The Next Generation: Sylvester Shooks

Sylvester never really cared for his name but much preferred to be called Vester , Vet, V. J. or, in his younger years, Vettie. He was born in North Blendon, Michigan, on October 17, 1885, the son of Jan Pieters and Wytske Hoogland Sjoeks. Vet moved with his parents and brothers, John, Walter and Anthony, to the farm in Antrim County Michigan in 1896. His aunt, Feltje Sjoeks, also came with the family to Central Lake Township. The family homesteaded land which they purchased from Liken, Brown & Company, a lumbering operation headquartered in Huron County, Michigan. The 91.2 acres was officially purchased on March 10, 1900, for $1300. Lumbering and farming were the main source of income for the Sjoeks who changed the spelling of their last name to Shooks when the homestead was registered with the Register of Deeds in Bellaire, Michigan, in 1900.

The Sjoeks family attended Atwood Reformed Church and the first official record of their membership at the church was in 1898 when "Brother Jan Sjoeks" was appointed the substitute song leader. They travelled to church via horse and buggy/sleigh which was a distance of about four miles one way. Each Sunday they would pass by property owned by Guy Morse on the corner of Bennett Hill Road and what is now known as Shooks Road. Vet was especially impressed with the land on the SW corner of that intersection and commented about how well some wild cherry trees grew there and how much fruit they produced. He said that his dream was to one day own that property. It was at the Atwood Reformed Church that Vet met Katherine Aardema. She had come from Chicago with the E. A. Carlisle family and worked for them tending to household tasks and children. The Carlisles attended Atwood Reformed Church also and lived just north and west of the church. So, it was convenient for Vet to pick Katherine up for Sunday night youth services. The romance grew but Katherine returned to Chicago and worked as a telephone operator in Englewood, Illinois. Vet wrote frequent postcards to Katherine but it appears that she did not respond as often as he would have liked! He also sent pictures of himself on postcards to her hoping that would rekindle their romance! Vet was an amateur photographer and often made deals with other folks to upgrade his equipment! He was a clever businessman even in his youth!

After Vet's mother died on October 31, 1910, Vet decided to more vigorously attempt to convince Katherine to marry him and move back to Antrim County. Finally in February, 1911, he boarded a train to Chicago and he and Katherine were married in Englewood, Illinois, on February 22, 1911. In his excitement about their forthcoming marriage, Vet forgot to get money for their honeymoon. And, the banks were all closed on February 22nd in honor of George Washington's birthday. So, he borrowed money and they boarded the train for Michigan.

Vet and Katherine (who became known as Tena) moved in with his dad, John, and John's sister, Feltje, at the Bennett Hill Road home. There Vet continued to work with his father and Tena tended to the household tasks and caring for Feltje. On December 14, 1911, a son, Walter, was born to Vet and Tena. Then on March 17, 1913, a daughter, Margaret, was born. By this time Tena was ready for her own home and Vet had saved enough to put money down on that prized parcel of land on the corner of Bennett Hill and Shooks Roads. Vet and Tena purchased their 59.2 acre farm in 1914 from Guy Morse. Since there was no house on the land, they moved an old cheese factory which was a quarter mile north of the intersection on land abutting the Sarah Ford farm to their new land. They spent several years living in the Cheese Factory and eventually built a large tool shed which would become their temporary living quarters just to the south of their "house". The Cheese Factory would be torn down and the present house would be built in its place. The day before the Cheese Factory was to be dissembled, (which was the 4th of July) Jack Boss, Tena's nephew, and several other boys were throwing sparklers into the air. One sparkler landed on the roof of the Cheese Factory House and it started a fire. Everyone encouraged Vet to let it burn since it was vacant anyway but Vet, being very frugal, insisted that a bucket brigade be formed and the fire be put out. They were successful and Vet was able to salvage materials from the Cheese Factory for use in the new house. In fact, if you go into the basement of the present house you will see beams and lumber that came from the Cheese Factory!

Sadness enveloped the family when Martha, who was a twin to Winifred, died from diptheria in March of 1921. The twins were born on January 11, 1917. However, two more sons arrived after that: Versal in November of1921 and Marvin in October of 1924. These boys would eventually become the owners of the Vet Shooks farm.

Vet did fulfill his dream of raising cherries and to this day the farm is the northernmost successful cherry operation in Michigan. He also raised vegetables, cattle and other types of fruit. He eventually purchased the Fred Ford, Anson Archer, G.W. Cross and Grant Mudge properties across the road from his original property thus enlarging his farm base. Tena passed away in October of 1957. The matriarch left a legacy of hard work and honest living to all her heirs. Vet then married Rena Telgenhoff Vander Ark in 1961 and left the farm to live in Ellsworth in Rena's stone house! Marvin and Versal continued the farming operations. Vet died in June of 1973.Vet will always be remembered for his many deeds of kindness to so many people and causes. His children will always remember him by his motto:  "The sluggard will not plow by reason of the cold; Therefore shall he beg in harvest and have nothing." Proverbs 20:4

His grandchildren will remember him by the words of advice he constantly sang to them:  "Buy low; Sell high; Cheat 'um, Beat'um"!!!!

Vet and Tena were indeed wonderful people with a deep religious faith, a strong work ethic and a total dedication to their family.

The above story was submitted by Janet Shooks Dean, granddaughter of Vet and Tena. Special thanks to Winifred Shooks Green and Versal Shooks for their help in creating this article. Other sources of information include the 1910 Antrim County Plat book and the Register of Deeds office at the Antrim County Courthouse in Bellaire, Michigan.