Valley Brook was my grandfather, George Moses Hoyt’s, farm. It is where I grew up and lived with my grandfather for most of the first seven years of my life. My parent’s home was built in the orchard of Valley Brook.
Grandpa was an executive for Ford Motor Company. He was Midwest Regional Service manager in the 1930s. The family lived in Detroit. With the labor strife and violence that was occurring in Detroit at that time, he decided to move the family to a rural farm. He wanted to be what he called “a city farmer.” He would work in the city and come home at night to the farm where he could play at farming. His early life had been on a farm until his father died when he was six. He had someone else till the land and he tended to the chickens. The only piece of farm machinery that I know he had was a 1950 Ford tractor.
In 1936, he bought Valley Brook. Vaguely remembered comments were that he bought it at tax sale, but that I haven’t verified. Uncle Richard was a sophomore, my mom, Jane Hoyt Wade was in sixth grade and Aunt Alice was in second grade.
While living with Grandpa, the front wing of the house wasn’t used except in the summer. The first floor consisted of the “log room” with a cut-stone fireplace and the “sun room” with lots of windows including two stained glass windows. The mahogany paneling in that room was supposedly salvaged from a demolished Detroit mansion. The upper floor of the front wing of the house was off-limits because it was only partially finished. The two small rooms above the “log room” were plastered but the area above the “sun room” had lathe on the short walls but no plaster.
At some point, Grandpa took me upstairs in the front wing. I asked him why the one area only had lathe on the walls. He explained that the man who had owned the farm before him had intended to convert the farm into a “boys ranch” where boys from the city could come in the summer to experience farm life. Mr. Yoder had moved one of his chicken/turkey coops and attached it to the front of the house, thus creating this wing. He began the renovation by completing the first floor and the two upper rooms that were intended to be the bedrooms for the camp counselors, but ran out of money before finishing the barracks area.
I had always wondered about the truth of that story. The “Old Indian Fort” article isn’t proof but is strong circumstantial evidence for the validity of the story. Dr. Modesitt gave a lengthy speech about what was causing farm boys to leave the farm and move to the city. According to the article, Dr. Modesitt
“deplored the lack of time devoted to the “play spirit” on the farm. Having to work from sun-up to sun-down the tendency to forget the “play-spirit” was apt to prevail and consequently young men often left the farm for the city.”
Frank Yoder had invited a number of Almont’s well-known people to the reception, program and corn roast – almost 100 people attended. The program consisted of a number of young men and women showcasing their talents in recitations, discussions, music and aerobatics. A vocal selection was performed by Mrs. McLaren, recitations were given by Miss Johnson, and a piano solo performed by Miss Alva Hart. Those people of my generation who took piano lessons know Miss Hart as Mrs. Bostick.
The guests from Detroit also visited the Bristol orchards and declared them to be the “very finest.”
After song and prayer, the reception began with James Borland detailing the history of the Indian Fort, which sat on Frank Yoder’s farm. Mr. Borland speech included many of the legends and scientific reports about the fort.
This is the first time I have heard anything about an “Old Indian Fort.” Was it a fort that the settlers built to protect themselves against the Indians? I would have thought someone would have written about the fort; its construction; the need for the fort. Since I have not seen anything along this line, I do not believe the settlers constructed it. For the same reason, I do not believe it was a fort built by the Indians to protect themselves from the settlers. Someone would have written about it.
Since Mr. Borland’s speech included “legends” and “scientific research” about the fort, I believe the fort was constructed by the Indians for protection from other Indians when they came to Almont to meet at the “Indian Tree” and counsel about disagreements. At this point, this is total speculation.
If any of the Borland descendants find anything about the “Indian Fort” amongst their family papers, I would like to get a copy for the museum and solve this mystery.
Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s various books can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or firstname.lastname@example.org or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.