Saturday, October 8, 2011

James N. Decker of Hinton Township

Here is another letter published published in the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan) from Thursday May 9, 1878.

James N. Decker (found on Page 1, Column 5)
I commenced farming twelve years ago next May, on about ten acres of cleared land in the town of Hinton, and now have 135 acres improved.  Have 60 acres in wheat, mostly new land.  My best yield of wheat was 480 bushels from ten acres of ground, or 48 bushels per acre the field through, about five years ago.  Since then I have raised as high as 30 bushels per acre, and my average has been 25 bushels.  Oats, about 35 bushels, and peas 20 bushels per acre.  Potatoes from 150 to 200 bushels.  I practice mixed farming - raising cattle, sheep and swine - not confining myself to any one particular kind.  I find a profit in all, but my principal dependence is wheat.  I have not had very good success with fruit, as my young trees have been considerably damaged by the borer.  The average price I have received for wheat has been about $1.40 per bushel.  Hay, of which I have raised a considerable, has averaged about $16 per ton.  Oats, about 50 cents per bushel.  Wild land is worth from $10 to $12 per acre in this vicinity.  It can be cleared at a cost of from $15 to $20 per acre.  Cleared land is worth from $20 to $40 per acre.
                Dated March 18, 1878 - J. N. Decker

So what can we find out about James Decker?  He seems to be a pretty prosperous farmer to start.  In twelve years he went from 10 acres of cleared land to 135 acres of cleared land.  Think of the hours of back breaking work clearing the acres of stumps left by the logging crews as they cut down the virgin forests. 

I've read that the brush and stumps left behind by the logging crews created fodder for terrible brush fires.  A farmer could lose everything because these fires were terribly unpredictable and very fast moving.  Once the fire was started, the intense heat would create deadly winds of super-heated air.  Everything in the path of these winds would spontaneously burst into flames.  Thinking about the fire risk, I guess I would have been working as hard as James Decker at clearing all that logging debris, too! 

James Decker is still living in the township of Hinton in 1880.  I clipped the image below from the 1880 Federal Census for Hinton, Mecosta County from  This is a great example at not giving up trying to locate a census record when the index doesn't return a hit.  I searched for James Decker in Mecosta County, Michigan with no luck.  Thinking of how hard this guy had worked to clear his land, I figured he was either still on his land or buried under his land.  A page-by-page searched turned up Jas N Decker in town of Hinton.
James and his wife Catherine are raising three grandchildren, Hiram N. Decker (born circa 1869), William Luxon (born circa 1865), and Catherine Luxon (born circa 1868).  I'll bet both of those grandsons knew what the definition of 'hard work' was!  

A quick search reveals James N Decker was a very prosperous Mecosta County farmer.  He also is included in the 1883 Portrait and Biographical Album of Mecosta County, Michigan.  I clipped his portrait, which is listed as Jas A Decker (thought the table of contents does list it as Jas N Decker).
Now we have a face to go with the name...


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Bartley Davis of Hinton Township

Bartley Davis had the following letter published in the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan) from Thursday May 9, 1878.

Bartley Davis (letter found on Page 1 Column 5)
I have been in this county, and on the same farm in the town of Hinton, seventeen years the 13th day of April, 1878.  I have 70 acres improved, 60 acres of it in a good state of cultivation.  My soil is clay loam, with a clay subsoil.  My principal crop for the first ten years was hay.  Best yield per acre, 2 1/2 tons; average, 1 1/2 tans.  Price realized for same, $20 per ton.  Oats, best yield, 55 bushels per acre; average, 35.  Price received on average, 40 cents a bushel.  Winter wheat, best yield 34 bushels per acre; average, 25 bushels.  I have given considerable attention to raising of spring wheat.  My smallest yield has been 15 bushels per acre; largest yield, 28 bushels per acre; average 20 bushels.  Peas average 20 bushels per acre, and they have brought one dollar a bushel.  Corn does well: from 75 to 100 bushels of ears per acre.  I cannot state definitely as to the yield of potatoes.  It depends so much on the attention given to the destruction of the potato beetle.  I believe that 300 bushels per acre can be realized, with proper care and cultivation.  Grapes do well.  I have four varieties bearing, viz: Concord, Ionia, Wilder and Salem.  I have a young orchard of 135 apple trees, some of which have been bearing for five years: and they have borne every year since they commenced.  Wild land in this vicinity is worth from eight to ten dollars an acre; improved land, from thirty to forty dollars an acre.
Dated April 6, 1878 - Bartley Davis

Bartley Davis had less than a year to live from the date of this letter.  I clipped the biographical sketch from the Portrait and Biographical Album of Mecosta County.

John Dalziel of Green Township

John Dalziel had the following letter published in the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan) from Thursday May 9, 1878.

