The Overly Brothers of Grant
Reat Overly was born in Iowa in 1873, his brother Martin A. was born in Sand Lake. Michigan in 1882,
where their sister Flora was also born. Martin Overly married Ella English of Freyer Prairie, Brooks Township, daughter of Samuel English. Ella was born in
that township in 1886. The sons of Ella and Martin were Kenneth and Theodore. During the years when
their father and uncle were threshing and lumbering, the boys attended the country schools around the area
wherever they were lumbering. Farmers would bring their lumber to meeting corners of their farms, and the
mill would saw for all of them until the work was done, then move on.
To fill out their work, the Overly Brothers pulled deadhead logs from the river, using oxen for the work.
In 1913, one June afternoon a sudden storm sent a bolt of lightning into the big shed that housed all of
their equipment. They could only stand and watch it melt to the ground. One steam engine stood outside.
being painted for the new season. It was spared. The brothers were debt free, but now they were free of
equipment too. Since all of their heaviest business was in the area around Grant, they moved here and made
a home on Elder Street east of town. There they remained the rest of their lives, going out on threshing
and lumbering jobs as needed, until a fire was started by a stone thrown from a separator while they were
threshing on the farm of Seth Peets. Barn and machine went in the flames. Combines were coming in, were
safer, and were replacing their equipment. When business in threshing dropped to a third or less of what it
had been, they stopped doing the work, made their mill a permanent one and lumbered from then on.
Reat died in 1939, but Mart continued lumbering until 1965 when a heart attack ended his life. Kenneth
returned to finish the lobs his father had scheduled and then returned to Grand Rapids. Ella Overly had
preceded Mart by two years, so the property here was sold and is now the site of the Grant Primary Center.
Kenneth had been working with electricity from the early years of his boyhood and continued in these lines
after leaving Grant. For the major part of his working career he worked in electronics for Montgomery Ward
Company in Iowa. but has lived in the Grand Rapids-Jenison area for more than twenty-five years. where he
is now retired.
His brother, Theodore, always known as "Ted", did telephone line work for most of his career, working in a
number of states after leaving Grand Rapids. He worked extensively on the Pentagon line work in
Washington, D.C., but is now retired.
Submitted by Kenneth Overly
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