Tabor's Farm Resort
Tabor Farm Summer Resort
Berrien County Michigan
The Beginning: - From news stories of the day we have been able to construct the following information about Tabor's Resort.
Tabor Farm Summer Resort was founded by: Ernest Tabor in 1891 (per 20th Century History of Berrien County.) But most news articles state it was started in 1893. It was located in Section 27 at 6020 River Road, about 10 miles south of Benton Harbor in Sodus on the banks of the St. Joseph River. It was considered to be one of Michigan's first vacation centers. There were not a lot of what would be called modern conveniences of the day and was very basic. The more modern fixtures would come as time went by and improvements made.
Ernest was born in Bainbridge Township on February 14, 1845; being the son of Wallis Tabor originally from Onondaga, New York.
In 1872 he wed Elizabeth Stump and they had two daughters, Myrtle and May. Elizabeth died and in 1902 Ernest wed Mrs. Hettie (Ryerson) Angell of Chicago, Illinois. From about 1893 to about 1919 Mr. and Mrs. Tabor owned and operated the resort. Hettie had two children by her first marriage. She died November 7, 1932 at the home of her daughter in Illinois and was buried in Oak Lawn Cemetery there. Ernest lived to almost 100 years old dying in December of 1944.
Ernest's daughter, Myrtle Tabor King helped her father run the resort for several years. She then operated the Sunshine Inn and later the Cameo Hotel in St. Petersburg, Florida.
At one time a ferry named the May Graham ferried people to this lovely point and docked at her own pier. But as the years went by, the ferry ceased service and the rotting pier presented a hazard for unsuspecting boaters going through the area. Capt. James Fikes piloted her for many years. She was built by the Preston Company in 1874. They had previously been in the business of making coffins. Along with the May Graham, they built two other vessels: the Maud Preston in the spring of 1887 and the second May Graham in 1908. As the years passed, the moonlight excursions by the May Graham were replaced with Trolley outings to the resort.
In the warmer months they came by boat, carriage or horse car line and in later years, about 1905-06, by trolley (the old Interurban Rail line). In the cold months at the turn of the 20th century it was no surprise to see folks arrive by bob-sleighs and see them frolicking in the snow. In later years the resort would be basically open from early May through September. Visitors from Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit and other cities came to escape their hectic life styles and enjoy this pastoral setting. It offered lawn games, swimming and hiking through this 160 acre farm setting. The original farmhouse of Ernest Tabor was added on to many times and would be used for dining and hotel. In accommodating tourists, additional cabins were built and the resort boasted of mouth watering meals.
Resort sold 1919 - Approaching his 74th year, Mr. Tabor decided it was time to sell the resort.
Joe Bachunas, a young Lithuanian newspaper publisher came to Tabor Farm to rest and relax. Joseph Bachunas was born May 24, 1893 in Lithuania and arrived in the state with his family when about 4 years of age. He wed Marie Bartz in Chicago on April 25, 1917. The Bachunas family had immigrated to this country when Ernest Tabor took in his first guests. The family was poor and Joe remembered back to going to bed hungry many nights. Joe had a paper route as a child in Chicago and learned the trade later joining a printing firm. He later bought out the printing firm and began publishing the Lithuanian paper. But Mr. Bachunas had a great interest in food; he never forgot the hunger in his early life.
In the spring/summer of 1919 Joe and his wife, came to the resort and fell in love with the surroundings. By fall of that same year they owned it. He had a lot of business savvy and knew if you provided good service, made friends and put some earnings back into the business for improvements, it would be successful.
As a publicity stunt, Joe bought some old street cars when the Interurban went out of business and moved them to the farm, turning them into unique sleeping quarters which became favorites with the guests.
Midnight Snack Raids - In 1928 Joe was hungry and late one night went to the kitchen for a snack. It occurred to him that maybe the guests might like a late night snack too and soon the kitchen was filled with guests snacking and socializing. The midnight snack remained one of the most popular features of the resort for decades to come. Always having the guests in mind, the appetizer table was also started at Tabor Farm. Diners could have appetizers while waiting for the food order to arrive.
Ever the entrepreneur, this owner constantly made changes to both facilities and programs offered. The old street car cabins were eventually replaced by modern cottages and the farmhouse was added to several times over, but kept the quaint old fashion look to the exterior.
Mr. Bachunas was quite a jovial man and loved chatting with the quests.
From 1930 to 1958 George Chapman was the chef at the resort. By 1968 Joe was semi-retired, at age 76, he had previously hired resident managers, Mr. and Mrs. Valdas Adamkus. They purchased the farm or at least a share of it in 1962. This resort which basically was open from Memorial day until the end of September, hosted reunions, conventions and banquets. Also assisting Joe during differents periods, was his brothers Al and Walter, sister-in-law, Helen; an Austrian baker, Willy Hoffman and the chef, Norman Kin (circa 1960's) and a large staff of summer employes hired from some of the colleges across the US. The large acreage farm produced many varieties of fruit and vegetables, much of which was used by the resort. Sadly, shortly after he semi-retired from the resort, Joe passed away on January 23, 1969.
In its hey day the resort offered shuffle board, swimming pools, golf and many, many activities geared for vacationers.
The Beginning of the End
In the 1980's the resort did not get as much TLC as it did from previous owners. It had changed ownership a few times at this point. Also the direction and desires of many tourists had changed to bigger destinations with more bells and whistles. By 1990 it was all but a memory. It did not open in 1991 and fell into days gone by after that. The definition of the once existent golf course can be somewhat seen but the swimming pool was filled in, buildings torn down and shuffle board court covered over with weeds. Tabor's Farm Resort still exists - but only the minds of those remembering the happy vacations they spent there.