Ionia County, Michigan
Benjamin F. Schultz
The father of the subject of this sketch has large manufacturing interests, and no one can scan the pages of his life without at once determining the fact that he must be a man of wonderful executive abilities. This gentleman manages the extensive milling business of his father. This necessarily calls into action all the industry, perseverance and ingenuity with which the Creator has endowed him. Our subject was born at Ann Arbor, Mich., November 15, 1861, and is the son of J. F. and Christina (Shafer) Schultz, who are natives of Germany. J. F. Schultz, the father of our subject, came with his parents from Germany at the early age of seven years. In 1839 they located at Ann Arbor, where his father followed the trade of coopering. Mrs. J. F. Schultz came to Michigan with her parents when she was fourteen years of age. The family settled at Howell. To the parents of our subject twelve children were born, nine of whom are living. Mr. Schultz is engaged in the manufacture of barrels and staves at Lansing. Our subject lived in Ann Arbor until six years of age, when his parents removed to Belleville, and two years later to Lansing. Here he attended a school which was called Bartlett's Business College, where he took a thorough course of education. He then engaged with his father in carrying on a general store at Coral, Montcalm County, this State, where his father once owned a mill and store. The son soon bought out this store and managed it two years, remaining there seven years. He afterward engaged in the stave business, which he still continues, and also has interests at Vestaburg, Montcalm County. In this place he manages two mills although he resides at Portland, to which he came in 1887. Mr. Schultz, the father of our subject, owns a mill and some lands at this place and his son is the purchasing agent of five mills, which are located respectively at Belding, Middleton, Vestaburg and Portland. The subject of this sketch took for his wife Eva M. Hopkins. She is a daughter of Marcus D. Hopkins, of Detroit, Mich. The marriage took place at the home of the bride December 24, 1881. One child, Elsie Gertrude, blessed this happy union. Mr. Schultz is a member of the Masonic Order, Chapter Degree, Royal Arcanum. He is a Republican in politics and is earnest in his political preferences. His father was Mayor of Lansing and has been prominent in the politics of this place. Although Mr. Schultz may not have gained high places in political ranks he has probably served his country efficiently by attending strictly to his large business details with energy and fidelity. [Source: Portrait and Biographical of Ionia and Montcalm MI, Chapman Bros., Chicago, 1891]
This gentleman, who was born at Saratoga Springs, N. Y., Feb. 17, 1814, is a descendant from Quaker ancestry. His grandfather, Samuel Searing, came from Hempstead, L. I., and was of Quaker parentage. Our subject's father, Nathaniel Searing, was also born at Saratoga Springs, and married Ursula Wright, who was born at Stillwater, in the same county (Saratoga). To them were born three children, of whom Nathaniel was the youngest. The other two were Martha and Henry. Martha married Donerson Worthington, of Albany, N. Y., and died there in 1837 or 1838. Henry married Nancy McKenzy, of Niagara Co., N. Y., and came to Branch Co., Mich., where he died in 1878. When Nathaniel was but twelve years old his father died, and he lived with his mother until he was sixteen, attending school a portion of the time and earning small amounts, between his eighth and sixteenth years, by cupping water at the famed "Congress Spring." He assisted in clearing up the land which is now the park, and after the death of his mother, which occurred when he was sixteen years of age, he found employment by the month on a farm. Two years afterwards he went to Niagara Co., N. Y., and continued farm-labor for hire for five years. He was then married to Louisa C. Martin, a native of Whitby, Ontario, Dominion of Canada, where she was born Dec. 22, 1813. Her father, Richard Martin, was born in Vermont in 1787, and her mother, Lovina Lay, in the same State, in 1792, and died about 1865. They were farmers by occupation. Nathaniel Searing came to Michigan in 1840, the journey occupying thirteen days, and being made with a team, settled in the woods, on the farm he now occupies, which has a vastly different appearance from that it then presented. There were in 1838 but three families living between Portland and Lyons. He started here with a capital of but ten dollars, built a log house, and began the work of clearing up the farm. Now, at the age of sixty-seven years, he can look back upon a successful life. But once has he been induced to hold office, and was elected to and served one year as supervisor of his township. Mr. and Mrs. Searing have had nine children, four of whom are dead and five living, all near him. The deceased were Martha M., Mary J., George W., and Louisa A.; the living are Henry R., Melvin M., Chester A., James A., and Laura L. Politically, Mr. Searing is a Republican. In his farm-work he makes a specialty of raising and dealing in short-horn cattle. [Source: Portrait and Biographical of Ionia and Montcalm MI, Chapman Bros., Chicago, 1891]
Alcinous Y. Sessions
Alcinous Y. Sessions is of Welsh extraction; his ancestors were early settlers in New England. His father, Nathaniel Sessions, was born in Connecticut, Aug. 20, 1790, served in the war of 1812, and removed to Onondaga Co., N. Y., at the age of twenty-five. The 4th of November of the following year (1816) he was married to Miss Chloe Thompson, a native of Onondaga County. In 1822, Mr. Sessions removed to the town of Harmony, Chatauqua Co., N. Y., where the subject of our sketch was born, Feb. 15, 1833. When Alcinous was four years of age his father, with his family, removed to Ionia Co., Mich., settling in North Plains, being one of the first settlers in the township, cutting his own road through the timber and locating on the farm where he died, March 15, 1880, Mrs. Sessions having died the 14th of November of the previous year. Mr. Sessions was a man of strict integrity, determination, energy, and marked character, of pronounced temperance principles, zealous in the cause, and one of the original Abolitionists. To Mr. and Mrs. Sessions were born seventeen children. Mr. A. Y. Sessions remained at home assisting on the farm and attending the district schools, where he received such instruction as they afforded, until he was nineteen years of age, when he commenced the battle of life for himself. He worked out until he was twenty-four years of age, meanwhile purchasing eighty acres of wild land, on which he now resides, and to which he has added two hundred and forty acres, making three hundred and twenty acres in his present farm, which is in a high state of cultivation, very productive, and highly improved. A view of his farm and residence is given on another page. Mr. Sessions was married, Feb, 22, 1857, to Charlotte F. Coville, of Bloomer township, Montcalm Co., a native of Lapeer Go., Mich. Her parents were both from the State of New York. Mr. and Mrs. Sessions are the parents of five children - viz., Ida J., born Aug. 9, 1858, married David C. Cagwin, Sept. 2, 1878, and died December 24th of the same year; Mary Alvina, born March 23, 1860, married Oliver N. Ely, June 12, 1879, living in North Plains; Herbert Alcinous, born June 21, 1862; Flora Bell, born Feb. 18, 1869; and Cora Adell, born Nov. 9, 1870. George Coville, the father of Mrs. Sessions, was born in Oswego Co., N. Y., March 24, 1813, and removed to Detroit, Mich., in 1823. When twenty-four years of age he married Miss Hannah Wood, by whom he had three children, the eldest becoming the wife of Mr. A. Y. Sessions. In August, 1843, Mrs. Coville died, and in May, 1844, Mr. Coville married as his second wife Mrs. Julia Ann Ransom, by whom he had four children. In 1853, Mr. Coville moved to Bloomer township, Montcalm Co., and died Dec. 2, 1863. [Source: Portrait and Biographical of Ionia and Montcalm MI, Chapman Bros., Chicago, 1891]
Hon. Alonzo Sessions [from "Representative Men of Michigan" sic] Hon. Alonzo Sessions, of Ionia, was born Aug. 4, 1810, in Marcellus, Onondaga Co., N. Y. His grandfather owned and worked a rough, stony farm in Connecticut. He had a family of eleven children, all of whom were obliged to earn their own living. Of these, Amasa Sessions, father of Alonzo, was the eldest child, and at the age of nineteen made his way on foot into the wilderness of Central New York. He had acquired the rudiments of an education, and by teaching and clearing land obtained means to purchase a farm on the east side of Skaneateles Lake. There he remained until near the time of his death, which occurred in 1838. His wife, Phebe Smith, was the youngest daughter of Job Smith, an officer in the Revolutionary army. Her brother, Lewis Smith, was sheriff of Onondaga County and a member of the New York Legislature. She was remarkable for her modest, quiet disposition, love of her home and family, and untiring industry; she had nine children, all of whom survive her. Alonzo Sessions was trained in frugal, industrious habits. He made diligent use of his opportunities for an education, and, after leaving school at Skaneateles, taught at Galen, Wayne Co., and Owasco, Cayuga Co. In 1831 he went to Bennington, where he was engaged two years as clerk in a store. As compensation he received his board and ten dollars per month, from which he saved the first year one hundred dollars. His employer was an able, intelligent business man, who owned an establishment consisting of a store, an ashery, a distillery, a grain-mill, and a saw-mill. In this position he daily learned the value of all kind of commodities, and acquired prompt and accurate methods of doing business. He had constant opportunities to deal with men and women, to study human nature in all its phases, and to weigh the motives which govern human actions. Meanwhile, his leisure was devoted to reading and study. In 1833, Mr. Sessions left his native State and traveled, most of the way on foot, from Detroit to the land-office at White Pigeon, Mich. His route was by the way of Mount Clemens, Romeo, and Pontiac to Farmington. At the latter place he struck the Grand River trail, which crossed the Huron near where Kensington now is, and followed it through the counties of Shiawassee, Clinton, and Ionia to the site of the present city of Ionia. There he found five families, part of them living in unfinished log cabins and the others in Indian wigwams. From Farmington to Ionia his brother and another young man accompanied him. Their food was bread and raw pork, their bed the ground in the open air, excepting one frosty night when they slept in a deserted wigwam which they found on the place now occupied by De Witt. In Shiawassee their trail divided, and after some hesitation they took what proved to be the wrong one, for after crossing a small river it entered a dense forest and ended abruptly in an extensive Indian sugar-bush. After retracing their steps they ventured doubtfully forward and reached Ionia. Here they boarded a Frenchman's batteau and floated down the Grand River to Grand Rapids, stopping over-night with Rix Robinson, an Indian trader at the mouth of Thornapple River. They traveled on foot from Grand Rapids, via Gull Prairie, Kalamazoo, and Three Rivers, to White Pigeon, and camped one night on Bull's Prairie, near Thornapple River. They purchased their land and returned to Detroit by the Chicago road. Mr. Sessions spent the ensuing winter in a store in Tuscarawas Co., Ohio. He afterwards taught at Dayton, Ohio, until 1835, when he purchased two horses and started north for Ionia. One day's travel brought him to a densely-timbered wilderness, which he traversed by the aid of blazed trees until he reached Fort Defiance, on the Maumee River. It rained nearly all of the time; the rivers, creeks, and bayous were swollen to overflowing and could be crossed only by swimming the horses. In this primitive way he crossed the Auglaize three times and the Maumee once. From Fort Defiance he traveled down the Maumee, swimming the creeks and bayous until he was opposite Perrysburg, Ohio. There he found an open road free from mud which led through an unoccupied region to Michigan. He passed Ann Arbor, Jackson, and Marshall, which were then scarcely worth the name of villages. At Saline he was joined by his brother, and they proceeded to Ionia. The way from Bellevue on lay through a dense forest and across two rivers. The journey from Dayton to Ionia occupied sixteen days. Mr. Sessions swam his horses through all the streams, crossed numerous swamps and marshes, and once left his horse in the middle of the stream to recover some article which had dropped from the packhorn and floated away. Yet under all these difficulties he and his brother with their horses reached their destination in safety. Mr. Sessions immediately made himself a home on his land in the wilderness. He built the second log cabin in Berlin, Ionia Co., and the first bridges across the small streams between Ionia and Saranac. He married, in August, 1837, Celia, second daughter of Judge Dexter, the pioneer of Ionia County. They have had thirteen children, seven of whom are living. Mr. Sessions was the first supervisor of Cass (now Berlin), and chairman of the first board of supervisors that met in Ionia County. He was one of the first justices of the peace, and held the position several years. He was sheriff of Ionia County in 1841 and 1842; has since been supervisor eighteen times, and often chairman of the board. His farm, in resources of soil, timber, water, stone, etc., was one of the best in the State. But it was also one of the most difficult to bring under control and cultivation. The amount of labor required was unusual, the results were remote and uncertain; but the work was carried steadily on with courage and confidence, Mr. Sessions directing all and performing much of it with his own hands. He has been able to make the farm support his family, pay all expenses of improvement, and provide something for future use. It has become a good home and a valuable inheritance. Land has been added until it has increased from three hundred and sixty to one thousand acres. Mr. Sessions was elected to the State Legislature in 1856, 1858, and 1860. During his last term of service he was appointed by President Lincoln assessor of internal revenue for the Fourth District of Michigan. He faithfully discharged the duties of the office during four years, when, on his disapproval of President Johnson's "policy," he was removed. Mr. Sessions never did more severe, unpleasant, nor honest work than while in the discharge of his duties as assessor. In order to aid the government to raise funds during the Rebellion, Mr. Sessions and others organized a national bank at Ionia, of which he has been a director since 1863 and president since 1866. He has been president of the Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance Company since 1870. Both institutions have increased in strength and prosperity under his administration. In 1872 he was chosen by the Republicans of Michigan one of the Presidential electors, and by them president of the electoral college. In 1876, without any effort on his part, he was made Lieutenant-Governor by a majority of sixteen thousand, notwithstanding the fact that his opponent, a Democrat, received the Greenback vote. He has never solicited official positions. His ambition has been to discharge faithfully all his duties, and to encourage others to do likewise. He has especially desired to educate his children to be valuable citizens, an honor to himself and the country. Few living men have had more hardships to encounter, greater difficulties to overcome, and less encouragement in their struggle with adverse circumstances; but temptation and trouble have not been able to move him from the path of duty, nor to shake his resolution to act well his part.