John Dalziel (letter found on Page 1 Column 4)
I have been engaged in farming in the town of Green during the past twenty years, and have 80 acres improved.  Quality of soil fair - being a gravelly loam.  I have raised wheat, corn, oats, rye, potatoes, rutabagas and yellow Aberdeen turnips, timothy hay, and clover, medium and mammoth, also millet.  Best crop of wheat, twenty bushels per acre; average, thirteen bushels.  Corn frequently yields 100 bushels of ears per acre; average yield for the past 12 years, 80 bushels.  Corn crop has failed only once during that time; cause, frost.  Oats, 45 bushels per acre; average, 35 bushels.  Spring rye, mixed with oats, 22 bushels.  Had a field of three acres last year that yielded 100 bushels.  Potatoes, generally from 125 to 175 bushels per acre; average, 125 bushels.  Rutabagas, 300 bushels per acre.  Last season, I raised nearly 1,000 bushels from one acre and a quarter.  Aberdeen turnips yield about the same as rutabagas.  Millet, from 1 1/2 to 2 tons per acre; timothy and clover hay about the same.  Prices for farm produce have varied during the past seven years, but the average has been about as follows; Wheat, $1.00 per bushel; oats, 35 to 40 cents; corn, 40 to 60 cents; rye, 55 to 75; potatoes, 90 cents; rutabagas, 25 cents; Millet, no sale.  Have fed mine.  Hay, $10 to $25 a ton.  Fruit raising has not been much of a success.  [May succeed after apple tree peddlers have been well "thrashed" with the dead trees.] Farming lands under cultivation, with good buildings are worth in this vicinity from $25 to $50 per acre, according to location.  Wild lands from $5 to $12 per acre.

The prices and general yield of farm crops here stated, are correct in the main; but I would say for the benefit of those who feel an interest in such matters, that the greater portion of all farm products has not been sold in a raw state, but converted into something of less bulk and greater value - consequently, a larger profit.  We would advise every one depending on farming in this region, to conduct it on very different principles from what it has been done.  We have as good and just as energetic farmers in Northern Michigan as in other parts of the state; but we want an interchange of ideas and practical experiences.  In conclusion, no place offers greater inducements to people of limited means than Northern Michigan.  We have been impressed with this idea for the past twenty-five years, having traveled extensively through all the Western States in search of a home, and never found a place to equal "My Own Michigan." Thanking you gentlemen, for your enterprise and courtesy in opening the columns of your valuable paper to the agricultural community.
                                                                                                                I am, yours truly,
                                                                                                                                John Dalziel
Dated April, 1878

John Dalziel's household for the 1880 census is listed below.  It must have been a house of sickness the census taker visited though, as both of John's children were ill with 'the fever'.  I wonder if the census taker didn't even come into the house for fear of catching whatever was in the air.

I thought I would also post a picture of a Aberdeen Turnip, but I couldn't find any.  I found numerous mentions of Aberdeen Turnips and their prolific growth, but no pictures.  You will notice John Dalziel has detailed prices and yields - he ran for county treasurer on at least one occasion.  

I did not find a whole lot about him online either.  He certainly didn't have anything nice to say about the apple tree peddlers...

Friday, September 9, 2011

John C. Lane of Grant Township

John C. Lane had the following letter published in the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan) from Thursday May 9, 1878.

John C. Lane found on Page 1 Column 4

I purchased 120 acres of land in the town of Grant in 1869, for which I paid $7.00 an acre.  Commenced clearing the next spring, and have 80 acres under cultivation at the present time.  Wheat has averaged twenty bushels per acre.  On new ground I have raised sixty bushels of spring wheat on two acres.  My oats have yielded sixty bushels per acre; average, thirty-five bushels.  I have raised as high as fifty bushels of buckwheat per acre; average, twenty bushels.  Corn does well.  Dent corn has always ripened, excepting only one year.  Hay has been my principal crop.  It has averaged one and a half tons per acre.  Have sold for $25 per ton at the barn, but for the last two years have only received $10 per ton.  Vegetables do well.  In fact I never saw better anywhere.  I seeded down to grass as fast as I cleared, and have commenced breaking up my meadows this spring.  Stumps are all rotted on the forty acres first cleared.  My soil is clay loam, and some sand.  Timber - beech, maple, elm, and lynn.  We have good water and a very healthy climate.  My farm is seven miles north-east of Big Rapids and my P.O. address is Paris.
                Dated April 8, 1878 - John C. Lane

I copied the section from the Atlas of Mecosta County, Michigan, below, for John C. Lane's property.  There isn't much online for this family.  His census page for 1880 is located across two pages so I didn't copy that.

