Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.

THE OAK MEADOWS SHEEP MASSACRE, Part 1

Morning Star, July 10, 1994, pg. 13

On the western edge of Albion on the north side of W. Erie St. is a housing development known as Oak Meadows. This subdivision was developed in the 1970s on land which was once part of the Albert c. Behling farm, known as "Oaklawn," aptly named because of the numerous oak trees found there. Although the oak Meadows subdivision sits amidst a tranquil scene near wheat and corn fields, few residents know that it was once the site of one of the large sheep massacres in state history.

We begin our story this week with background information about the farmer who owned the property. Albert C. Behling (1871-1950). Born in Schifelbein, Germany, Behling’s father Daniel was a sheep shepherd in his native land, and came to the United States in 1882. Daniel originally settled on S. Hannah St. in the "Dutchtown" area. He then purchased an 80 acre site in Albion Township, which he farmed until his death in 1909.

Albert C. Behling attended the Albion Public Schools, and the Three Rivers Businesss College. At age 17, he became a harness maker at the firm of Rousseau & Alsdorf, where he remained for three years. He then went into business for himself for twelve years in Concord. Behling purchased the 173 acre farm of Lafayette Silliman (1823-1910) on the north side of W. Erie St. It contained the original farmhouse (1018 W. Erie St.), three barns, and other buildings. The Silliman farmhouse was eventually demolished an a new Behling residence was erected next door, at present-day 1020 W. Erie St. There also was a gravel pit on the eastern edge of the property, the site of present-day Albion Manor Care Facility.

Albert Behling was married to Emma Ponto in 1899, and the couple had three children: Ethel, Harold (later a Calhoun County deputy sheriff), and Rachel. The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1949.

Mr. Behling was a major sheep farmer in this area. He would purchase young lambs in the spring via railroad cars, which arrived on the Michigan Central Railroad in downtown Albion, rather than on the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad which ran across W. Erie St. near the Behling farm. So Albert herded his sheep right down the center of S. Eaton St. and W. Erie St. out to his farm whenever they arrived by rail. Once reference stated, "He buys these young lambs in the spring by the carload, feeds them on grass until the cold fall weather comes on, when they are shut up in yards and sheds, and fattened for the eastern markets. The products on the farm in the grain line is never sold, but is fed upon the place."

On Monday afternoon, November 3, 1913, Mr. Behling received a shipment of new flock of 348 sheep from Oklahoma, and was intending to subsequently fatten them for sale around Christmastime. He paid $3.37˝ ˘ per animal. Within twenty-four hours, 192 of his sheep were dead--the result of one of the state’s largest sheep massacres. TO BE CONTINUED NEXT WEEK.

We know of no one who has a photograph of Albert C. Behling, so from our Historical Notebook this week we present a group photograph of employees at the Rousseau & Alsdorf harness shop. Albert C. Behling is probably in this group of men, although the names are unidentified. If anyone has a photograph of Mr. Behling, please let me know.


Roussea Harness Workers

Next: THE OAK MEADOWS SHEEP MASSACRE, PART 2


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