In 1878 he was renominated in the Republican convention by acclamation and re-elected Lieutenant-Governor for another term of two years. He was an able, impartial, prompt, and faithful presiding officer, secure in the respect and confidence, as well as the kind regard, of everyone associated with him. When free from public duties he has always returned to his home and farm, pleased and contented to plan and execute new improvements and better methods, and while reclaiming waste places, making poor land valuable and productive, has been his only amusement, it has enabled him to enjoy life, to enjoy work, to make his home more healthy and more valuable, and, more than all, to influence others to imitate his example, so far as it is worthy of imitation, whether he is living or dead. Mr. Sessions is now in his seventy-first year, strong and healthy, and daily doing the work of a stout, vigorous man. [Source: "History of Ionia & Montcalm Counties, Michigan . . .," by John S. Schenck, Philadelphia, Pa., D. W. Ensign & Co., 1881; tr. by GT Trans. Team]
Hon. William Sessions
This gentleman is of English descent, the family having made its home in the United States at a very early day. His father, Nathaniel Sessions, was born in Connecticut, Aug. 20, 1790, and served in the war of 1812. In 1837 he removed to Michigan and settled with his family in the township of North Plains, Ionia Co., when but three other families had located in the same territory. His wife, Chloe (Thompson) Sessions, was born Sept. 27, 1798, in Steuben Co., N. Y. Nathaniel Sessions was by occupation a farmer. William Sessions, who is the third in a family of fourteen children, was born in Marcellus, Onondaga Co., N. Y., May 2, 1821, and was consequently sixteen years of age when his parents removed to Michigan. He had led the life of a "farmer-boy" at the old home in New York, and after coming to Michigan remained until twenty-one years of age with his father, aiding in clearing and improving the farm which had been purchased. Upon attaining his majority he purchased a farm for himself, and cleared two hundred and forty acres of "wild land." March 26, 1854, he was married to Miss Julia A. Jennings, daughter of John and Elizabeth Jennings, of the township of Ronald. Three children blessed this union, of whom two are now living,-viz., Clarence W. Sessions, born Feb. 8, 1859, and John Sessions, born Dec. 23, 1863. The elder son has been for three years a student in the Michigan University at Ann Arbor. Mr. Sessions has held most of the offices in his township,-supervisor ten years, township clerk six years, township treasurer, school inspector, highway commissioner, etc. In the fall of 1872 he was elected to the Legislature of the State and served one term (two years). In 1871 he moved his family to the city of Ionia. Mr. Sessions is now fifty-nine years of age, and, though practically retired from active life, is still engaged in business, being a member of the lumber firm of Hynes & Sessions, of Sheridan. He has ever been an active and industrious man. Politically he is a Republican. He is a trustee and deacon in the Presbyterian Church, and has been prominent in church matters. Socially, Mr. Sessions is a man who enjoys the confidence and implicit trust of his acquaintances, and is an honor to the community in which he resides. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Lyman Simmons, son of William and Betsey (Ives) Simmons, and the fourth son in a family of twelve children, was born in Rensselaer Co., N. Y., July 13, 1821. His parents were natives of the same county, his father's birth occurring June 16, 1796, and his mother's July 27, 1797. William Simmons, a farmer by occupation, had served in the war of 1812 when a young man. His father was Scotch and his mother German. The family moved into Rensselaer County at an early day. Lyman Simmons assisted to the extent of his ability on the home-farm, and at the age of fourteen removed with his parents to Niagara Co., N. Y., where his father purchased and cleared a new farm. In 1843, Lyman Simmons was married to Miss Annie Kelley, of Niagara County. Her parents, Hugh and Annie Kelley, were from New England. In 1849, Mr. Simmons and his wife came to Michigan and settled on an unimproved farm of one hundred and sixty acres in Berlin, Ionia Co. He now possesses four hundred acres of land. In 1852 his parents and family located in the immediate vicinity on an eighty-acre tract. Mrs. Simmons died in 1858, leaving five children. Three years later Mr. Simmons was married to Miss Jane Willard, of Barry Co., Mich., and by her he has had two children. Mr. Simmons was one of the pioneers of Berlin, and as such passed through the varied experiences of a "dweller in the wilderness." The northern portion of the township was but thinly settled at the date of his arrival. Mr. Simmons has for twenty years been a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, during ten years of which he has been class-leader, and has held other important offices in the church. He has aided liberally in the support of the gospel, and as a man is known to possess sterling traits of character. He has always been a hard worker, and in 1878 he rented his farm to his sons and removed to Ionia, where he now resides. His father died April 5, 1872, and his mother Feb. 24, 1871. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Hal Horace Smith
Lawyer; born Ionia, Mich., May 1, 1873; son of V.H. and Rachel (Worthington) Smith; educated in public schools of Ionia and at University of Michigan; married at Ionia, June 21, 1898, Miss Bell Yates. Studied law and was admitted to the bar, 1896; practiced for ten years at Ionia as V.H. & H.H. Smith; has been located in Detroit since Jan., 1905. Secretary and member from Michigan of World’s Fair Commission (Pan-American), 1901, and Louisiana Purchase Exposition, 1904. member Detroit Bar Association, Michigan State Bar Association. Member Detroit Board of Commerce. Republican. Clubs: Detroit, University, Fellowcraft, Golf. Recreations: Outdoor sports. Office: 1014 Penobscot Bldg. Residence: 48 Davenport St. [Source: The Book of Detroiters by Albert Nelson Marquis 1908 by Albert Nelson Marquis]
George C. Spencer
George C. Spencer was born in the town of Schuyler, on the Mohawk, N.Y., June 13, 1810. His father, Elias Spencer, moved to Ontario County with a large family, when the subject of this sketch was a small boy and settled Canadice, where George C. grew to manhood, and where he was married July 15, 1834, to Annette Hartson. She died Dec. 20, 1844, leaving six children, -- three sons and three daughters. Mr. Spencer was again married, June 6, 1847, to Almira M. Gould, of Canadice, by whom he has three children, -- two sons and one daughter.
When Mr. Spencer commenced for himself his only capital was what nature had given him, but in this he was well stocked, having a strong constitution, a resolute will, and an active brain. His first business enterprise was boating on the Erie Canal, where he made some money, with which he bought a farm at Canadice where the village now stands. Farming was too slow a business for him at that time, and he soon became interested in several enterprises; was deputy sheriff, subsequently built and kept a hotel, was engaged in general merchandising, was postmaster, justice of the peace, and acted as attorney and counselor; was interested in all local public enterprises. In 1849, Mr. Spencer closed his business at Canadice, moved to Livona, Livingston Co., N.Y., where he engaged in mercantile business and buying wool and farm produce for eight years; moved to Lima, and came to Otisco, Mich., in 1859; purchased a farm of three hundred acres of land adjoining the village of Smyrna, upon which there was a hotel partly built. This he completed and kept for six years. In 1863 he rented the hotel and built a fine residence, where he now lives.
Having been in active business for thirty years, a retired life soon became monotonous, and he purchased a half-interest in a flouring mill, and subsequently acquired the whole property. This was soon after the war, when a general stagnation in business and depreciation in property followed, and Mr. Spencer suffered heavy loss. At this time his health gave way, and, notwithstanding the shock of disease, we see in his erect figure and keen eye a man of more than ordinary ability who has passed his "three-score years and ten" in active business life. [Source: "History of Ionia & Montcalm Counties, Michigan . . ." by John S. Schenck, Philadelphia, Pa., D. W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Erastus H. Stanton
Erastus H. Stanton was born at Durham, Greene Co., N. Y., Nov. 13, 1816. His father, James R. Stanton, was a son of Reuben Stanton, a Baptist minister, whose parents removed from Stonington, Conn., to Westerloo, Albany Co., N. Y., in 1790. The family is of Welsh descent. His mother, Martha (Niles) Stanton, was a daughter of Henry Niles, a descendant from a Scotch family belonging to the sect of Quakers or Friends. They were persecuted for their opinions under the reign of Charles II., and fled to a new continent that they might enjoy that freedom of opinion denied at home. They suffered this indignity because, like all Friends, they professed to be conscientiously opposed to the payment of tithes, to doing military duty, to taking oaths in courts of justice, and to taking off the hat as an act of homage to man.
The Niles family settled in Rhode Island in 1672. Mr. Stanton's grandfather and grandmother were married in 1780, and removed first to Dutchess County, and soon after the close of the Revolutionary war to Albany Co., N. Y. His parents were married in 1813, and removed to Durham, Greene Co., N. Y., where his father followed the business of tanner, shoemaker, and farmer. Mr. Erastus Stanton was educated in the common schools and academy of his native town. An early taste for reading was gratified by access to a circulating library, in which his father owned an interest for forty years. At the age of sixteen he was placed, at his own request, with a mercantile firm in Rensselaerville, Albany Co., where he was initiated into the details of business life; his first lessons were in sawing wood, sweeping store, measuring ashes, and weighing sugar. He remained with this firm until the year 1837, acquainting himself with all details, and then commenced business for himself at Greenville, Greene Co., N. Y., where he remained twelve years. At the end of that time he removed to Angelica, Allegany Co. It was generally supposed that the Erie Railroad was to pass through the place, thus promising to make it an important town. But these anticipations were not realized. His wife's health failing, Mr. Stanton removed to the town of Rockton, Winnebago Co., Ill., about one mile from Beloit, Wis., where he bought a small farm and built himself a home, expecting to end his days there. The financial storm of 1857 changed his plans, and, his wife's health having improved, he looked forward to leaving a climate which he had never liked. He remained in Rockton and Beloit, occupied in farming, banking, and general mercantile business until the year 1867, when with his family he removed to Ionia, where he still resides. Since coming to Ionia he has been engaged in manufacturing and selling lumber. After an active business life of forty years, his reputation for business integrity stands unquestioned. He has always been able to pay one hundred cents on a dollar, has never had a judgment rendered against him, except once in his early life, and has never had a note of his making protested for non-payment. In October, 1838, he received a commission from William L. Marcy, then Governor of the State of New York, as quartermaster of the Thirty-seventh Brigade of Infantry, on the staff of Brig. Gen. William Salisbury. This position he held for four years, when he resigned. Dec. 24, 1861, being then in Springfield, III, he received a commission from Governor Richard Yates as his temporary military aide, and was detailed to visit the several regiments and detached companies of the volunteers of Illinois, under instruction from Allen C. Fuller, adjutant-general of the State. In this capacity he visited the Illinois regiments in the Department of North Missouri. His principal duties were to see the troops provided with necessary arms, clothing, medicine, camp and garrison equipments, etc., and to supply all deficiencies. While at Greenville, Greene Co., N. Y., he held the office of trustee and secretary of the board of trustees of Greenville Academy. He also represented that town on the board of supervisors of Greene County, holding the office for two years. He was honored with a similar position at Angelica, Allegany Co., being a member of the board for two years, and the last year acting as chairman of that body. After his removal to Rockton, Ill., the people soon called him to serve in official position, electing him without opposition to represent them on the board of supervisors of Winnebago County for the years 1862, '63, '64. Always a public-spirited and enterprising citizen, the people of Ionia were not slow to recognize his character, and called on him accordingly.
