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Saturday, March 21, 2015

Parke Davis Biological Farm

I was looking for information about Morgan J. Smead, who according to one family tree, died in 1913. Instead of finding evidence of his death having occurred in 1913, I found evidence that he was very much alive as late as 1942. Many of his records indicate that he was involved for many years with the Parke Davis Biological Farm in Oakland County, Michigan.

Morgan Smead was born in Pavilion Township, Genesee County, New York. His parents and siblings seem to have remained in New York. However, Morgan studied veterinary medicine at Toronto and then settled in Michigan. He married Alice Elizabeth Stevens, the daughter of John Brown Stevens and Angeline Elizabeth Stoutenburg, in Port Huron, Michigan in 1909.

Veterinarian Morgan and his wife, Alice, were living with her parents in Yale, Michigan in 1910. Morgan's father-in-law was a veterinarian. Alice's older brother, Chauncey was not a member of household in 1910. I have not located his whereabouts in 1910 but by 1918 he was working as a veterinarian in Michigan. As it turns out, Chauncey graduated in 1902 from Ontario Veterinary College, Toronto, Canada. (The Journal of Comparative Medicine and Veterinary Archives Vol. XXIII June 1902 No. 6 Edited by W. Horace Hoskins. Philadelphia: Office of Publication, 1902. Page 381}

Alice's younger brother, Walker, was enumerated with her parents, her husband and herself in 1910. Walker was a student. He apparently was a student in Toronto studying veterinary medicine in Toronto as his obituary claimed that he was the last surviving member of the Class of 1911 of the Ontario Veterinary College in Toronto.

Alice and Morgan met due to the fact that her brothers were veterinarians who studied at the same school as had Morgan.

Intrigued that someone would think that Morgan Smead had died in 1913 yet there was much evidence that he was living as late as 1942, I tried to come up with an answer. I discovered that Alice and Morgan has a daughter who was born in 1913 and lived only 5 days. The death certificate names her as "infant M J Smead" and says that she died of "fevers Parthenia following a difficult birth." For whatever reason, Morgan and Alice had no children after the death of that 5-day-old daughter.

As I looked at records concerning Morgan, it was clear that he had a long relationship with the Parke Davis Biological Farm, where he was employed for many years starting only a few years after the farm was established.

The Parke Davis Biological Farm was established in 1908 near Rochester, Michigan. According to page 416 History of Oakland County Michigan by Thaddeus D. Seeley, the farm consisted of 340 acres adjacent to the village of Rochester to the east. The Clinton River crossed the farm from the west and the Stony Creek crossed the farm from the north. Stony Creek joined the Clinton River on the farm proper. Morgan and Alice resided on Parkdale Road in Avon Township.


Looking at a 2015 map of Rochester, Michigan, I believe that a portion Bloomer Park is located at the site of the Parke Davis farm. Parkdale Road runs along the northern edge of the park and Stony Creek joins the Clinton River within the bounds of the park. Parke Davis added another 160 acres along the Michigan Central Raiload line to the farm. The site of the JHP Pharmaceuticals Manufacturing off of Parkdale Road is what remains of the Parke Davis Biological Farm.


I looked at Plat Maps of Avon Township for the years, 1872, 1896, 1925 and 1947. The Parke Davis farm appears in the 1925 and 1947 Plat Maps. In 1872, a C. Parker owned 340 acres at the approximate location of the Parke Davis farm. However, by 1896, the Parker farm was divided and sold to others. The History of Oakland County Michigan suggests that Parke Davis & Company purchased a 340-acre farm, not several farms that together formed 340 acres.

I was able to identify C. Parker. as Calvin Parker who was born in New York about 1820. He was living in Avon Township by 1850 when he and his wife, Mary, were enumerated in the census of that year. They owned a farm valued at $2350, which was valued about twice as much as his neighbor's farms. I found Calvin Parker in the 1860, 1870 and 1880 censuses in Avon Township, Oakland County, Michigan. In 1870, his farm was valued at $19,000. So it would seem that Calvin Parker owned a large farm.

He died on May 12, 1888 in Avon Township, according a Michigan Death Index. It is likely that his heirs sold the property between 1888 and 1896. In 1925, Parke Davis & Company owned 458 acres in the SE quarter of Section 11 and S half of Section 12.

In 1947, Parke Davis owned about 540 acres in Sections 11-14 with the largest portions in Sections 11 and 12. Bloomer State Park No. 2 was shown on the 1947 Plat Map. The company at some time between 1925 and 1947 acquired 160 acres along the Michigan Central Railroad line. Although I am speculating, it would seem that Parke Davis Company and Bloomer family jointly donated property or the Parke Davis sold land to the Bloomer family to form the Bloomer State Park.

Now back to Morgan J. Smead...

He was a Masonic Grand Master from 1950 to 1951 in Michigan. He died in 1962 in Rochester, Michigan.

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