Westview Orchards History
In 1813, Westview Orchards began as a small farm and orchard. It was established by Michael Bowerman shortly after his service in the War of 1812. Though Michael was awarded bounty land in an area of Detroit, now located on Joseph Campau Street, he found the land unsuitable for farming because of its swampy conditions and insect infestation. Looking for fertile rolling hills, Michael traveled north past five lakes and found land near Indian Village (later renamed Romeo). At the time, few people lived in this densely wooded area. Michael's neighbors were mostly Native Americans and wildlife.
In the first few years, Michael cleared his land, trapped animals, and sold their pelts while establishing his small garden and orchard. He began raising cows, chickens, and pigs. Michael became well known in the area for one deadly encounter with a bear that began attacking one of his pigs. Michael grabbed a nearby ax and killed the bear with a few swift blows. This act of bravery earned him the nickname "Fearless Mike."
As Michael settled into his new home, he began developing his orchard for fruit production enough to transport crops by horse and wagon to Port Huron to sell at their large market. Later, he would add dairy cattle, chickens, and field crops. Eventually, he passed on his farm to his son George, who would continue to expand the orchard operation and add more land. The farm would soon become his son's, Byron, after George's death in early middle age.
The farm continued to thrive under Byron's leadership as he expanded the farm even further in the early 1900s. Byron would go on to marry Martha Edna and have five children: Martha, Edna, George, Frank, and Harvey. All five children attended the 1869 Sikes one-room schoolhouse and earned their high school diplomas. George stayed to work on the farm with his father, Martha and Edna married and left the farm, Frank pursued a major league baseball career. The youngest, Harvey, would go to college to earn his business degree and come into employment as a business manager at a Detroit train company. He lived in Detroit with his wife, Lida, and their three children: Armand and twins, Katherine and Russell.
When Byron's health began to fail, he called and asked Harvey to return to the farm to help his brother George. In 1915 he moved back to the farm and in the early 1920s built the white clapboard house (AKA American Four-Square) that the family still lives in today. After the passing of his parents and brother George, Harvey took over operations at the farm during the pre-depression years. Harvey would make marked improvements to the farm, modernizing and mechanizing the operation. Also, he would add valuable acreage and a dairy/beef operation.
The limited capacity of the Detroit Eastern Market would one day forever change the farm that Harvey had grown up on. In August of 1930 (peak peach harvest time in Michigan) and all farmers were seeing record production numbers in peaches. As he was loading his steak truck with bushels of peaches for the market, he got a last-minute phone call from the Eastern Market. "Don't come down. The market is flooded with peaches and we can't sell them all." Shocked and straining for options, he got creative and parked his truck with the back end open to face the Detroit Urban Railroad trolley stop that intersected with the Earle Memorial Highway. That day changed forever how Harvey and future generations would do business. This is when he named the farm and market, Westview Orchards. Needing a structure to sell out of he would purchase the Sikes one-room schoolhouse, located across the highway, and move it to the northwest corner of their intersection. It was their first farm market and grading room. In a desire to improve efficiency he would invent new solutions, like his custom peach grader and de-fuzzer machine. In the early 1940s Harvey built a farm market structure that is still in use today, located on the northwest corner of 30 Mile Rd and Van Dyke Rd.
As the steady progress of the Industrial Revolution rolled on things would also progress on the farm. Harvey's son Armand joined his father on the orchard after earning his chemistry degree from Hillsdale College on a baseball scholarship. He influenced his father to gradually replace work horses with tractors. In the 50s the hog operation was sold. By the mid 60s, so was the dairy operation. More mechanization arrived with forklifts and large apple bins, which replaced the small, labor-intensive Owosso crates. During the 70s, the grading system was upgraded with the latest system and working with the MSU extension he began implementing the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM), including the use of small insect traps and a computerized computer station by the 80s.
Armand never married, and upon his sudden death in 1981 the farm was passed on to his sister Katherine and her daughters, Abigail and Katrina (the 6th generation). Now obligated to run the orchard's day-to-day operations, they continued to focus on quality and efficiency. In the 80s they completed construction of three controlled atmosphere storage rooms totaling 15000 bushels of capacity. They would also implement a new fruit tree planting configuration called dwarf high density trellis. In 1994, the orchard was recognized by the county soil conservation district as Macomb County's "Conservation Farm of the Year" for their horticultural innovations. That was also the year their launched their School Tour program, which included the now restored Sikes one-room schoolhouse. To top it all off, they also began their bakery, the beginnings of a doughnut operation.
The following ten years have proved very expansive. They added a modern Cider Mill in their old 1850s barn, remodeled the Sikes schoolhouse to a concessions building, expanded their bakery operations, added more U-Pick opportunities, plus many outdoor attractions.
Come to Westview to see the history and feel the nostalgia of a time lost. Get your fresh produce and have fun while exploring our orchards or pumpkin patches. There is something to offer for everyone that visits.