A. B. Knapp of Grant Township

The letter below is from A. B. Knapp and was published in the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan) from Thursday May 9, 1878.

A. B. Knapp can be found on Page 1 Column 3

I have been farming in the town of Grant, this county, since 1866.  Have 110 acres of land under cultivation, all well cleared and fenced.  Soil - clay and dark sandy loam.  Land - rolling Timber - beech, maple, basswood, white and black ash, cherry, elm and hemlock.  Cost of clearing and fencing, from $12 to $20 per acre.  Best yield of wheat, thirty-five bushels per acre; lowest five bushels; average twenty bushels per acre.  Average price per bushel for the last three years, $1.15.  Oats - average yield per acre, thirty bushels; price, thirty cents to one dollar; average fifty cents per bushel.  Average yield of corn per acre, 75 bushels, average price, 35 cents per bushel in the ear.  Potatoes - average yield 150 bushels per acre; average price 75 cents per bushel.  Hay - one and a half tons per acre; price all the way from $10 to $60 per ton.  Rutabagas - average, 300 bushels per acre; average price, forty cents per bushel.  With proper cultivation, the yield of all the above mentioned crops would average much better than here stated.  Barley, winter and spring rye, spring wheat, peas, beans, and nearly all varieties of garden vegetables, do well in this locality.  Farming is a success in this country, when practically and energetically carried on.  Stock raising I find to be profitable.  Wild land is worth in this vicinity from five to ten dollars per acre.  Cleared land will average fifty dollars an acre.
April 4, 1878 - A.B. Knapp

I found Abel B. Knapp in the 1880 census for Grant Township, Mecosta County, Michigan.  I noticed he had the local minister living in his household.  Talk about an inducement to live an upright and moral life!
Abel Knapp has a lengthy biographical sketch in the Portrait and Biographical Album of Mecosta County.  The really neat thing about his entry is that it includes sketches of both him and his wife (I never get so lucky with my family).  I tried to capture them in the image below, but it didn't come out very well.
What I find interesting about the sketches, is that the optical character recognition program in didn't pick up this hit.  The moral of this story - always look for yourself!


Edgar Peirce of Colfax Township and shingle mills

Edgar Peirce responded to the editor's request for a farming history from Colfax and was published in the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan) from Thursday May 9, 1878.

Edgar Peirce found on Page 1 Column 3
I have been engaged in farming to some extent in the town of Colfax for five years past, and now have about fifty acres under cultivation.  Soil is sandy and clay loam.  We have in this township nearly every quality of soil one can mention, except black muck.  I have raised wheat, corn, oats, and potatoes, all with good success.  My wheat has averaged fifteen bushels per acre; corn about sixty, and potatoes 150 bushels per acre.  Have found home consumption for everything raised, and can therefore give no prices.
E. Peirce

I copied the area around Edgar's property from the 1879 Atlas of Mecosta County.  It shows Edgar Peirce and his two parcels of land in Colfax Township, one of which is listed as a shingle mill.
Edgar Peirce has a short biographical sketch in the Portrait and Biographical Album of Mecosta County.  He seems to have been quite a successful local politician being elected County Treasurer in 1878.  By 1880, Edgar is living in the city of Big Rapids, so his letter to the Pioneer Magnet arrives about the same time as major changes in his life.

Aside from the above mentioned articles, I did not find a whole lot of information on this family.  I would bet there is likely to be all kinds of interesting little 'tidbits' waiting to be discovered in Mecosta County for anyone researching this family! 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Arnold Ely of Colfax Township, Mecosta County

Arnold Ely responded to the editor's request for a farming history from Colfax and was published in the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan) from Thursday May 9, 1878

Arnold Ely (Found on Page 1 Column 3)
I have been engaged in farming in the town of Colfax, Mecosta county, seven years, and have fifty acres cleared and fenced.  Soil of my land, about two thirds clay loam and one third sand.  Last year I harvested twenty acres of wheat and 400 bushels.  Average yield of wheat crops raised by me, sixteen bushels per acre, which has averaged in price about $1.25 per bushel.  Have raised corn every year, and it has averaged seventy-five bushels of ears per acre.  Have sold corn as high as ninety cents, and never less than sixty cents per bushel.  My oats have averaged thirty bushels per acre, and they have brought me, on the average, forty-five cents a bushel.  My potatoes have yielded 125 to 400 bushels per acre; average price received, seventy-five cents a bushel.  Hay is a sure crop.  Mine has yielded from one to two tons per acre, and has brought as high as $25 a ton; never less than $10 a ton.  During my seven years experience here, it has averaged $16 per ton.  I have a thrifty young orchard of 100 trees, which commenced bearing last year.  Wild farming lands in this vicinity are worth from six to twelve dollars per acre.  Improved farms from $20 to $40 per acre, according to quality and location.  Clearing and fencing, when done with hired labor, cost from $10 to $18 per acre.
                Dated March 30, 1878 - Arnold Ely

Here is the 1880 census for the Ely family in Colfax Township, Mecosta County.  He has a household with five daughters!  He also has a servant, so the farming life must be paying off for him.
 Arnold Ely doesn't have much online, so I clipped the Colfax Township section from the 1879 Atlas of Mecosta County to show where his farm is located.
The Ely family lived on the border of Big Rapids Township and I'm sure with all the women in the household, Big Rapids was probably a frequent shopping trip.

