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Woman in old-fashioned dress baking at Cobblestone Farm, Ann Arbor

Cobblestone Farm Spring Fling

Animals, living history, and s'mores

by Frances Kai-Hwa Wang

From the May, 2013 issue

The rain was just letting up as we pulled into Cobblestone Farm for its annual Spring Fling (to be held this year on May 5). At first, it looked as if the event had been rained out--there were only us and the animals. My eight-year-old son, Little Brother, had a great time visiting the ponies, geese, goat, duck, and chickens. We peered into the rustic barn and tried to call the animals over to us.

I have always associated Cobblestone Farm with the livestock, so after visiting them, I turned to leave.

Then Little Brother said, "I smell s'mores."

I smelled it too. "There must be an open fire somewhere."

We followed the smell of smoke up to the house and discovered an old-fashioned black cast-iron stove (the height of 1830s technology) with fire blazing, a few empty eggshells baking on the ledge, and a cake inside. A lady in a long green dress, checkered apron, and white bonnet was mixing the batter for a "cup cake"--not a cupcake as we know it, but a cake made with even cupfuls of ingredients (one cup of this, two cups of that, making the recipe easy to remember).

On the back porch, we found some boys fiddling with the trebuchet, a wooden catapult that had gotten swollen in the humidity. They never got it working, but they told us about catapulting pumpkins at the Fall on the Farm event and catapulting squashes at the Independence Day celebration. Fun fact: It takes exactly $37 worth of pennies to ballast the trebuchet.

Other volunteers dressed in period clothing led tours through the beautifully appointed farmhouse, sharing the oral histories of the Maynards, Ticknors, Booths, and Campbells who once lived here. Dr. Benajah Ticknor, who built the original cobblestone farmhouse in 1835, was a naval surgeon. His brother, Heman Ticknor, was a farmer and political leader. The building was extensively renovated by the Booths, who raised thoroughbred horses--which they raced at the old county fairgrounds in what

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is now Burns Park. (Traces of the racetrack survive in a ring of trees--see p. 35 of the April Observer--and the building that is now the Burns Park Senior Center.) William Campbell was a Scottish immigrant, and his descendants lived in the house for three generations. If you look carefully at the photo of the Campbell great-granddaughter who finally sold the farmhouse to the city of Ann Arbor in 1972, you can also see the tracks of the interurban, a streetcar line that once connected Ann Arbor to cities like Ypsilanti, Chelsea, Detroit, and Jackson.

By the time we finished the tour, the sun had come out, and the historic site was bustling with visitors--all, like us, enjoying spring on the farm.     (end of article)

[Originally published in May, 2013.]

 

 
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