In July, 1872, a company was organized to build a railroad from Ionia to Stanton, in Montcalm County, and Mr. Stanton was elected a director and its first secretary and treasurer. His connection with the road in those positions lasted until its consolidation with the Detroit, Lansing and Lake Michigan Railroad Company, Nov. 30, 1872. He took a lively interest in the completion of the railroad, taking upon himself many arduous duties and weighty responsibilities. As an officer of the company he proved himself a capable, efficient, and faithful servant, as well as a straight forward, energetic, and enthusiastic business man. Mr. Stanton was connected with the Democratic party until 1856, when he became a Republican. He married at Greenville, Greene Co., N. Y., Sept. 2, 1840, a daughter of Truman Sanford, of that place. Her elder brother, Mitchell, was a prominent lawyer of that State, and was for four years State senator from the district comprising Schoharie, Greene, and Delaware Counties. Her eldest sister, Abatha, was the wife of the late Erastus Barnes, a prominent lawyer of New York and a partner of Lucius Robinson, ex-Governor of New York State. Another sister, Sally, is widow of the late Cyril Blair, at the time of his death pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Angelica, N. Y. Two other brothers of Mrs. Stanton are Judge Sanford, of Middleburgh, N. Y., and Truman Sanford (deceased), of Springport, Jackson Co., Mich. Mr. Stanton, though not professedly a Christian, attends the services of the Episcopal Church. His wife has been a member of that denomination for twenty-five years.
His mother, who makes her home with him, has reached an advanced age. Her family are remarkable for their longevity, as she has living three sisters aged respectively ninety-two, seventy-five, and seventy-three years, and two brothers that have reached the ages of eighty-eight and eighty-five. In 1879, Mr. Stanton was elected mayor of the city of Ionia, and re-elected in 1880. On Nov. 2, 1880, he was elected by the Republican party to the State Senate for the Twenty-fourth Senatorial District. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
From the New England States many men have come to swell the population of Ionia County, and to their sturdy habits and enterprising spirit is due to a considerable extent her present condition and standing among the counties of the State. One of the New England farmers who is carrying on his work in Lyons Township, is Mr. Steele, whose beautiful farm consists of one hundred and twenty- five acres on section 21. When he took possession of the place there was but forty acres broken and he has made the improvements which it now bears. Everything about the estate stamps it as the home of a man of industrious habits, good judgment and orderly ways, and every passing stranger looks upon it with admiration. The farm house is a two-story dwelling of good architectural design in a setting of trees and fertile fields that add to its beauty. Mr. Steele was born in the Green Mountain State September 26, 1826, and is the eighth child born to Osgood and Eunice (Nelson) Steele. Both parents were born in the Green Mountain State and there their wedded life began. After some years Mr. Steele laid aside the implements of his trade - that of a stonemason, and bought a farm in Orleans County, N.Y., upon which he lived until 1841. He then came to this State, established his home in Jackson County and spent the rest of his years on a farm there. He and his wife had twelve children - four daughters and eight sons. Our subject was a child four years old when he accompanied his parents to New York, in which State he grew to manhood. Prior to his fifteenth year he pursued the usual course of study, alternating his attendance at school with various home duties suited to his years and strength. He then took up the battle of life for himself and until he was twenty-four years old, he worked by the month as a farm hand. He then learned the mason's trade, at which he was employed in New York until 1863, when he came West and located where he now lives.
The marriage of Mr. Steele and Miss Polly Woods was solemnized at the bride's home in Orleans County, N. Y., May 28, 1848. She was born in that county, June 30, 1828, and was the third of the eight children making up the family of Jeptha and Eliza (Beckman) Woods. Her father was born in New York and her mother in Vermont. The former breathed his last in his native State, but the latter departed this life at Muir, this State. Mr. and Mrs. Steele have had two sons - William Fred, who died in 1884, and Frank W., who married Elva Lorless, a native of Canada, and lives at home with his parents. Although neither had the opportunity for a liberal education in youth, Mr. and Mrs. Steele take an interest in that which is improving to the mind and are well versed in topics of general interest. They believe in using the means which they have, for reasonable pleasures and benefits, and they have made several trips to California, one in December, 1880, when they visited San Francisco, Sacramento and other well-known cities. They have many pleasant recollections of their journeys and of the acquaintances they made, and their memories are filled with pictures of beautiful scenery. Mr. Steele was at one time a Democrat, but now votes for the best man regardless of political affiliation. [Source: Portrait and Biographical of Ionia and Montcalm MI, Chapman Bros., Chicago, 1891]
Mr. and Mrs. William M. Steere
David Steere, father of the above, was born near Winchester, Va., about the year 1784. He moved with his parents subsequently to Jefferson Co., Ohio. He married Phebe Midhouse, a native of Chester Co., Pa., whose parents also removed early to Jefferson Co., Ohio. In 1833, David Steere, who was a farmer by occupation, came with his wife and nine children to Michigan, and settled in Lenawee County, where he died at the age of about ninety-three years. His wife lived to the age of eighty-seven years.
William M. Steere was born Dec. 25, 1812, in Jefferson Co., Ohio, and was the third child in the family. He passed his early years at home, and enjoyed the advantages afforded by a very good school, perhaps better than the average. He taught school several winters while yet living at home. On the 15th of October, 1837, he married Miss Elizabeth C. Beal, daughter of Joseph and Elizabeth Beal. She was born in Monroe Co., N. Y., April 6, 1815. Her parents were natives of Massachusetts. Mrs. Steere was the fifth in a family of nine children, and came with her parents to Michigan as early as 1831, locating near Adrian, Lenawee Co., where her father and mother both died, the latter in February, 1832, and the former Jan. 22, 1877, at the age of nearly ninety-five years. Mrs. Steere's grandfather, Seth Real, and his oldest son fought side by side at Bunker Hill, and her father was a soldier of 1812. Mr. Steere's ancestors were Quakers. To Mr. and Mrs. Steere were born nine children - six sons and three daughters - of whom five sons and two daughters are now living. The sons are all married. Two are living on farms in Montcalm County, two near home, and one, Joseph B. Steere, is a professor of zoology at Ann Arbor. He was graduated from the literary department of the university in 1868 and from the law department three years later, and subsequently spent five years abroad, during which time he journeyed around the world and collected many rare and interesting specimens for the university museum. Mr. Steere has always been engaged in the business of farming. He located where he now lives about 1855. In politics he is a Republican, and has represented his township nine years as treasurer, two terms as supervisor, etc. Mr. and Mrs. Steere have been members of the Methodist Episcopal Church about forty years. They were school teachers in their younger days, and Mrs. Steere still takes an active interest in educational matters. Their daughter is in charge of the telegraph-office at Saginaw City. Two sons, David and William, served one year in the army during the Rebellion, the latter being with Sherman on his "march to the sea." ["History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
George L. Taft
G. L. Taft, of Ionia, was born in the township of Ionia, Oct. 18, 1841, and is therefore ranked among the early settlers of the locality. His father, John Taft, was born in New York in 1812. He was a farmer by occupation, and married Eliza Clark, also a native of New York, in which State she was born in 1814. They removed to Ionia Co., Mich., in 1837, and settled in the valley of Grand River, in the township of Ionia. George L. Taft lived at home until he was twenty-one years of age. He was the eldest son, and one of seven children; commenced teaching at eighteen, and taught winters until twenty-one, attending the Hillsdale College a portion of the summer. At the age of twenty-one he purchased a farm in the township of Ionia for himself, retaining it about two years; then purchased a half-section of wild land in Orange township, improving it, selling a portion, and purchasing additional, owning now two hundred acres. His wife, formerly Sophia Courter, of Monroe Co., N. Y., was born Dec. 6, 1839, in Wayne County, of the same State. They have three children. Mr. Taft is now residing in Ionia City for the purpose of giving his children superior educational advantages. He is connected with the Farmers' Mutual Insurance Company of Ionia County at present. He is a Republican in politics, and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church, with which he united when twenty-two years of age. He has aided much in the support of church affairs. His father was a man of considerable importance, and held positions of supervisor, town treasurer, etc. About fifteen years ago he rode over to the village of Ionia, leaving his horse at the hotel, and started for the depot to take the train, intending to visit Rochester, N. Y. Since that time nothing has ever been heard of him, although every effort was made and search in every possible way instituted to find him. The supposition is that, being a man of means and well known as such, advantage was taken of the time of his proposed visit, and that he was murdered for the money which he had on his person. Mr. Taft's mother is still living on the old homestead. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
The ancestry of Oscar Talcott traces back through nine generations to (1st) John Talcott, of Colchester, Essex County, England, the date of whose birth is not known, and whose death occurred in 1606. His will may be found in the registry of the Commissary Court of the Bishop of London, dated Sept. 24, 1606.
Second in line of descent was John Talcott, who was born previous to 1558 and died in 1604. He also left a will, which can be seen on the registry of the Court of Canterbury.
3d. John Talcott was born in England, and came to America with his family in the ship "Lyon" which sailed from England June 22, 1632, and arrived in Boston Sept. 16, 1632. The following are the names of some of the passengers: William Wadsworth, John Talcott, Joseph Roberts, John Cogsall, John Watson, Robert Shelly, William Heath, Richard Allis, Thomas Uskett, Isaac Murrill, John Wichfield, Jonathan Wade, Robert Bartlett, John Brown, John Churchman, Tobie Willet, William Curtis, Nicl's Clark, Daniel Brewer, Jo. Benjamin, Richard Benjamin, William James, Thomas Carrington, William Goodwyn, John White, James Olmstedd, William Lewis, Zeth Graunt, Nathaniel Richards, Edward Collmer, Edward Holmes, Jo. Zotman, Charles Glover. These persons' names were taken from a book of records of emigrants found in Westminster Hall, England. The ship "Lyon" was commanded by Capt. Mason, and had one hundred and twenty-three passengers, fifty of whom were children, and all arrived in good health after a passage of twelve weeks from England. Many of these names became notable in our country's history.
John Talcott and his wife (Doratha Mott) and their two children, Mary and John, were the only persons of this name who emigrated to this country. Their descendants in America bearing the name of Talcott number two thousand two hundred and sixty-six, of whom over seven hundred are now living. John Talcott and the company who came over at the same time settled in Newtown, now Cambridge, near Boston. In 1635, John Talcott built the first house in Hartford, Conn., and in the following year moved with his family. He was one of the chief magistrates of the colony until his death, which occurred at Hartford in March, 1660. He was buried in Hartford, and his name is inscribed upon the monument erected by the citizens of that place to perpetuate the memory of the founders of the colony of Connecticut. His son John, who resided in Hartford, was made an ensign in 1650, a captain in 1660, was elected an assistant magistrate of the colony of Connecticut before it was joined to New Haven, May 18, 1654, and treasurer to succeed his father, May 17, 1660, which office he held till 1676. He was one of the patentees named in the charter of Charles the First, granted to Connecticut April 20, 1662, which document was intrusted [sic] to Wyllis, Talcott, and Allyn for safekeeping. In 1676, on the breaking out of the King Philip war, he resigned the office of treasurer and was appointed to the command of the army, with the rank of major, and in June of that year went into the field at the head of the standing army of Connecticut, accompanied by two hundred Mohegan and Pequot Indians. In the various battles with the Indians in which he was engaged he was always victorious, and obtained great renown as an Indian-fighter. Many of his official papers are on record in the secretary of state's office at Hartford, and are interesting relics of the memorable King Philip war. His son, Joseph Talcott, born in Hartford, Conn., Nov. 16, 1669, was the first Governor of Connecticut born within its limits, and occupied that position from 1724 to 1741, a period of seventeen years.