Ruggles Spooner. Big Rapids Township

Ruggles Spooner also responded to the call of the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan) from Thursday May 9, 1878.

Statement of Ruggles Spooner (Found on Page 1 Column 2)
I have lived in the township of Big Rapids - three miles west of the city - fifteen years.  Have 160 acres of land; about 60 improved.  Soil is varied; clay loam and sand.  Timber, maple beech, elm, and basswood, with an occasional white ash.  My hay has averaged about one and a half tons per acre.  Wheat has yielded from ten to thirty-six bushels, and corn from twenty-five to thirty-five bushels per acre.  Potatoes from 150 to 350 bushels per acre.  Oats from twenty to fifty, and peas from fifteen to thirty bushels per acre.  Raised my apple trees from the seed.  Have an orchard of about 125 trees.  Think them much better than those brought in by nurserymen.  Good prospect for an excellent crop this year.  Plums have done very well for me, and so have the small fruits.  Have taken the Pioneer and the Pioneer-Magnet fifteen years.
                Dated May, 1878 - R. Spooner

He seems very proud of his apple orchard!  I have read that apple seeds never produce the same apples as the tree that produced them.  So if you planted a seed from a Golden Delicious apple, the tree that results would be a totally different apple.  I just wonder what kind of apples old farmer Spooner was growing?

Here is the 1880 census for Ruggles Spooner in Big Rapids Township, Mecosta County, Michigan.  He has three adult sons living with him.  I'll bet the work never stopped.
There is not much online about this family.  I clipped the Big Rapids Township section from the Atlas of Mecosta County dated 1879.  You can see the farm listed as Ruggles Spooner and sons.

Luther Cobb, Big Rapids Township

The following is a letter sent to the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan) from Thursday May 9, 1878.    

Statement of Luther Cobb (found on Page 1 Column 2)
I have lived in the township of Big Rapids for twenty years, and now have sixty acres improved.  Frost killed part of my first crop of wheat, but it yielded twelve bushels per acre.  My second crop - winter wheat - yielded thirty-six bushels per acre.  Since then I have not had less-than fourteen bushels per acre, excepting 1876, when I had twenty acres that yielded only 119 bushels.  In 1875, I had thirteen acres which produced 384 bushels - nearly thirty bushels per acre.  I had 657 bushels of oats the same year from nine acres.  Have raised thirty bushels of spring wheat per acre, but have sowed it only a few times.  It has always done well, however, with one or two exceptions.  My wheat has yielded on average not less than eighteen bushels per acre, and I have never sold for less than $1.10 per bushel.  Hay has yielded from one to two tons per acre.  Have never sold any for less than $10; from that to $60 per ton.  I think it has averaged about $18.  Have raised some fruit, such as apples, plums and cherries.  Trees grow very thrifty and bear well, when they have proper cultivation and care.  Have had all the fruit I needed for family use for ten years past, and some to sell some years.  Made three barrels of cider from transcendent and rejected apples one year.  Have had grapes every year since they commenced bearing.  My potatoes have yielded from one to two hundred bushels per acre, and they have brought from 40 cents to $1.25 per bushel.  I raised last year 120 bushels of beets on about twenty-four square rods of ground, or at the rate of 800 bushels per acre.  My soil is clay loam; timber was beech, maple, basswood, and elm.
                Dated April 8th, 1878 - Luther Cobb

I clipped the 1880 census record for Luther Cobb and his family below.
I also see that timrawson04 posted photos of the family over at attached to the Awesome Rawson Family Tree.  When you see the census record, combined with the description of the farm and the family photos, you certainly can see this family come to life.
                  Luther Cobb                                              Abigail Baker Wright Cobb                        Carrie Almeedie Cobb
I can just see Luther out in the field hoeing his beets...


Saturday, August 27, 2011

John V. Armstrong & John Eaton of Chippewa Township

The next few posts come from the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan) from Thursday May 9, 1878.  The editor of the Pioneer Magnet had called on several citizens to write letters describing their farming experiences in Mecosta County.  I started with Chippewa Township as this is the township my ancestor William Perry lived in (though he did not respond to the call for letters).  I thought these brief sketches provide a snapshot of what life was like in Mecosta County in the late 1870s.

