We’re in the midst of the National Cherry Festival this week, so it’s a great time to travel back to the summer of 1974, when Old Mission Peninsula farmer Rosa Dohm was the Grand Marshal of the Cherry Royale Parade.
Rosa turned 100 years old on May 22 of that year, and had been a cherry grower all her life. A story in the Traverse City Record-Eagle on July 11, 1974, noted that she was “the oldest active cherry grower in the Grand Traverse area and possibly, Michigan.”
Help Support Old Mission Gazette - Click Here
Rosa’s granddaughter, Barb (Dohm) Wunsch, was/is a good friend of mine, so I spent a lot of time at their house on Center Road. At the time, Rosa lived in the farmhouse across the driveway, so we often stopped in to see her. I’m pretty sure there were cookies involved.
I remember Grandma Dohm being a tiny woman, but strong, spunky and cheerful. It’s no surprise that she lived so long. In fact, she lived to be 101, passing away on Sunday, Dec. 7, 1975.
Rosa was born on May 22, 1874, at Bowers Harbor to parents Charles and Mary Kroupa – one of ten kids – and lived her entire life on the Old Mission Peninsula. Along with being a pioneer cherry grower and Grand Marshal of the National Cherry Festival, she was also a member of Ogdensburg Methodist Church and the Michigan Farm Bureau.
She was also resourceful. In a Record-Eagle story when she turned 100, Rosa recalled how as a young wife and mother, she sold enough rhubarb to Oscar Johnston’s grocery store in Traverse City to pay for a year’s supply of sugar.
Her son Fred also noted that his mother “made and sipped a lot of dandelion wine in her time.” She was also the community nurse and midwife. “I must have delivered 50 or more babies,” she said. “Some of them without a doctor.”
Rosa recalled that at the turn of the century, there was no road on the Old Mission Peninsula, “only an indian trail leading to Traverse City.” She also recalled the sawmill at Bowers Harbor, owned by her brother-in-law, Edwin Emory, and the steamboat “Crescent,” on which her husband ran the engine.
“That was about the time of the Chicago Fire,” Fred noted. “There’s a lot of Michigan lumber went into the rebuilding of Chicago.”
In the story, Rosa noted that her grandfather, Leopold Kroupa, a hat merchant from Strakonice, Bohemia, left the country in 1851 with his four sons, Charles, Ferdinand, Ludwig and John. She said one of the reasons for making the move was because he didn’t want his sons to be conscripted into military service.
“But my father, Charles, fought in the Civil War,” said Rosa. “And when he came back, he brough a wooden alligator he had carved because he wanted the family to see what the creatures looked like.” He also carved a large wooden cross which hung in a number of area churches until it deteriorated. There was a replica of it in a Petoskey church at the time.
On May 4, 1892, Rosa married William Dohm at the Bowers Harbor home of Mike Gehring. Her husband preceded her in death, as did three sons: Irving, Tony and William. Her youngest son, Fred Dohm, lived a long life, passing away in 2009 at the age of 97. Fred and his wife Reba, who passed away in 1978, had four kids: Della, Fred Jr., Barb, and Virginia (who runs Old Mission Flowers).
Al Barnes captured a great photo of Rosa picking cherries in July 1966 for the Record-Eagle. The story notes that she first picked cherries on the George Stewart farm at Bowers Harbor – in the summer of 1882.
“Mrs. Dohm, spry and cheerful, can still pick cherries at the age of 82,” the story notes. “This week, she was in the orchard picking cherries for canning and for delicious pies, which she makes in her own kitchen. Of course, she doesn’t climb the high ladders any more because she has a ‘touch of arthritis,’ which she guesses she is going to have to live with.”
Thanks to my friend Ruthanne Bohrer-Agosa, for sending along the clipping below from her archives. Ruthanne has Old Mission Peninsula roots, as well. Her great grandmother was Mary Wilson (born in 1861), whose parents were Jessie and Peter Wilson of Wilson Road.
Here’s the Record-Eagle story by Marie Averill I noted above…
In this 1963 story about Rosa’s 89th birthday party, I love that her cousin, John Kroupa, played several selections on the harmonica.
This 1968 story about a bridal shower for Joan Lautner, who would marry Dave Kroupa, mentions several Old Mission Peninsula people, including Reva Greilick, Sylvia Blackmore, Jo Brown, Gladys Fuller, Lucile Lindsey, Mabel Burton, and Dorothy Kroupa. Rosa Dohm won a prize. I’m guessing my mom was probably there, too.
Feel free to share your own memories of Rosa Dohm or how you’re related to her in the comments below!