4th. Samuel Talcott was born in Newtown, now Cambridge, Mass., 1634. He was the founder and original proprietor of Glastonbury. He was a graduate of Harvard College in 1658, and became a man of exceeding culture and attainments. He died at Wethersfield, Conn., Nov. 10, 1691.
5th. Cornet Samuel Talcott was born in Wethersfield, Conn., in 1662, and died April 28, 1698, at the early age of thirty-six years.
6th. Samuel Talcott was born in Wethersfield, Conn., in 1696, and died May 6, 1739.
7th. Ebenezer Talcott was born in Wethersfield, Conn., in 1731, and died Aug. 25, 1795.
8th. Joseph Talcott was born in Wethersfield, Conn., and died in Madison, N. Y., June 17, 1832.
9th. Ebenezer Talcott, son of Joseph Talcott and Anna Boardman, was born at Wethersfield, Conn., July 20, 1804, and came with his father to Madison, N. Y., in 1816, and married Rubie S. Risley (born June 3, 1809), of Madison, N. Y., June 13, 1827. Their family, comprising seven children, were Nelson, Cornelia, Oscar, Chauncey, Irving, George, and Amelia Ebenezer Talcott and family moved from Madison, N. Y., to Ronald, Mich., in the spring of 1848, encountering the romance and hardships of pioneer life; were ten days on the Erie Canal, four of which were spent in a blockade at Lockport, and ten days penetrating the forests of Michigan from Detroit to Ionia County,-a journey which then took twenty-two days can now be accomplished from sunrise to sunrise again. It is an old story, and has been rehearsed too many times to repeat here the hardships and privations encountered battling with the forest and struggling to hew out a home and provide for the wants of a numerous family without money; yet these were seemingly but slight inconveniences to the record of John Talcott and those with him, who were twelve weeks in their passage from England in 1632, and who encountered the rigor of the inhospitable and barbaric shores of New England, first at Newtown, now Cambridge, and next erecting the first shelter in the forest where now stands the beautiful city of Hartford. Next, Samuel Talcott, striking out into the wild forests of the Connecticut River, occupying a tract purchased by his father in 1643, encountering not only the hardships, but endangered by prowling hostile Indians, whose war-path [sic] was marked by the blood of many victims. And again, Joseph Talcott, grandfather of Oscar, leaving with his family in 1816 what had become the beautiful valley of the Connecticut, wandering his way into the forests of Central New York; and now his grandchildren can rehearse tales told by the old fireside of encounters with prowling bears, howling wolves, and hostile Indians. The subject of this narrative, Oscar Talcott, the third in his father's family, was born at Madison, N. Y., April 12, 1836, and was twelve years old when his father moved to Michigan. The advantages at that time in a forest-home for education were meagre indeed, and his aspirations to acquire knowledge and culture were somewhat satiated after walking five times to Hillsdale to attend college, distant one hundred miles from his home. His present farm homestead in Ronald was a forest when purchased by himself and brothers in 1859. He was married to Mary A. Ackles (born at Tully, N. Y., Aug. 12, 1839), at Grand Rapids, Mich., March 4, 1861. Mrs. Talcott is a woman of culture, gentle, unassuming manners, an exceeding [sic] favorite with her friends and all who know her, and enjoys the unreserved and unbounded affection of her family. Their family of three children are Ettie May, born at Ronald, Mich., April 11, 1863; Julia Harriet, born at Ronald Dec. 12, 1866; and Bertha Bell, born at Ronald Jan. 4, 1869. Oscar Talcott and family have resided at Ionia, Mich., since the spring of 1876, and where he built a residence in 1877. The family all cherish their homestead in Ronald, to which they expect to remove when he is released from the office which requires his attention at Ionia. Mr. Talcott has filled various offices of trust, most prominent of which is secretary of the Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Ionia County. To this position he was elected first Jan. 11, 1870, and has been five times re-elected, holding that position now for eleven years. At the time of his first taking charge of this business the company had a capital of one million eight hundred thousand dollars. The capital of this company now is seven million two hundred thousand dollars, and affords the cheapest insurance on farm property the records of our country has ever known. The popularity of this company under its present management is discussed and quoted as a model for imitation in all parts of the State.
In all the records of the Talcott family, for a period of over three hundred years, a prominent characteristic is their devotion to and adherence with some known Church founded upon the principles and faith of the New Testament. Mr. Talcott and all his family are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Ionia. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Sylvester Taylor was born in Berkshire Co., Mass., April 9, 1814, removed with his father to New York City at two years of age, and from thence to Portage Co., Ohio, at the age of fifteen. At the age of eighteen he was apprenticed to learn the trade of chair-maker, which business he followed until after his removal to Michigan in 1854. In October, 1838, he married Catharine Ann Colton, of Nelson, Ohio, and had four sons and no daughters. His wife died Dec. 19, 1880. Since coming to Michigan he was three times elected justice; was one year assistant provost-marshal, when the headquarters for Michigan troops was at Grand Rapids, during the war of the Rebellion; was assistant assessor of internal revenue from 1867 to 1872, having the county of Ionia for his district at first, and afterwards Barry County connected with it. In 1874 he was chosen supervisor of the First and Second Wards of Ionia and still holds the office. In 1878-79 he organized the Home Mutual Fire Insurance Company, was chosen secretary, and now devotes his time to the interests thereof. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Isaac H. Thayer
This gentleman was born in Oxford Co, Me., Aug. 22, 1823, and is the youngest of three children born to John and Susannah (Hersey) Thayer. John Thayer, a veteran of the war of 1812, was born in Randolph, Mass., in 1787, and died in 1853. His wife was born at Minot, Me., in 1792, and was descended from a family of pioneers. She was one of eleven children, and not a death occurred among them until the youngest was fifty-six years of age. John Thayer was by occupation a farmer. I. H. Thayer lived at home until he was nineteen years of age, acquiring such education as he could in the district school, aside from the greater advantages afforded by the village academy, which together gave him a good practical education, such as business men need. When a young man he went to North Bridgewater, where he remained seven years, acquiring during the time a good knowledge of music. Going from there to Boston, he entered a musical establishment and continued the study of this most pleasing science, imparting, also, a knowledge of it to others. About 1852 he took up his residence in Bridgeport, remaining two years, returning thence to Boston. Nov. 4, 1856, he was married, in the latter city, to Miss Eliza A. Cooper, a native of Paris, Me., where she was born March 28, 1826. Upon the day after their marriage they started for Wisconsin. Mr. Thayer engaged in mercantile business at Dartford for a year, and removed from there to Beloit, where he became interested in the shoe business. In 1860 he came to Ionia, where for the subsequent twenty years he has been engaged in mercantile business. Their children are Walter Hersey Thayer, Minnie Belle Thayer, and Jennie Leone Thayer. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Hon. Osmond Tower*
* From "Eminent Men of Michigan"
Hon. Osmond Tower, of Ionia, Mich., late United States marshal of the Western District of this State, was born at Cummington, Hampshire Co., Mass., Feb. 16, 1811. He is the sixth in direct descent from John Tower, who in 1639 emigrated from Hingham, England, to Hingham, New England. The names in the genealogical record are John, born March 14, 1609; Benjamin, born Nov. 5, 1654; Thomas, born June 27, 1693; Nathaniel, born March 13, 1719; Nathaniel, born Oct. 14, 1744; Nathaniel, born Dec. 6, 1772; and Osmond, the subject of this sketch, born Feb. 16, 1811. His father moved in 1780 from Hingham to Cummington, Mass., where Osmond was born. Osmond was educated in the common schools and academies of his native town until, early realizing the unprofitable results of the toil and labor incident to a farmer's life in that sterile region, he decided to leave home and try his fortunes in the West. With this end in view, in order to obtain the necessary funds he went to work at the carpenter and joiner's trade for ten dollars a month, and taught school in the winter at eleven dollars a month, until at the age of twenty-three he had accumulated a fortune of one hundred and seventy dollars. To most young men of the present day this sum would barely suffice to purchase a respectable outfit of clothing; but to Osmond, taught lessons of frugality and economy on the rocky soil of a Massachusetts farm, it seemed not only enough to pay his own way to the golden regions of the West, but sufficient for two. Accordingly he offered to share his fortune with Miss Martha Gallagher, of Albany Co., N. Y., provided she would accompany him as his wife. This offer was accepted, and on the 1st of September, 1834, they were married in Watervliet, Albany Co., N. Y., at the residence of her guardian and friend, Dr. James Wade, a brother of Hon. B. F. Wade, of Ohio. Dr. Wade had adopted her on the death of her mother, soon after her arrival in this country from her native land, Ireland. Shortly after the ceremony the young couple started on their long and tedious journey to the West, which was rendered still more painful and difficult by an accident with which Mrs. Tower met in jumping from a wagon soon after their departure. This so disabled her that she could not walk for six months, and compelled the young husband often to carry her in his strong arms. They arrived at Detroit in November, and, finding that navigation had closed, concluded not to go farther that winter. Mr. Tower worked at his trade until that failed, on account of the coldness of the weather, when they moved to Farmington and engaged board at one dollar and a half a week for both. When spring opened Mr. Tower returned to Detroit and worked at his former occupation there until fall, when, hearing glowing accounts of the Grand River valley, he hired a horse and rode from Detroit to Ionia. He was obliged to swim his horse across Grand River three times, twice at Lyons and once at Thornapple. The village of Ionia then consisted of two log houses. Proceeding to the land-office at Kalamazoo, Mr. Tower located one hundred and twenty acres of land near Ionia, and returned to Detroit via Marshall, Jackson, and Ann Arbor. In the following spring, with his wife, he started for Ionia, and arrived there on the 25th of March, 1836, with seventy-five cents in his pocket and a debt of one dollar and a half for board and lodging first night to a Mr. Dexter. He immediately secured work at his trade on the first school-house built in the Grand River valley, and in a little time was able to build a house for himself. This he afterwards sold and immediately built another, in which he lived thirty-four years, erecting in 1870 the magnificent residence in which he now lives, a view of which is shown elsewhere in this work. The lot contains about three acres, in the centre of the city, adjoining on the south the public square, and bounded on the east by Union Street and on the north by Hight Street. The house is on an elevation of seventy feet above the public square and Washington Street. Soon after coming to Ionia he spent some time on the land he had located in 1835, clearing and improving it. While thus engaged he shot and killed a large bear within a few feet of his door. He continued in the business of house building at Ionia until 1844, when he engaged in the manufacture and sale of fanning-mills, which he carried on for twenty years. During this time, however, and since, he has been occupied in several lines of business. He was for seven years a member of the drygoods-house of J. S. Cooper & Co.; for six years the senior member of the firm of Tower & Chubb, in the foundry business; for several years the senior member of the hardware firm of O. & O. S. Tower; and for six years the financial member of the firm of Baker & Tower, engaged in the manufacture and sale of hot-air furnaces. He has taken from the wilderness and cleared up nine farms in Ionia County, having done his full share to make the wilderness blossom. In the spring of 1850, enticed by the prospects which influenced so many about that time, Mr. Tower left Ionia overland for California, where, after a journey of great hardship and privations, he arrived July 28th, exactly four months after he started. He remained there only till February of the next year, when he returned home by way of Panama and New York. He reached Ionia the last of April, 1851, having realized little beyond that dearly-bought experience which in those days fell to the lot of hundreds of others. While giving the closest attention to his business, Mr. Tower has also been called to take an active part in local and State polities, and has ever proved an able and faithful public servant. He was a Whig, in opposition to Andrew Jackson, and attended the first meeting held in Detroit (then the Territory of Michigan), in 1835, to form a Whig party. In 1838 he received the Whig nomination for first sheriff of Ionia County, but declined to become a candidate. In 1840 he was elected county clerk on the Whig ticket, and was defeated for the same office in 1842 with the balance of the ticket. In 1852 was a candidate on the same ticket for county treasurer, and, although he ran several hundred ahead of the Presidential ticket, was defeated by a small majority. He has held the office of supervisor of Ionia several times, elected on the Whig and Republican ticket. In 1858 he was chosen to represent his district in the State Senate, and was re-elected in 1860. He has been identified with all the local enterprises that tended to benefit the city of Ionia. At the organization of the Ionia and Lansing Railroad Company he was one of the principal stockholders, a director, and first treasurer of the company. When the Ionia and Stanton Railroad Company was organized he was one of the principal stockholders and a director and first president. These two companies were afterwards consolidated, and became a part of the Ionia, Lansing and Northern Railroad. In March, 1863, he was appointed by President Lincoln first United States marshal of the Western District of Michigan, and held that office about three years. The circumstances attendant upon his removal by President Johnson gained for Mr. Tower a far more than local reputation as a man of powerful will and strong, decided character. A copy of the famous "Randall Circular," issued in 1866, was handed to him while confined to his bed by sickness. He read the document, and, calling for paper and pencil, immediately wrote and sent to press for publication one of the most caustic and defiant replies that appeared during that exciting campaign. In order to illustrate Mr. Tower's character we give the concluding portion of the letter, taken from the New York Tribune, without comment. The New York Tribune headed the article: "Another Official who can Live without Official Bread and Butter." "As long as the Republican party is true to its principles I shall give it my influence, whether in office or out, and therefore shall not join any new party, or cross between treason and loyalty, to be controlled by traitors and their sympathizers. At the Baltimore Convention, being a delegate, I voted for Hannibal Hamlin, and at the election I spent all the time and money I was able to elect Lincoln and Johnson. I have favored all measures to suppress the Rebellion and preserve the Union; had three sons in the army, and paid my share of taxes and bounties. By virtue of New England energy and economy I have been able to eat my own bread and butter and have some left not obtained through any office. If my actions and my sentiments, as above set forth, are not consistent with holding a Government office, I am ready to vacate any time my successor may be appointed, with only one request, which is that as there are several sudden converts to this new organization, made so by the promise of my office, it shall be filled by an original, consistent Copperhead. I can in a measure respect a straightforward rebel or Copperhead, but can do no other than abominate a political Judas bartering away his faith and covering himself with dishonor for an office.
"I am, respectfully, "Osmond Tower, "United States Marshal Western District Michigan."
Mr. Tower is now, and has been for about twelve years, president of the board of education of the city of Ionia, and has been officially connected with the public schools most of the time for over forty years. When the "Home Mutual Fire Insurance Company for Ionia, Montcalm, and Clinton Counties" was organized, Mr. Tower was elected director and president of the company, which office he now holds. The company has been very successful, and is now among the solid fire insurance companies of the State. His family consisted of four sons, three of them living; the eldest, George W., died in February, 1880. Two of his sons were captains in the celebrated Sixth Michigan Cavalry, and one a private in Sherman's army in its "March to the Sea." The younger son, then thirteen years old, wished to enlist as drummer, but while learning to drum the war ended. Mr. Tower has to a great extent retired from active business, and with his estimable wife quietly enjoys the fruits of their early struggles. A man of powerful will, strong prejudices, and positive character, usually acting from impulse, he has made many warm friends as well as bitter enemies. But even his enemies acknowledge that generally his impulses are good, his judgment correct, and his integrity unquestioned. He is a willing and generous friend, and a liberal contributor to all benevolent objects. He is possessed of strong religious convictions, being a Universalist in sentiment, and his moral character is above reproach. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Jonathan Townsend, the father of the gentle man above named, was born in the State of New York in 1800, and married Hannah Hines, who was born in New England in 1799. Joseph Townsend remained at home, working on the farm and attending school, until he was twenty-two years of age, when he went to Syracuse and learned the trade of a carpenter and joiner. After six years he journeyed to Australia, where for four years he was engaged in mining. Upon his return he purchased a farm in Philadelphia, Jefferson Co., N. Y. Mr. Townsend was born in the State of New York, Dec. 24, 1824, and on the 26th of January, 1859, married Mary A. Arnold, daughter of Caleb and Mary Arnold, both natives of New York. In 1864, Mr. Townsend and his wife came to Michigan, and located in Lyons township, Ionia Co., on the place they now occupy. Mrs. Townsend was born in Clayton township, Jefferson Co., N. Y., Aug. 14, 1838. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Townsend are five in number, namely: Charles, Eugene, Minnie E., Harry W., and Jay Townsend. [Source: Portrait and Biographical of Ionia and Montcalm MI, Chapman Bros., Chicago, 1891]
Mr. and Mrs. Mathew Van Vleck
Mathew Van Vleck
Mathew Van Vleck, the second in a family of eight children, was born in Ulster Co., N. Y., May 18, 1794. His parents, John and Sarah Van Vleck, were natives of the same State. Upon the death of his father the care of the family devolved upon the widowed mother. Oct. 10, 1816, when Mathew had arrived at the age of twenty-two years, he married Miss Deborah North, who was born in Ulster Co., N. Y., Jan. 15, 1797, and soon afterwards the couple settled in that county. A few years later they removed to Delaware, and in 1838 they came to Michigan and settled on three hundred and twenty acres of land in Ionia (now Roland) township, Ionia Co., which had been purchased in 1837. The journey occupied fourteen days' time from Detroit, ox-teams being employed and roads having to be cut in places. At that time there were but two families in the township.
To Mr. and Mrs. Van Vleck were born five children, as follows: John, Feb. 26, 1818; Catherine, Nov. 10, 1819; Sarah, April 22, 1822; Peter, Oct. 22, 1824; Albert, Oct. 1, 1826. Mr. Van Vleck lived to see the wilderness in which he had settled changed to fine, fruitful farms, and his children settled all around and within sight of him. The first death in the family was that of Mr. Van Vleck, which occurred April 24, 1880, and in July of the same year the death of the oldest son, John, occurred. Mr. Van Vleck made farming a business until 1854, when he retired from active labor and turned the care of the farm over to his youngest son, Albert. He remained upon the old homestead until his death, his only removal during his life in Michigan being "out of the old house into the new" - from the log cabin to the more tasty frame dwelling. His widow still resides on the old place. Mr. Van Vleck voted for Andrew Jackson for President, and was subsequently a Whig and a Republican. For a number of years he held the position of supervisor in his township, and was also the recipient of numerous smaller official favors. Both himself and his wife were members of the Baptist Church, and in church affairs he always took much interest. He was greatly respected for his manly character and his generous qualities of heart, especially by those in inferior circumstances who partook of his bounty. His early educational advantages were those of the common schools of the time, and were somewhat limited. His memory and all his mental faculties were retained until the last, which, considering his age (eighty-six years), was a matter of wonder to many. His life had been an even one, and he passed away quietly as he had lived. His father was both a farmer and a tanner. ["History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Chauncey Waterbury was born Aug. 1, 1836, in Nassau, Rensselaer Co., N. Y., his father, George Waterbury, having been born at the same place March 30, 1807. The latter was a farmer by occupation. His wife, Eliza (Brown) Waterbury, was born in Rensselaer County in 1805. The father of George Waterbury was a soldier in the war of 1812. Chauncey Waterbury attended school until seventeen years of age, when he began teaching, which he followed for nine winters and one summer. His mother died in April, 1862, and in 1864 he came to Michigan, and engaged for a year in teaching school at Hadley, Lapeer Co. In March, 1865, he located at Ionia and engaged in the building business with O. Waterbury, under the firm-name of O. & C. Waterbury. The firm continued in business until the fall of 1875, and met with good success. In 1866, Mr. Waterbury married Emma L. Cornell, of Ionia, daughter of Rev. Hiram Cornell, an early settler in the county. She was born in this county, Nov. 26, 1846. In 1877, Mr. Waterbury became connected with the People's Mutual Fire Insurance Company of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, as deputy under F. S. Freeman, then secretary of the company. In December, 1877, he was himself elected secretary, and still holds that position. In 1873 he was elected supervisor of the Third and Fourth Wards of Ionia, and has held that office eight years. For four years he has been trustee of the Ionia school district. He is a prominent member of the Masonic fraternity, and for two years has been Master of Ionia Lodge, No. 36, and High Priest of Ionia Chapter, No. 14. For two years he has been chairman of the board of supervisors of Ionia County. He was the second in a family of five children, and has five children of his own,-viz., Denver Jay, May Lunelle, Maurice Glenn, Chester Earl, and Wade Cornell. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
A. J. Webber
Andrew J. Webber, son of Andrew W. and Sophia (Wilkins) Webber, was born in Steuben Co., N. Y., Jan. 7, 1831, and was the youngest son in a family of seven sons and five daughters. His father was engaged in numerous branches of business, being a farmer, merchant, etc. He is now deceased. After the death of his father, A. J. Webber had of necessity to provide for himself. He received a common-school education. In the fall of 1852, in company with his brother, George W. Webber, he removed to Michigan. Was engaged in lumbering on the west shore of Michigan for four years. For the next ten years he was engaged in farming and the mercantile business. In the year 1866 he took charge of the lumber business of Messrs. Hall & Webber, in Mecosta Co., Mich., on the Little Muskegon River. After three years' time he purchased the interest of Mr. Frederick Hall, and since that time has continued the business under the firm-name of Webber Brothers. Oct. 20, 1855, he married Miss Mary C. Abbey, of Reading, Schuyler Co., N. Y., and to them have been born five children,-four sons and a daughter. Mr. Webber now owns a fine farm of four hundred and sixty acres, adjoining the city of Ionia, where he is largely interested in fruit-culture, as well as production of wheat. He makes a specialty of American merino sheep, and has at present a flock of seven hundred. His house, built of the Ionia sandstone, is said to be finest farm-house in the State of Michigan. He is a stalwart Republican politically, but has never engaged in politics or cared to hold office. His fine fortune has been accumulated through the channels of legitimate business,-farming and lumbering. He has been one of the directors of the Second National Bank of Ionia since its organization. Was chosen as president of the Ionia County Agricultural Society at its last meeting. He is a gentleman of large resources, possessing that push and vim necessary to certain success in his various affairs, and has a very large circle of friends. The poor and needy remember with gratitude many acts of kindness from him. He is liberal to all in need, and strictly one of nature's noblemen. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Hon. George W. Webber
This gentleman, who has won distinguished honors, was born Nov. 25, 1825, at Newbury, Orange Co., Vt., and is descended from the earliest settlers of that portion of the Connecticut Valley, members of the family having located both on the Vermont and New Hampshire sides of the stream. His paternal grandfather was a successful farmer, and owned the fine farm belonging with the "Profile House," among the mountains of Franconia, N. H. He kept what was then known as the "Webber Inn," a few miles from the present hotel. He was well known throughout that region, and was universally respected. The members of the family for at least three generations have, through great force of character, made for themselves excellent records. Andrew Webber, father of George W., was also a farmer by occupation. In 1828 he removed to Steuben Co., N. Y., where, with the aid of his six sons, he improved several farms. He engaged also in mercantile pursuits, and his sons were thus afforded opportunities for acquiring a thorough knowledge of business affairs. The subsequent career of each has shown that these opportunities were not neglected. George W. Webber was educated in the common schools in the neighborhood of his home, and at the academy in Alfred, Allegany Co., N. Y. At the age of twenty years he engaged in business as a lumber-dealer and general merchant. July 18, 1850, he married Miss Antoinette C. Abbey, daughter of Jonathan E. Abbey, an old resident of Ulster Co., N. Y. Miss Abbey was born Nov. 29, 1830, and, like her husband, was descended from a race of pioneers. This marriage was celebrated in Steuben Co., N. Y. In 1852, Mr. Webber came to Michigan, and for six years was engaged in lumbering in Manistee County, which was then very new and contained no roads or post-routes. Mail was carried by Indians. Manistee had not yet a village organization. In 1856, when John C. Fremont was the nominee of the Republican party for President, Manistee was the banner Republican county in the State, giving but three Democratic votes. This result was largely owing to the efforts of Mr. Webber. In 1858 he removed to Ionia County, which has since been his home, and with whose interests his own have been identical. He engaged in mercantile business at Lyons in company with his brother, S. W. Webber, to whom he sold his interest after five years. His next location was at Ionia, where he entered into business with H. J. Wilson, a pioneer of the place. He was also engaged in lumbering on the Little Muskegon River, in company with Hon. Fred Hall, this partnership continuing three years, the firm-name being Hall & Webber. At the end of three years Mr. Hall's interest was purchased by A. J. Webber, and the firm became Webber Brothers, who have continued in business until the present. The firm of Webber & Wilson, previously mentioned, discontinued business after a prosperous career of five years. The Webber Brothers have also been engaged in farming near the city of Ionia, and became the owners of one of the finest farms in the county; this is now the property of A. J. Webber. The enterprising village of Mecosta was founded by the Messrs. Webber and built upon their land. About 1870, George W. Webber engaged in a private banking enterprise at Muir with his brother, S. W. Webber, to whom, after a continuance of four years, he sold his interest. He was one of those most prominent in organizing the Second National Bank of Ionia, of which institution the following were the officers: President, W. C. Page; Vice-President, George W. Webber; Cashier, Virgil Van Vleek. A year later Mr. Webber was elected president, a position he has since continued to hold. This is one of the most reliable banks in the State. Mr. Webber was one of the village trustees of Ionia at the time of its organization as a city, and assisted in drafting its charter. He has since been twice elected mayor of the city, and has assisted in many ways in advancing the interests of the place. The Webber Block was built in 1879, at a cost of fifteen thousand dollars, the Webber brownstone block in 1880, at a cost of thirty thousand dollars. Rooms in the latter block were fitted up by Mr. Webber especially for the Ladies' Library Association, and donated to their use as long as Mr. Webber or his wife shall live. Steam is used for heating. Mr. Webber is also principal owner in the Second National Bank Block, including two stores and the bank-building. During his term of office as mayor many new improvements were made in the city, among them being numbered an iron bridge over Grand River and a high-water road; also the purchase of valuable property for the purpose of laying water-pipe. The period was one of marked improvement, and was the most prosperous the city has ever seen. Mr. Webber takes especial interest in educational matters, and has aided liberally in the enlargement of facilities for learning in his city. Churches and benevolent institutions have also been remembered by him, and those who apply to him for assistance are certain to share his bounty. He is a man of pleasing address and fine personal appearance, has a strong character and an inflexible will, and these, combined with practical sense and enterprise, have brought to him success in all his business undertakings. Nov. 2, 1880, Mr. Webber was elected to Congress from the Fifth District of Michigan by a plurality of eleven thousand two hundred and forty-three votes, and a majority of two thousand and seven over all competitors. This is a fitting testimonial to his worth as a man. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Samuel W. Webber [from "Representative Men of Michigan"], banker and capitalist of Muir, Ionia Co., was born in Newbury, Vt., May 25, 1823. His parents, Andrew J. and Sophia (Wilkins) Webber, were both descended from early settlers in Vermont. His father was engaged in farming, and when Samuel was four years old moved from Vermont to Steuben Co., N. Y. He was one of a family of six brothers, and until he was twenty-three years old spent his time in farm-work and in attending the common school in winter. In 1846 he was enabled, by running a little in debt, to buy his father's farm. In the same year, June 27th, he married Miss Marietta Bowen, who, after sharing his burdens until April 2, 1859, died, leaving two sons. After spending a year in mercantile business in Steuben County, Mr. Webber sold his land and with his family joined the great tide of Western emigration. He had never visited that part of the country, but, attracted by the glowing accounts of the Grand River valley, decided to settle in Portland, Ionia Co. There he located some new land, and spent four years in bringing it under cultivation. This he considers the hardest work of his life. During this time occurred his wife's death. Shortly after, he sold his Portland farm, and in 1859 moved to the village of Lyons and engaged in general mercantile business. He soon bought a farm of one hundred and sixty acres, which he cultivated in connection with his other occupations. By subsequent purchase this farm has been increased to seven hundred acres. In 1868, in partnership with his brother, George W. Webber, he opened a private bank in Muir. This partnership continued four years, when Mr. S. W. Webber bought his brother's interest. The next year he bought a controlling interest in the First National Bank of Muir, with which he has since been connected as president. He still cultivates his farm in Lyons, and spends much of his time there in summer. Although he is a successful business man, he experiences keen delight in attending to his farm-labors. At Lyons, in June, 1861, he married Marian N. Bowen, sister of his first wife. They have one son, who is now ten years old. The eldest son, George B. Webber, died in 1871, at the age of twenty-four; he was at that time cashier of the bank. His second son, William A. Webber, is now twenty-seven years old, and is engaged in the bank with his father. Mr. Webber professes no form of religious belief, although he is a liberal supporter of churches of every denomination. He has invariably and consistently avoided the responsibilities of public life. He is a man of medium height, kindly expression, and shrewd, penetrating gaze. He is universally respected and esteemed. [Source: "History of Ionia & Montcalm Counties, Michigan . . ." by John S. Schenck, Philadelphia, Pa., D. W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
John B. Welch
John B. Welch was born in Schoharie Co., N. Y., March 21, 1816. His parents, Vine and Ruth Welch, were natives of Vermont, and settled in Schoharie Co., N. Y., on Petersburg Hill, on what was formerly called Peter Smith's Patent. At that time lands in New York were held by individual rights and never sold in fee-simple, the rentals being payable in commodities and money. The land occupied by the father of John B. was rented for a certain number of bushels of wheat per annum, and after the first crop was gathered the soil settled down to hardpan and no wheat could be raised. The lease was kept up for about fifteen years, when, the crops totally failing, the rent fell behind and his property was taken in payment, thus throwing him upon the world with a large family, John at that time being but eight years of age. The children of Vine and Ruth Welch were as follows: Lene, Lucy, Loriney, Eliza, Ezekiel, Simon, Polly, John, Vine, and Ebenezer, who died in infancy. When John was nine years of age his parents removed to Herkimer Co., N. Y. At fourteen years of age John left home and went to live with his sister Eliza and her husband, John Small, with whom he remained, working for his board and clothing and enjoying the advantages of the district school during the winters, until he arrived at the age of eighteen years, when with his brother Ezekiel he went to the village of Frankford, in Herkimer County, where he learned the butcher's trade, following that occupation during the summer months until the spring of 1836, when he removed to Michigan, reaching Ionia May 22d of that year, being accompanied by his brother Simon and brother-in-law Richard Dye and Philander Hinds, who was brother-in-law to Richard Dye. At that time but three log houses were embraced within what now constitutes the city limits of Ionia.
Upon reaching Ionia, Mr. Welch's entire capital consisted only of seven dollars in money, an old shot-gun, and a French watch worth two dollars. He succeeded, however, in disposing of the watch for five dollars. Upon his arrival in Ionia he found the family of Samuel Dexter, who had removed there from Herkimer three years previous, and by whom he was cordially received. Here he parted with his brother Simon and Richard Dye, who proceeded to Kalamazoo for the purpose of entering their land. Mr. Welch found employment with Mr. Dexter until October 1st, when he engaged with William McCausland in the butchering business, which industry was at that time rendered profitable by the location of the United States Land-Office at Ionia. About this time provisions became scarce in Ionia, owing to a frost in August which destroyed the crops, and the winter stock was rapidly consumed. September, 1836, his father and brothers Ezekiel and Vine arrived in Ionia, bringing with them three barrels of flour and one of pork, which were soon disposed of, and it became apparent that before navigation opened all would be short of provisions, and John was selected by Parks, Warner, and others to make a trip to Detroit for the purpose of securing a supply. This was a hazardous undertaking, owing to the severity of the weather and the swollen condition of the rivers, filled with floating ice, through which he was obliged to swim his oxen. However, upon the 1st December, 1836, he set out upon his perilous journey, and reached Detroit after a long and exceedingly difficult and dangerous journey. The entire trip to Detroit and back occupied thirty days. Out of the stock of provisions thus procured Mr. Welch received one barrel of pork, valued at forty-five dollars, and one barrel of flour, valued at twenty-two dollars. John Welch, together with his father and brother Vine (the latter now a resident of Keene township, Ionia Co.), now turned his attention to preparing a home for the reception of the remainder of the family. Land was cleared and a log house erected, and everything made comfortable in anticipation of their arrival, which occurred in the following May. In June, 1837, Mr. Welch purchased from Col. Roberts a portion of the farm in Ionia township upon which his son, John D., now resides. In 1839 he returned to New York, where he married Miss Marcia V. Wilson, daughter of Eliphalet and Matilda Wilson. Dec. 10, 1840, Mr. Welch returned to Ionia and began the work of preparing a home for himself and wife, and in September, 1841, revisited New York for the purpose of bringing his wife to Ionia. By this union Mr. Welch has had three children,-namely, Eliza M., Ruth K., and Eli. Ruth died at Pleasant Hill Seminary, Pennsylvania, and Eli when six months of age. Mrs. Welch died in 1846, and in 1848 Mr. Welch married as his second wife the widow of Amos N. Roberts, and daughter of Seldon Morgan, of Ilion, N. Y. By this marriage he has had four children,-namely, Marcia, Mary, Darius, and Amos. The principal occupation of Mr. Welch has been that of farming, holding that as the surest, sweetest, and most satisfactory. His shipments of wheat and flour have been very extensive, and he has also dealt largely in wool, his transactions amounting at times to one hundred and fifty thousand dollars per annum. When the war broke out Mr. Welch became actively interested in recruiting for the army, and assisted in raising the first full company under the call for seventy-five thousand volunteers, and which formed a part of the Third Michigan. He was afterwards commissioned by Governor Blair to raise the Twenty-first Regiment of Volunteers, which he did, being ably assisted by Rev. Isaac Erett and Mr. Fred. Hall and wife. Mr. Welch has been the father of seven children, but has cared for twenty until they have arrived at maturity or been otherwise provided for, and all have become good and respected citizens. His first vote was cast for Martin Van Buren as President, and until 1852 he was a strong adherent to the Democratic party. Upon the formation of the Republican party he joined its ranks, but has since affiliated with the Greenback party. Mr. Welch held the office of under-sheriff in Ionia County for eight years, and served as supervisor two years, and member of the Legislature four years. He is a strict temperance man, and is also an abstainer from tobacco in every form. Religiously, he was brought up under Methodist training, but when fourteen years of age became a member of the Christian or Disciple Church organized at Ionia, contributing generously of his means towards the erection of the house of worship owned by that denomination, and which now stands on Washington Street. Mr. Welch is now sixty-four years of age, and resides at Langton, Elk Co., Kan. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Sylvester K. Welch
Sylvester K. Welch was born in the town of Pawlet, Rutland Co., Vt., in May, 1821. He was the son of Aimer and Bulah (Kent) Welch. The elder Welch was a thrifty farmer and an enterprising and successful man. He removed to the town of Mendon, Monroe Co., N. Y., in 1822. He died in 1830. After the death of his father, Sylvester went to live with an uncle in Steuben Co., N. Y., with whom he remained until his emigration to Portland in July, 1843. In 1851 he was married to Miss Sarah L., daughter of John and Phebe Hamlin. Mr. Hamlin was one of the prominent early settlers of Portland. He was originally from Vermont, from whence he removed to the town of Byron, Genesee Co., N. Y.; from Byron he emigrated to Orleans County, where Mrs. Welch was born Jan. 12, 1824. In November, 1843, he came to Michigan, and settled on a farm on section 22 in the town of Portland, where he resided until his death, which occurred in 1876. He was a kind, Christian gentleman and was highly esteemed. Mrs. Welch received a good education, which she made practically useful to herself and others by teaching, which avocation she followed until her marriage. In July, 1849, Mr. Welch purchased the farm on which he resided at the time of his death, which occurred March 8, 1880; he did not, however, make a permanent settlement upon it until after his marriage. He was regarded as a thrifty and progressive farmer, and one of the valuable and influential citizens of Portland. He identified himself with the affairs of the town, and for a number of years represented its interests upon the board of supervisors, of which he was considered a valuable and efficient member. He took a leading and advanced position in all matters affecting the interests of Portland. Mr. and Mrs. Welch were the parents of five children - viz., Aimer, Albina (now Mrs. Gibbs), Nettie, and Marion Welch. [Source: "History of Ionia & Montcalm Counties, Michigan . . .," by John S. Schenck, Philadelphia, Pa., D. W. Ensign & Co., 1881; tr. by GT Transcription Team]
Hon. W. B. Wells*
* From "Representative Men of Michigan"
Hon. W. B. Wells, of Ionia, Mich., was born in Hartwick, Otsego, Co., N. Y., March 25, 1828. His father, Benjamin Wells, a native of Rhode Island, who settled in New York early in life, died near Fallasburg, Kent Co., in December, 1861. His mother, a lady of unusual ability and force of character, was from Schoharie Co., N. Y., and died June 13, 1838. From boyhood Mr. Wells has been distinguished by his insatiable thirst for knowledge. Not satisfied with the meagre opportunities for education which the elementary schools of those days afforded, he determined to win his way to a broader field of culture. With this end in view, at the age of nineteen he bought some land, for which he was to pay one hundred and ten dollars, and in order to meet the obligation thus incurred engaged to "grub out" thirty-five acres of land on Flat River, Kent Co., at three dollars and a half an acre. After six months of labor he completed the task, having occupied the interval during the winter in chopping wood for a suit of clothes. He then set off to visit an uncle in Paris, Canada, walking the whole distance of three hundred miles in eight days. After spending the winter with his uncle he went to Yates Co., N. Y., where he worked at harvesting the following summer. With his earnings he then went to college, prosecuting his studies successively at Prattsburg and Lima, N. Y., and at Oberlin, Ohio. In 1853 he commenced reading law in the office of Blanchard & Bell, Ionia, Mich., and after four years of close application, during which he supported himself by teaching, he was admitted to the bar and immediately began to practice. The offices with which Mr. Wells has been honored during the twenty years of his professional career form the best criterion of his legal ability. He has been county clerk, prosecuting attorney, and, for eight years, judge of Probate of Ionia County. In 1876 he was again elected prosecuting attorney, and re-elected in 1878. In politics Judge Wells is an uncompromising Republican, and cast his first vote for John C. Fremont. While not avowedly associated with any religious body, he is thoroughly in sympathy with the objects of all Christian and benevolent societies. His mental vigor is well balanced by a sound constitution, his energy is untiring, and his perseverance of the most persistent type. When he chose the profession of law he determined to master its spirit as well as its form, and his large practice bears ample testimony to his success. He is an earnest and forcible speaker as well as a sound lawyer. In his positions of trust and honor he has been faithful in the performance of every duty, always a champion of the right, and has reflected credit upon every office which he has held. An attractive conversationalist, his sympathetic nature and liberal views, his sincerity and candor, make him a favorite in Ionia County. He clings to old friends with tenacity and is devoted to the welfare of his children. In May, 1858, he married Nancy Davis, of Otisco, Ionia Co., a lady of rare accomplishments, who died a few months after her marriage, leaving a large circle of friends. Mr. Wells married, in October, 1861, Ellen A. Hatch, daughter of Samuel A. Hatch, of Chatauqua Co., N. Y. She was a graduate of the seminary at Mount Holyoke, Mass., and a lady of remarkable ability and talents. She died Aug. 23, 1874, leaving three children, Ben, Nanta, and Morris. An obituary notice which appeared in the Ionia Sentinel will show the high appreciation in which she was held in the community: "Mrs. Wells was a lady of finished education and superior mind, well informed upon all the topics of the day. She was not wanting in the domestic virtues; she looked well to the ways of her household. Industrious in her habits, economical, and prudent, her management was marked by energy and indomitable perseverance. As a wife the heart of her husband did safely trust in her. She loved her children with a self-sacrificing devotion and watched most carefully over their mental and moral development. She was always an attentive and kind neighbor, and the various public interests of the community, such as education, temperance, and the promotion of literary culture, were ever near to her heart." Morris B. Wells, a brother of W. B. Wells, was born Feb. 3, 1834, and, a native of the same town as the judge, emigrated with his father to Michigan in 1843, and settled near Fallasburg, Kent Co. In 1855 went to Oberlin College, Ohio, and in 1856 to Antioch College, located at Yellow Springs, same State. While attending these colleges he devoted a considerable portion of his time to the study of the natural sciences, in which he became proficient. He also became a fine Latin, German, and French scholar. In 1857 he came to Ionia and remained in the law-office of his brother (the judge) for two years. After a very creditable examination was admitted to the bar. He then entered the Michigan University as a member of the first law class, graduating with high honors. In 1860 he was elected Circuit Court commissioner of Ionia County. In the spring of 1861 he resigned this office and enlisted in Company B of the Sixteenth Michigan Volunteer Infantry, and was appointed second lieutenant of that company. In the summer of 1862 was transferred to the Twenty-first Regiment and made adjutant, taking a conspicuous part in all the engagements in which his regiment participated, and for meritorious conduct was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel, and during the terrible charge of Gen. Bragg at the battle of Chickamauga, where the Union forces under Gens. Thomas and Rosecrans did such heroic fighting, Col. Wells was killed, but not until long after the war was his grave discovered and all doubts as to his death dispelled. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Michael R. Weter
Michael R. Weter was born in Oneida Co., N.Y., April 17, 1821. He was the only child of John Weter, who moved there from Rensselaer County, when Michael R. was six years old, and commenced to clear up a farm, but died soon after. His mother returned to Rensselaer county with her boy who went to live with his aunt, where remained until he was thirteen years of age, when his aunt died and he was thrown upon his own resources. Never having enjoyed the luxuries of a permanent home, his great ambition was to have one of his own. For the first few years he worked out by the month at such employment as he could get, taking good care of his small earnings. When he had arrived at the age of manhood he had saved a few hundred dollars. He was married Feb. 27, 1844, to Emeline R. Gibbs, daughter of John Gibbs, then living at Pittstown, N.Y. That summer an expedition of several families started from that neighborhood for the burr oak plains of Otisco. Mr. Gibbs joined the emigrant party, coming to Otisco in the summer of 1844, where he purchased two lots of eighty acres each, -- one for himself and one for Mr. Weter, who had sent the money by him. Mr. Gibbs returned East, and the next spring the family moved out and made a permanent settlement on lands adjoining. Mr. Gibbs was a man of strong common sense and good judgment, and by his industry and thrift secured a competence. He lived to see a prosperous community developed from the primitive forest, and died April 22, 1864. Mrs. Weter was the oldest of seven children. She inherited some of the enterprise and spirit of her father, and was well calculated for the difficulties of pioneer life. When Mr. Weter arrived on his land he had a pair of oxen, and little else. He first built a temporary shanty, and commenced the improvement of his land under the most discouraging auspices. To procure the necessaries of life he went out to work by the day. The shanty answered for shelter the first summer. That fall a small house was commenced and inclosed so they occupied it that winter. The next summer it was made more comfortable; and so on the improvements were made year by year, under the most strenuous rules of industry and economy, until they now have a fine farm of one hundred and sixty acres, containing a commodious house with elaborate outbuildings, and all the modern improvements in farm machinery, and may be considered the model farm of the town (a view of which may be seen in this work).
They have two children, -- Albert E., who married Sarah J. Slawson, and who lives in Belding, and Jennie A., who married Charles M. Wise, and occupies the old home with the parents. The business of Mr. Weter's life has been that of a farmer, and he may be truly classed as a self-made, representative man in that calling. This pioneer couple are among the best-known and most highly-respected in the community where they live, and by their judicious management have such surroundings as give them ease and comfort. [Source: "History of Ionia & Montcalm Counties, Michigan . . ." by John S. Schenck, Philadelphia, Pa., D. W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
A. M. Willett
A. M. Willett was born in Oswego Co., N. Y., April 18, 1829. When about six months old his parents removed to Onondaga Co., N. Y. He received a common-school education, and, losing his father at the age of fifteen, soon after left home and apprenticed himself to learn the carpenter's and joiner's trade, attending school during the winter seasons, and subsequently becoming himself a pedagogue and wielding the "birch and rule" for two winters. He continued working at his trade in New York until the spring of 1850, when he changed his abiding-place to Minnesota. In November of the same year he returned to New York. In 1852 he was married to Julia Yager, of Skaneateles, N. Y. Her birth occurred in Onondaga County in 1831. In the fall of 1853 he came to Michigan, and until 1860 was engaged at his trade at Muir, Ionia Co. In the latter year he purchased eighty acres of land in North Plains, and relinquished his trade for the life of a farmer. He has continued to add to his original purchase until he is at present the owner of one hundred and ninety-two acres of fine land. In the fall of 1861 he raised a company of men, which was mustered into Col. Berdan's famous regiment of United States Sharpshooters, and remained in active service for thirteen months, at the end of which time he resigned on account of disability. Mr. Willett is a Republican in politics, and at the November election in 1880 was elected to a seat in the Legislature of the State. He has also served two years as supervisor of his township. He and his wife became members of the Disciples' Church in 1855, and are still connected with it. His children are three in number, and all daughters, one of whom is married, the others remaining at home. His father died in 1844, and his mother in 1874. Mr. Willett makes a specialty of breeding American merino sheep, and is more extensively engaged in that business than any other person in the county. [Source: Portrait and Biographical of Ionia and Montcalm MI, Chapman Bros., Chicago, 1891]
Lewis Willey, son and fourth child (in a family of seven) of Ebenezer and Ruth Willey, was born in Watertown, Jefferson Co., N. Y., Sept. 26, 1815. When but six years of age he left home to live with a farmer in the same township, and remained with him eight years. From this time until he was twenty-one be worked on farms at various places, and attended school winters. In 1836 he came to Michigan, and, after spending three months at Monroe, proceeded to Portland, Ionia Co. For two years he found employment at stipulated wages in different places, and in 1838 he married Nancy Murch, daughter of Henry Murch, of Portland. Subsequently he purchased forty acres of new and unimproved land in that township, and settled and began work upon it as a pioneer. Eight years after their marriage Mrs. Willey died, and, in 1847, Mr. Willey married Catharine Masher [or Mosher], of Lyons, a native of the State of New York. By his first wife Mr. Willey was the father of four children - Orville B., Lewis B., Theresa D., and Nancy C. Willey. His second wife has borne him one child - Mary R. Willey. The children are all married, and their father has given a farm to each, and they are in prosperous circumstances. Mr. Willey, from having started poor and in debt for the forty acres he first purchased, became in time the owner of nine hundred acres of land, and is now one of the wealthiest men in the township of Lyons. With politics he has never meddled. His house was entered by two burglars at three o'clock on the morning of Oct. 8, 1876, and in the struggle which took place Mr. Willey, was severely clubbed, besides being shot in the leg. The robbers were finally arrested and imprisoned.
John A. Williams, father of Edwin, was born in West Bloomfield, Ontario Co., N. Y., Oct. 16, 1798, and about 1826 married Patience Jenks, who was born in Tioga Co., N. Y., about 1800. This marriage took place in Oakland Co., Mich., in which Mr. Williams was an early settler. He cleared and improved a farm in the township of West Bloomfield, and there Edwin It. Williams was born Sept. 20, 1836. In 1856 the old farm was sold out, and the family removed to North Plains, Ionia Co., taking up a section of land. In May, 1868, occurred the death of Mrs. Williams, Sr., and that of her husband in February, 1880. ["History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Edwin R. Williams, who had remained with his parents until they removed to Ionia County, received then from his father two hundred acres of the section which had been purchased, and began at once to improve it. On the 27th of March, 1860, he married Miss Jane R. Curtis, who was born in 1836, in Niagara Co., N. Y. Her father, William Curtis, was born in Ticonderoga, N. Y., and was a farmer by occupation. Mrs. Williams was the oldest in a family of seven children. Her father is now living in Wisconsin, to which State he removed in 1871. His wife died when the daughter was quite young, and the latter met Mr. Williams while on a visit to her sister in Michigan. To Mr. and Mrs. Williams were born five children, a son and four daughters, who are all living but one daughter. Mrs. Williams died May 4, 1870, and on the 6th of December, in the same year, Mr. Williams married Miss Vinnie L. Higbee, daughter of Benjamin F. and Laura M. Higbee. She was born March 11, 1849, in Orleans township, Ionia Co. Her parents were natives of Oneida Co., N. Y., but were married in Michigan, in which State they were early settlers. They had a family of six children, in which Mrs. Williams was the third. Mr. Williams' children are as follows: By first wife: Ella E., born July 28, 1861; Minnie S., born April 28, 1863; Frederick S., born March 23, 1865; Florence M., born March 19, 1867; Jennie Patience, born Aug. 17, 1869, died Jan. 12, 1874. By second wife: Grace A., born Jan. 4, 1873; Frank Edwin, born March 8, 1875; Earl Rutheven, born Aug. 24, 1876. Mr. Williams, although his family has always lived on the farm, has been for a large portion of the time engaged in other business, buying and shipping stock, acting as general agent three years for E. Ball & Co., of Canton, Ohio, in the sale of agricultural implements, etc., during which time he traveled in Michigan and Wisconsin. Since the death of his first wife he has been engaged exclusively in farming. His first farm included two hundred acres on section 16 in North Plains, but in 1874 he changed his place of residence to a farm of fifty-four acres on section 30. In the winter of 1879-80 he sold that and purchased his present residence in Orange township, containing two hundred and forty acres, and is engaged in general farming. In October, 1873, a residence on his farm was destroyed by fire, causing a loss of six thousand dollars. Although taking an active part in politics, Mr. Williams is thoroughly independent, is progressive in his views, and awake to the interests of the class of producers to which he belongs. He is an earnest and determined Patron of Husbandry, and Master of Ionia County Pomona Grange. Is also a member of the Masonic fraternity, having been one of the charter members of the lodge at Hubbardston, and in which he was Master when he left it, and is a member of the Disciple Church, as was his first wife. His present wife is connected with the Baptist Church at Ionia. ["History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Israel M. Wolverton.
I. M. Wolverton, from the town of Conquest, Cayuga Co., N. Y., came to Michigan in 1848, and purchased forty acres of land in the township of Eureka, Montcalm Co. He remained there until 1863, holding the office of justice of the peace one term, and in the year last named moved to Orange township, Ionia Co., in the month of February, purchasing one hundred acres on section 8. In the spring of 1864 he assisted in organizing the Methodist Episcopal Church of Orange, the second religious society in the township, the Free- Will Baptists having organized the previous winter. Mr. Wolverton's father, John Wolverton, was born at Conquest, N. Y., Jan. 6, 1802, and in the spring of 1848 brought his family to Michigan, settling in Montcalm County, where he died May 1, 1852. He had been twice married, first to Miss Drusilla Christian, Dec. 6, 1822, having four children by her, and second, Jane 10, 1829, to Betsy Beebe, who bore him six children. Six children accompanied him to Michigan. John Wolverton, during the administration of Governor William C. Bouok, of New York, was guard at the State penitentiary at Auburn. Israel M. Wolverton was born at Conquest, Cayuga Co., N. Y., July 13, 1826, and came to Michigan with his father, being the only survivor of the latter's children by his first wife. He made some improvements on the forty acres he had purchased, and in September, 1849, returned to Cayuga Co., N. Y., and married Elsie Wackman, Sept. 1, 1850. Her parents were natives of the county named. October 7th following, Mr. Wolverton brought his bride to Michigan. In November, 1862, he exchanged his first purchase for one hundred acres of the farm he now owns, and proceeded at once to put the latter in excellent shape. Sixty acres have since been added to it, and one hundred and twenty are under cultivation. Besides assisting in the formation of the first Methodist Episcopal Church in the township, Mr. Wolverton aided in building the Le Valley church-edifice. Politically, he was a Democrat of the Jeffersonian school, although at present working with the Democratic party. He is trustee, class-leader, steward, and recording steward in his church, and has held also civil offices. His children have been four in number - viz., Drusilla A., born Oct. 5, 1851, now Mrs. George W. Benedict, of Orange township; Sarah J., born Aug. 22, 1853, now Mrs. Emerson F. Benedict, of same township; Elmer S., born May 19, 1855, married, June 1, 1877, to Miss Mattie Rankin, and residing upon the home-farm; and a son, born Jan. 14, 18__, and died January 19th. Miss Rankin's parents were natives of Jefferson Co,, N. Y., and are now residents of Belleville, Ontario, Canada. Mrs. Israel Wolverton united at the same time with her husband with the Methodist Episcopal Church, about 1857. ["History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Hon. Erastus Yeomans was born in Lebanon, Conn., Aug. 11, 1791. His parents' names were Daniel and Esther Yeomans. At the age of sixteen he removed with them to German Flats, Herkimer Co., N. Y. The ensuing year he engaged as teacher in one of the public schools of the county. Evidence of his efficiency in this capacity at the early age of seventeen is given in the fact that he continued in the same school for nearly three years, with an advance of salary each year. Soon after this, in the war of 1812, he demonstrated his fitness to be a citizen of the Republic by taking his place in the ranks of her defenders.
March 19, 1815, he married Phebe Arnold, of Fairfield, N. Y. His parents being advanced in years their care devolved upon him and his wife, which duty was conscientiously discharged. Discerning that the future of his young family would be improved in the West, he emigrated with five other families to the then Territory of Michigan. The magnitude of such an undertaking can, at this time, hardly be estimated. The party, having chartered a canal boat, put on board all their goods and embarked for the West, April 20, 1833, arriving at Buffalo on the 7th of May. Here the heavy household goods and farming implements were shipped by sailing vessel to Grand Haven, and the party went by steamer to Detroit. After the necessary preparation for a trip across the Territory the company started, passing through Pontiac and other settlements in their course. On the eighth day out they took a guide to lead them through the wilderness, in which they had to cut their way slowly and painfully. When about thirty miles from their destination they were detained by an event distressing and mournful in character - the sickness, death, and burial of a child of one of the families. Resuming their march, they reached the present site of Ionia City on the 28th of May. The purchase from the Indians of little patches of clearing with crops of corn and vegetables planted having been effected, the party exchanged their tents for bark wigwams. The Indians, well satisfied with the bargain, moved on a few miles to be ready for a similar transaction with the next new-comers. A number of the most able-bodied colonists were now sent to convey to their settlement on flat-bottomed boats, propelled by poles and strong arms, the goods which had been landed at Grand Haven. This accomplished, the erection of more suitable dwellings was begun. Not the least of the discomforts endured by them at this time were the mosquitoes. An empty wine pipe in which articles had been packed, placed with the open end towards a smudge, afforded to Mr. Yeomans a secure retreat, and an opportunity for much-needed sleep. The season being so far advanced, only the corn and vegetables purchased of the Indians could for that year be grown. They had no provision for grinding the corn, consequently had to prepare it for food in the Indian fashion. The large stumps of trees yet firmly fixed in the ground were hollowed into mortars, in which the corn was crushed until by obtaining a large coffee-mill it could be coarsely ground. This source of supply served to bridge over the times of sharp necessity caused by scarcity of breadstuff, which could be obtained only from Detroit by the way of Grand Haven. In 1835 a run of small mill-stones was procured and put in the basement of the saw-mill which had been erected. With the official organization and administration of the affairs of his county and town Mr. Yeomans was closely identified.
He was appointed first postmaster of Ionia County, receiving his commission from Amos Kendall, Postmaster-General under President Jackson, which position he held for six years. In 1841 he was elected associate judge of the county, continuing to serve in that capacity for eight years. He has always been active in advancing the best interests of humanity and of the community. He is the only surviving one of the five pioneers who, with their families, constituted the colony. He is now in his ninetieth year, and, without departure from truth, it may be said of him that "the silvery radiance cast athwart his locks by the sunset of life" is not dimmed by a single charge of wrong to his fellow-men.
Mrs. Erastus Yeomans was born in Smithfield, R. I., March 18, 1797. Her parents, Job and Hannah Arnold, were of prominent families in the early history of Rhode Island. She was one of a large family of children, and early gave evidence of that amiability and strength of character which as wife, mother, and friend made her in these relations a tower of strength through life. At the age of ten she received a present of a pair of gold earrings for her faithful attendance, day and night, upon her grandmother, who was entirely blind. At the age of twelve a string of gold beads was the recognition of her continued faithfulness to her charge. Her educational advantages were limited to the common schools of the time. She removed with her parents to Fairfield, Herkimer Co., N. Y., where she was married to Erastus Yeomans, March 19, 1815. This union was a most happy one in all that makes home the "one ray of happiness that survived the fall," and a home the influence of which pervades as with a blessing the lives of those reared around the hearthstone. The children born of this union were Sanford A., Amanda D., Harriet, Hiram, Sarah M., Emily, Mary M., Harriet A. Possessing to an eminent degree soundness of judgment and moral force, she stood by her husband, "staying up his hands" and bearing with unwavering spirit the burdens and hardships of a pioneer mother. One incident may be mentioned as illustrative of her character. The delusion of Millerism which swept over the land found many believers among her neighbors and friends. The church of which she and her husband had been almost life-long members did not escape, the pastor himself becoming a convert. In one of the last meetings before the direful day her intense convictions overcame a naturally retiring disposition, and, rising in her place, she denounced the whole thing as a sham and delusion, disgraceful alike to a Christian profession or common intelligence. On the conclusion of her remarks the meeting was closed, no one feeling able to escape the force of her denunciation.
It is impossible in a few brief lines to do justice to a life like hers, and it must suffice to say that she was faithful to her day and generation in the sphere in which she moved.
"Honor and shame from no condition rise: Act well your part; there all the honor lies."
In this sense hers was a life crowned with honor. She "entered into rest" June 25, 1864, and her memory is treasured as a rich heritage by her descendants and friends. [Source: "History of Ionia & Montcalm Counties, Michigan . . ." by John S. Schenck, Philadelphia, Pa., D. W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
Hon. Sanford A. Yeomans
Hon. Sanford A. Yeomans, Ionia, Mich., was born in the town of German Flats, Herkimer Co., N. Y., Nov. 16, 1816. He is the eldest of nine children, and received his education in the public school of his birthplace. At the age of seventeen he joined, with his parents, the colony which settled in the Grand River Valley. He remained with them until the age of twenty-four, sharing in all the hardships of pioneer life. The forty-acre farm on which he began for himself, and upon which he still lives, has, by industry and economy, enlarged to nearly a section in size, and joins the corporate limits of the city of Ionia on the northwest. In January, 1840, he married Abigail Thompson, a daughter of Mr. Levi Thompson, of Pownal, Bennington Co., Vt. She had come to Michigan with her uncle, Dexter Arnold, and his family, who settled in Ionia County. By this union four children were born to him, three of whom, two sons and one daughter, are still living. Shortly after the birth of the fourth child his wife died. In November, 1848, he married Marietta A., daughter of the late Chauncey M. Stebbins. Mrs. Yeomans is still living, the mother of three children. In the business and politics of his county Mr. Yeomans has long been an active participant. In politics he is a "stalwart" Republican, having been identified with the Republican party since its formation under the oaks at Jackson. His fellow-citizens have shown their confidence in him by successively electing him to many positions of trust and responsibility in his town and county. In 1859 he was appointed one of the commissioners to lay the Ionia, Houghton, and Mackinaw State road. In 1867 he was a member of the State Convention to revise the constitution of Michigan. He was elected to the State Legislature for the session of 1877, and re-elected to the session of 1879, from the district in which he has resided for nearly half a century. He is a prominent stockholder and director of the First National Bank of Ionia. In this, as in other business relations, he has won the respect and confidence of the community. Mr. Yeomans has ever been an industrious, energetic man, of powerful will, and richly endowed with that mental quality more to be desired than genius,-common sense. Few of the earlier settlers of the Grand River valley have had greater success. From a small beginning there has been steady and uninterrupted progression in all the material interests in which he has engaged. He is now in the prime of life, and his strength and vigor seem to give promise of many years of service and usefulness. [Source: "History of Ionia and Montcalm Counties, Michigan: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of their Prominent Men and Pioneers"; by John S. Schenck; D.W. Ensign & Co., 1881]
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