John V. Armstrong (Found on Page 1 Column 3)
I have been on my homestead, in the town of Chippewa, eight years, and now have forty acres improved.  Have experimented with most kinds of crops raised in northern latitudes, and most of them have done well.  My land was very heavily timbered, and a considerable portion of the soil is yet encumbered with stumps.  I cannot give a minute statement of the yield of any crop, except wheat, as nearly all my other grain crops (except corn) have been threshed with two sticks, and fed as fast as threshed.  But I think I am safe in saying that in both yield and quality, they compare very favorably with crops of the same kind in any other part of this state.  My best yield of wheat was thirty-two bushels per acre; average, about twenty.  It has always been number 1 in quality.  Have not done much with fruit.  Have about fifty apple trees; but only a few (Wagner's) are bearing as of yet.  Plum trees have done well.  I have five varieties, all of which grow and bear well.  I have also two varieties of cherries, both of which grow and bear well.  Of both these latter kinds of fruits, have all we want for family use, and some for our neighbors.
                Dated April 1878 - J. V. Armstrong
The map above is from the 1879 Atlas of Mecosta County for Chippewa Township and can be found on the Mecosta County GenWeb site.  I highlighted how close my William Perry lived very close to John Armstrong.  I'll bet the families must have known each other.  Mr. Armstrong mentions his Wagner's apples, so I went in search of the apple and found a listing for Wagener apples in the Apples of New York, Volume 1 on page 354.  So the image below is what John Armstrong's Wagner's apples probably looked like.

One other individual from Chippewa Township also answered the call for letters - John Eaton.  

John Eaton (found on Page1 Column 3)
I moved upon my land in the town of Chippewa, in January, 1869, and now have sixty acres cleared and fenced.  In 1877 I harvested four and a half acres of wheat which yielded 27 2/3 bushels per acre.  I cut twenty-two acres of grass, which turned out one and three-fourths tons of hay per acre.  I had five acres of corn, from which I harvested sixty-five bushels of ears per acre, and half an acre of potatoes which yielded at the rate of two hundred bushels per acre.  In 1876, I harvested ten acres of wheat, yielding 19 1/2 bushels per acre; two and a half acres of corn yielding 80 bushels of ears per acre.  In 1875, I harvested nine acres of wheat yielding thirty-five bushels per acre, and it brought me $1.25 per bushel.  I have usually floured my wheat, and sold it in small quantities.  Corn and oats I feed on my farm.  Have sold some hay the last seven years.  During the first five, it brought me from $20 to $25 per ton; during the last two years, $10 to $15.  Wild land is worth in this vicinity from $4 to $8.50 per acre, according to the quality of the location.  Cost of clearing and fencing with hired labor, from $10 to $15 per acre.  The wheat crop in this vicinity is about double the acreage ever sowed before, and it looks well.
                Dated March 20, 1878 - John Eaton

I also found his property listed in the Atlas of Mecosta County, Chippewa Township.  He lived some distance from my ancestor, so I am not so sure William Perry would have known him that well.

Barrels of Birds from Petoskey

I have seen many references to Passenger Pigeons in newspapers from the 19th century, so I was used to reading about flocks of birds that could 'blacken the skies for three days at a time' (can you imagine the mess).  I was not, however, prepared for the article I found in the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan) dated Thursday, April 4, 1878 and can be found on Page 5 column 2.
PIGEONS - Wild pigeons have a roost about twelve or fourteen miles east of Petoskey, this spring, and the woods of that region swarm with millions on millions of them.  One would think from their numbers that all the pigeons of North America are there congregated.  A large number of men are catching them, and from one to six tons of birds are shipped from Petoskey every day.  The train south last Monday brought fifty nine barrels.  Hunters get about forty cents a dozen for them delivered in Petoskey. 
The image on the right is of a Passenger Pigeon from Wikipedia.  It has been said that Passenger Pigeons were at one time the most numerous bird species in the world.  It was estimated that the species population outnumbered all other bird species populations combined in North America!

Passenger Pigeons nested in colonies, some of which have been estimated to exceed a billion birds.  So many birds would land on branches of trees that the branch would actually break from the weight.  The fact that Passenger Pigeons nested in colonies explains the vast population and also explains why the species was hunted to extinction.

It wasn't about finding the birds but rather how could you kill as many birds as you can in the shortest amount of time.  The only thing that the Pioneer Magnet leaves out is how the birds were dispatched.  Some bird catchers would use alcohol soaked grain which the birds ingested and caused them to fall out of the trees in a stupor.  The bird catchers would then dispatch the birds by crushing their heads between their forefinger and thumb.  Others would use sulfur smoke or decoys to make the birds fly into nets.

