Who Was Louis DeYoung?
Louis DeYoung was born Lukus (Louis) DeYoung in Fremont, Michigan on March 21, 1899, one of nine children of a German immigrant mother and a Dutch father, Teunis. The family settled onto a small farm near the Dutch enclaves on the west side of the state. An interview with Louis note that the family was devout and believed that God would provide if they worked hard. Nine children attended church in shifts as they all could not fit into the farm wagon.
Louis graduated from Fremont High in 1918 and shortly thereafter headed out with his brother on a trip to Florida in a Model T—he recalled it as being quite an adventure. He was fortunate to get a job as an agricultural agent working in Leelanau County testing cows for disease and helping farmers boost cows’ milk production. On his route he must have come into contact with Dr. Marc Kroupa and his family, who had purchased an old farmstead from the Campbell family. He wooed and won their daughter, Iris Lucille and they married. Louis and Iris then bought the old farm from his in-laws in 1925. Louis lived on the farm and worked the land well into his nineties until it was purchased by the Leelanau Conservancy. Louis’ first marriage, however, lasted only a few years and Iris Lucille Kroupa DeYoung and Louis DeYoung divorced after a few years. This photo of him in the early 1920s may well be a wedding photo of him with first wife, Iris, who may have been removed from the photo.
Louis was introduced to Esther LaVerne Stolcenberg (called “Verney”). This photo appears to be of Verney and Louis picknicking —probably courting—in the late 1920s. The couple married in 1929 and young “Ted” (Louis DeYoung, Jr) was born a year later. This poignant photo of proud Louis with a baby, probably his son, Ted, suggests a hard-scrabble life as a farmer. The family eventually included Ted and Patricia (“Pat” ) on this farm. Verney suffered from Multiple Sclerosis and the family helped her by rearranging furniture so she could support her body by leaning on the furniture as she moved through the house. However, it was tough to run the farm and watch the children so young Ted and Pat were sent to live, at times, with family in Fremont.
Louis’ farm flourished and the family enjoyed life and work in beautiful, if rugged, Leelanau County. Ted DeYoung has memories of ice cream cones at the Cherry Bend Grocery, attending Norris School and then Traverse City High School, and having fun on the farm. Ted left home to become an aeronautical engineer and Pat attended University of Michigan Medical School in the mid 1950s at a time when few women attended medical school.
Louis was beloved for his devotion to the community. He held many leadership positions in Elmwood Township and always pressed for its growth, including building marinas, negotiating for services, and paving the roads. He was a Lutheran Church elder as well. The “lower barn,” east of Cherry Bend Road close to Cedar Lake, has a weight scale and neighbors used this to weigh their harvest loaded on their wagons. Friends recalled that he helped them with cattle breeding well into his later years. This may have been the result of his training in animal husbandry as an agricultural field agent in the 1920s. His library, too, included pamphlets on the care of animals. And, he became a dedicated “dairy man” likely due to his work as an agent. He appears to have had two milk houses: one by the upper, or western barn (now gone) and one at the lower barn site (the eastern barn) which still remains. He probably built the eastern dairy house about 1940, selling his dairy products to Maxbauer’s Creamery on Front Street in Traverse City.
Verney passed in 1968 and the following year Louis was re-married to a young immigrant from Denmark (likely German originally) named Elly Fibranz whom he met at the Lutheran church. Elly’s past is intriguing and we know little about her; however, she was a refugee after the second World War who settled in Leelanau, far away from war-torn Europe. Elly preceded him in death.
Louis stayed on his house until early in the 21st century, living on this farmstead for nearly 80 years. Neighbors recall him making clocks —large and small, puttering in his “workshop,” helping with animal breeding, and being a kind and helpful neighbor. Louis sold his farm parcel to the Leelanau Conservancy to ensure his Cedar Lake frontage would not be developed and that this lovely farm would not be developed. Louis DeYoung died in 2004 and is still remembered fondly by neighbors who were honored to call him “friend.”
Louis DeYoung’s farm tells the story of this family and offers hints about previous inhabitants as well, discussed in another blog.
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For the love of this place: Interpreting the Campbell-DeYoung Farmstead is made possible in part by a grant from Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities