In 1856, William Shuler, a blacksmith and farmer from Alsace Lorraine, and his wife Bertha boarded a ship with their five children and headed for the New World-America to escape wars that ravaged their homeland. Their ship first stopped in New York City at Ellis Island. The ship’s captain wanted them to continue sailing on to Brazil. Some of his cousins stayed on the ship and went on to Brazil in South America, but William decided to get off the ship in New York. William’s family first settled in the Chicago area.
Their second child, Henry Shuler (who was 5yrs old when they came to America) married Margaret Meyers in 1870. They first lived on a farm at 10441 Date Rd. Later their great grandson would buy this same farm. In 1882, they bought the abandoned dairy farm that Barney Eidson had built in 1848. It included a barn and a house with an attached cheese room. Only 40 acres of the original 160 acres had been cleared. The uncleared acreage was covered with black walnut trees. They proceeded to cut and clear the rest of the land. Two teams of oxen were used to clear the trees and remove the stumps. We still have the oxen yokes that were used. While this was being done by Henry, his wife, Margaret, was making butter, cheese and gathering eggs. She was a strong and determined woman, known to race other buggies toward St. Joseph, Michigan while taking her supplies to buyers. When her grandson, Wade, was caught with the hired man’s cigarettes, she took her buggy whip to him. He never smoked again and neither did any of the other grandchildren.
Henry raised nine children at that farm. Over the years, eight of his nine children moved away to places near and far. Two of his offspring went to Seattle, Washington and another to California. His youngest son, Grover Cleveland (GC) was born ten years after Henry purchased Shuler Farms. GC was the son who remained and ultimately continued farming on a portion of the original 160 acres.
GC was born in 1892. He married Olive Mae Stanard (1896) on March 5, 1913. They raised four children on the farm. Wade(1914), Woodrow(1919), Elaine(1924) and Ward(1927). Woodrow died at age 8 from pneumonia. Elaine, went to nursing school, married Eldon Wolf and raised 2 daughters, Mary and Patty. Ward served in the Merchant Marines during the final years of WWII. He returned to the farm and married Shirley Mae Hildebrandt in 1951.
Their son, William Henry Shuler, was born on June 22, 1954 and their daughter, Susan Joy Shuler, was born on December 11, 1955. Both children worked and played with their parents, grandparents and cousins on the farm. When Bill graduated from high school, he attended Lake Michigan College for a year and then transferred to Michigan State University to study to become a veterinarian. In 1974, Susan went to Lake Michigan College to get a degree in nursing.
For many years, Wade and Ward worked as partners. They started with hogs and 700 layers (chickens). In 1954, they started buying registered Holstein heifer calves. Over the years, they reduced the number of hogs and chickens to focus on the dairy cattle. In 1968, they won the Ford Farm Efficiency Award for Dairy and they won a trip to Disneyland. Their herd was one of the top producing herds in the state of Michigan throughout the 60s and 70s. They bred many cows that set production records in the state and nationally.
In 1985, Ward and his brother, Wade, dissolved the partnership. Wade farmed with his son, Wayne (Lee). Ward and his son Bill kept the cows. Bill had attended Michigan State University with plans to go to vet school. He ended up graduating in 1976 with a degree in Dairy Science. According to Bill, not getting into vet school was one of the best things that never happened for him.
In 1986, Bill Shuler married Carolyn Mae Francisco. Carolyn taught school and was supportive of Bill and the farm. They have two sons. William Nathan (Billy) was born in 1987. Wyatt Daniel was born in 1990. Both sons attended Michigan State University. After many years of 4-H, FFA and the Berrien County Youth Fair, they expressed a strong desire to continue farming and raising quality dairy animals. It became obvious that they needed to make some changes or quit milking cows.
Bill’s father, Ward Shuler, had for many years wanted to remodel/update the farmhouse. When Ward began to get sick in 2014, they began talking with contractors so that he would have a chance for input on our plans for the farmhouse. Foremost in the remodel was replacing the crumbling foundation with a real basement. Then they leveled the floors and added a bathroom to the downstairs, while opening the kitchen and dining room into one large room where the entire family could work and play. A wrap around porch replaced, like the original house had in our pictures from the 1880s. Their goal was to make it functional, yet look like it had when Ward was a young child.
In 2015, Bill, Billy and Wyatt planned and executed major changes to the dairy operation. Ward also approved the plans before his passing in March 2015. They built new barns, with cow comfort in mind. They spent many hours looking at plans, and dreaming of innovations that would make the farm easier to handle and more profitable at the same time. They built a new milking barn that incorporates an open pack for the cows to relax in and robotic voluntary milking systems that free them from the demanding milking schedules of the past. The cows have free access to feed and water. They are in a barn that is never totally dark and has tunnel ventilation that keeps the pack dry and relatively fly free. In the winter, the temperature is seldom below freezing. In the summer, with the fans and misters, the temperature in the barn is usually 15-20 degrees cooler than outside the barn.
We welcome visitors at the farm. Come see the innovations and watch for new changes in the near future.
- Bill Shuler and Family
Margaret, Henry & Wade Shuler (L to R)
Ward, Wade and Grover Cleveland Shuler (L to R)
Elaine, Ward, Woodrow Shuler (L to R)
Billy, Wyatt, Shirley, Bill & Carolyn Shuler (L to R)
Farmhouse then and now