Anyway you look at it, the wholesale slaughter of the Passenger Pigeon lead to the decline of the species.  By 1878, when this article was written, the species was in a rapid decline which caused a downward spiral with the extinction of the species occurring early in the 20th century.  I wonder how many of my ancestors saw these enormous flocks in the sky and also witnessed the decline and extinction of the species?  I wonder if they even gave it a second thought...             

Friday, August 26, 2011

Big Rapids, Michigan Scandal Redux

My last post mentioned an article I came across in the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan).  It described the arrest and imprisonment of a young lady named Sarah Miller for public intoxication in the City of Big Rapids (Mecosta County, Michigan) in early December of 1877.  M. C. Byers, Thomas Ward, and Edward Hooper were found guilty of Assault and Battery (even though the original news item hinted at rape without ever mentioning it).  The Pioneer Magnet on December 27, 1877 mentions the trio were appealing the guilty verdict and the case would now go to Circuit Court.

I came across the following story published in the Pioneer Magnet dated January 31, 1878 and can be found on Page 5 column 4:
The People vs. Byers et. al. charged with assault and battery upon the person of Sarah Miller, on the 13th of December last, came on to be heard last Friday.  The case went to the jury on Saturday forenoon, who returned a verdict of "not guilty" after being out a short time.  It was evident to the minds of the jury and all who were present that the boys were not guilty of the charge brought against them, however guilty they may have been of some minor offence.
Not guilty!  I just love the last clause "however guilty they may have been of some minor offence".  Without knowing anything about the individuals, including Sarah Miller, I wonder what really happened.  The first trial was in front of a justice of the peace.  The appeal was in front of a jury.  This was a small town and Sarah Miller was not a resident of town - in fact she was probably still in prison at this time.  I just wonder if this was a case of a town 'taking care of their own' even though they knew what these men were actually guilty of doing.

Was this a miscarriage of justice or was this a case of justice being done?  I'll keep looking...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Big Rapids, Michigan Scandal

The following article is from the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan) newspaper.  The article was dated Thursday, December 20, 1877.  It is located on page 5, column 2.

Arrested - About two weeks ago a young girl names Sarah Miller came to this city in destitute circumstances, and went to several of our citizens to find employment.  She had considerable trouble in finding places to stay over night and in getting her meals, being poorly clothed and presenting a filthy appearance.  On Thursday evening she wandered into Byers and Jones' saloon in a state of intoxication, Deputy Marshal Perry finding her took her to jail.  She was brought before Justice Nottingham the following morning and sentenced to sixty days in the House of Correction.  Since that time it has been rumored that some of the young men of this city, abused her shamefully while in the saloon and even went so far as to violate her person.  Seven of them have been arrested and will be tried before Mr. Nottingham tomorrow.  We have had conversation with several of the boys in regard to the matter, who claim that they were merely spectators and that the girl was not ill-treated or abused, but was under the influence of liquor.  We hope the trial will bring out the facts in this case.

The following week from the Pioneer Magnet (Big Rapids, Mecosta County, Michigan) newspaper dated Thursday, December 27, 1877 is this small report located on page 5, column 1:

Appealed - The trial of seven of our citizens upon a charge of assault and battery, was held before Justice Nottingham, last Friday.  It resulted in acquitting four of them, the other three being found guilty and fined as follows: M. C. Byers, seventy dollars and costs, amounting to ninety two dollars and fifty cents; Thomas Ward forty dollars and costs; and Edward Hooper twenty dollars and costs.  The case will be taken to the Circuit Court.

I've been working my way through the Mecosta County Pioneer Magnet looking for anything that might shed light on my ancestors who were living in the Big Rapids, Michigan area.  The first article mentions Deputy Marshal Perry [Henry Perry b. 1842].  Henry Perry is a younger brother of my second great grandfather, James Perry, so this tragic story attracted my attention.

I tried to locate the individuals who were fined, but can't say for certain who they may be.  Is M. C. Byers the owner of the bar?  He was assessed the most of three individuals fined.  As for Sarah Miller, I wonder if she was freed after this terrible experience?  There is a Sarah Miller living in Wheatland Township, located a few miles from Big Rapids in the 1880 Census.  If this is the Sarah Miller, she would only have been 15 in 1877!  I'll keep an eye out for any more mentions of this assault.
As for Deputy Marshal Perry, it was reported in the same edition of the Pioneer Magnet with the first article I quoted, that he was removed from his office.  I wonder if it had something to do with this assault?  So many questions and no answers...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Orrin Porter of Chautauqua County, New York

I've been sharing some Porter thoughts with Nira at Door Keeper Genealogy and she too has been researching the Porter family in Chautauqua County, New York.  We both suspect William Porter, found on the 1830 census in Chautauqua County is the father of my Nancy Porter born circa 1817.

Nira was able to track William Porter to Knox County, Ohio.  She mentioned to me that William has a son named Orrin Porter which instantly rang a Chautauqua County Porter bell!  There is an Orrin (sometimes spelled Orin) Porter who is a contemporary of William Porter.  In fact they are the right age to be brothers.  So this post is dedicated to Nira and presents what I could find out about Orrin Porter.

Orrin Porter Locations
Pomfret, Chautauqua, NY
Chautauqua, Chautauqua, NY
Hanover, Chautauqua, NY
Norwich, Chenango, NY
The table above lists the dates that I can locate Orrin Porter.  Three census records and a probate petition basically sum up all I know about him.  The probate petition, below, is located on the Chautauqua County GenWeb site.

This petition mentions the estate of Mark Steere who died in 1847.  Orrin Porter is appointed an administrator of Mark Steere's estate.  Mark Steere has no widow and 7 daughters (all of age in 1848) are listed:
  • Lydia Steere (co administrator)
  • Harriet Cook, wife of Peyton R. Cook
  • Sarah Ann Porter, wife of Orrin Porter
  • Julia Steere
  • Betsey Steere of Norwich, Chenango County,
  • Mary Farnham, wife of John P. Farnham
  • Eunice St. Amand, wife of Augustus St. Amand
So let's see what we can find out about this family.

 I know the image above is a little hard to read, but it is for Orrin Porter in 1850.  It reads:
  • Orrin Porter 52 (b. 1798) b. CT? or VT?
  • Sarah A. (Steere) 45 (b. 1805) b. CT? or VT?
  • Julia Steere  28 (b. 1822) b. NY

I wonder if the female b. 1810 to 1820 is another Steere?  I don't think it could be a daughter of Orrin and Sarah as Sarah would be too young.

  The age for Orrin is slightly off, but I think it still seems to be our Orrin Porter.  I can't find Orrin in 1820 or 1860.  My next post will delve a little deeper into the Steere family...

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My dear Sister

I start my introduction to Edna B. Humphrey with the letter below.  What a letter!  The reason I start with this letter is simply because it was the first one I picked up.  I also was drawn to the  little note written on the back of this letter - "My brother's last letter to me."

I'll tell you up front that "My dear Sister" is Edna B. Humphrey - or at least it is her box of 'stuff' I purchased. I found it rather interesting that W. E. Humphrey is living in Washington, D.C. He is writing to his sister in answer to letters she had written to his wife, Helen.  He mentions both he and his wife have fully recovered from their attack of tomaine poisoning.  Tomaine poisoning?  OK, I just cannot let that pass without mention.  

Good ol' Wikipedia (sometimes called the undergraduates encyclopedia) has my answer.  Ptomaine poisoning is a reference to food poisoning.  In particular, it is an archaic term referring to alkaloids created as food decays.  These alkaloids, it was believed, caused food poisoning.  This was disproved with the discovery of bacteria and bacterial toxins as the cause of food poisoning.   

It was a pretty easy thing to find out who the writer of this letter was.  William E. Humphrey was a U.S. Representative from the state of Washington.  He later was appointed to the Federal trade Commission by Calvin Coolidge.  He was reappointed to the FTC in 1931.  This is where his problems started.  He was a conservative Republican and immediately at odds with the new Roosevelt administration.  FDR removed him from the Commission in order to appoint someone more in line with his administration's views.

William Humphrey promptly sues the Roosevelt administration regarding being removed from his position for political reasons.  The case ends up being heard by the Supreme Court.  Unfortunately for William, he doesn't live to see his law suit to the end.  He dies on 14 Feb 1934.  I found the picture of William Humphrey at Wikipedia.
So let's see what else is in this box of stuff...

I did it again!

I just don't know what it is about the letters people write that I find so irresistible.  Maybe it's the fact that, with  the possible exception of the famous, the letters we write are momentary.  That is to say, an individual wrote a letter to someone as a means of communication to the addressee.  I can guarantee you that the individuals who penned these letters would never have dreamt a perfect stranger, i.e. me, would be reading their correspondence a hundred years after it was written.

When I read a letter or look at a newspaper clipping or document contained in a collection of 'stuff', I realize it survived for a reason.  It was important to someone at some point, otherwise it would have ended up in the trash which, I would submit to you, was the original destination these documents were designed for.  So when I manage to find a box of stuff collected by the same individual or family, it draws me like a magnet.  These collections of documents are like time machines to me.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of bidding competition when these boxes of ephemera come on the market.  There are stamp collectors who are not interested in the contents of the letters, just the envelopes.  There are collectors of letterheads who are interested in only a document or two.  Dealers in ephemera are likely to break apart the box of documents, selling letters, letterheads, envelopes, and what ever else is in the collection a piece at a time.  And then there are people like me.

