On the shore of Lake Skegemog, near Williamsburg, Michigan, there is a parcel of land that has provided shelter and sustenance to human families for over 11,000 years. The earliest people lived on this land just after the glaciers receded. Stone tools and pottery shards have been found as evidence there has been continuous human habitation and use of this land across the millennia.
Today, the Samels Farmstead stands fully equipped and preserved on the site, and it has become an education center that demonstrates how the same fields and forest sustained the Samels Family for the last 100+ years. Frank and Mary Samels pioneered this land in 1889 and raised four sons on an 80-acre farm. As the last two bachelor sons reached their late seventies, they recognized the contrast between our modern life styles and the life they had known as young boys on the family farm. Having no heirs, they structured a Trust to own and care for the farm and to utilize it to educate “especially children” about self-sustaining farming in the 20th century.
The Samels Family Heritage Society was formed to fulfill the educational vision of that Trust. The Society was started in 2002 as a fund with the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation to raise charitable dollars for new roofs on the house and barn. The first members were neighbors and relatives who supported preservation of the farmstead, its unique features, its rich heritage and the farm family’s traditions of land stewardship.
Over the last thirteen years, the Society has garnered over $100,000 from the community to restore buildings and equipment on the Farm. Volunteers have donated 40,000 hours of labor to restore features of the farmstead, strengthen infrastructure of the organization, prepare demonstrations of farming practices, and present the Farm to 800 visitors and 350 school children annually.
All of this would not be possible without the community’s overwhelming support and Samels Family Heritage Society’s commitment to fulfilling the Trust’s mission:
In keeping with the generous spirit of the Samels Family Trust, we will preserve the farm’s open space, woodlands, waterfront, buildings and physical effects. We are dedicated to providing the community, especially children, access to an educational and historical resource.
The Society intends to ensure continued operation of the farmstead by implementing financial integrity that will assure long-term sustainability so generations to come will have this place to experience. The Society intends to recruit docents and expand the education program to more area schools and to reach out with programs that will connect residents to the honored principles and values of grateful land stewardship. The Samels Family Farm is, above all, a community-based, community supported cultural resource for the people of northern Michigan.