I approach a box of documents as an historically significant record.  As long as the collection remains together, it creates a window into the past.  It speaks to us one individual and one place at a time.  Events that may have long been forgotten live once again.

So with that in mind, I will introduce the Humphrey family to you.  I purchased a collection of letters and documents relating to the Humphrey family at an auction in New York.  It looks to me like the documents had been sorted by an ephemera collector, ready for piece by piece sale.  For whatever reason, the collection remained intact.  So now, we get to put back together a little section of the tapestry we call history...              

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Looking Back

Well, this is not my usual kind of Blog post here at Gen Journey, but it really is a journey of sorts.  Even though winter still has its icy grip around my home, there are signs that those old boney fingers are loosening their grip.  The mornings have more sunlight and an avian chorus greets me as I leave for work.  Even the air seems to have an excited ‘feel’ about things to come.  For some reason the early stirrings of spring always make me think back to family long past.
I just recently came across a shoe box full of old 8mm home movies my father had taken in the sixties.  I had the movies converted to DVD and it was like looking at a time machine.  The various moments in a typical family, vacations, birthdays, Christmas morning, family reunions, and the like are remembered once more.  Why the stirrings of warmer weather make me think of family has long intrigued me.  I guess it has to do with renewal.
Our lives can be compared to seasons, too.  Spring is the magical step in this process.  It is the renewal of the cycle.  Life goes on.  However, it is also a time to remember all the lives come and gone.  Remembrance is a very complex ‘emotion’.  Memories have powerful abilities to stir many different types of feelings from sadness, anger and remorse, to happiness, joy, and contentment.  I have often wondered if it is the complex interplay of memories, emotions, and feelings which family tree research stirs up, creates the hook that draws so many people to this pastime.
I guess the point I am trying to make is that regardless of how mundane we may think ‘our ancestors’ were, their lives mattered.  They were part of the giant tapestry of life.  A single loose thread in a tapestry can unravel the whole thing.  Every thread in a tapestry counts – it is needed.  This is why we need to remember those who have walked the living world before us.  Every life is part of this tapestry, whether they were good or bad.
Ok … enough of that … 

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Samuel Porter of Chautauqua County

In my previous post on Chautauqua Porters, I mentioned two of the three Porters listed in the town had a female of the right age to be my Nancy Porter.  I can pretty much rule out Samuel Porter, shown below in the Chautauqua 1830 census.
Samuel and his wife are buried in the town of Chautauqua.  He dies 18 Oct 1863 and his head stone lists his date of birth as 20 June 1787.  His wife, Mary Justina, dies on 14 Nov 1848 (she is listed as his wife on the head stone).  Her age at death is recorded as 68 years 7 months 14 days.  Using my handy date of birth calculator, I compute her date of birth as 31 Mar 1780.  I wonder if the census taker placed her in the wrong column on this record?

The reason I know the female born 1815-1820 is not my Nancy Porter is because of the 1850 census along with a small passage in the History of Chautauqua County, New York.  The 1850 census from the town of Chautauqua, is shown below.
Samuel Porter, aged 63 is living the household of Robert Huse (actually spelled Hewes).  There is also a 15 year old female named Hortensey Porter living with them, too.  The section from the The History of Chautauqua County, New York is displayed below.
So we know that Samuel is living in the house of his son-in-law Robert Hewes.  Olive is 30 years old in 1850 making her born circa 1820.  I think it's a safe bet to say the female born 1815 to 1820 in Samuel Porter's household is Olive.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Nancy Porter, Where Are You?

I just got back from Roots Tech 2011 in Salt Lake City.  I have to admit the conference felt more like technology looking for a use rather than a use in need of technology.  Sometimes a pen and paper is all you really need.  Of course the conference proximity to the Family History Library was another great reason to attend Roots Tech and will certainly be the reason I attend the 2012 conference.

I decided to try and break through a couple of my toughest brick walls.  One of these lines I have blogged about quite in depth - my Fox family.  The other line I worked on is that of my great great grandmother's family, Nancy Porter.  Nancy marries Horace Pratt on 11 Feb 1835 in Chautauqua County, New York.  You will see this marriage date listed every where.  According to one source, the marriage announcement was listed in a local paper in the town of Chautauqua as published by the Chautauqua Genealogical Society.

As is usually the case, no one seems to actually be able to 'find' the particular issue of the "Gleanings" newsletter that listed this information.  I even contacted the Chautauqua County Genealogical Society hoping they might be able to clear this up.  Unfortunately, they too could not locate the particular source for this information.  Luckily for me, my great great grandfather, Horace Pratt, applied for a Civil War pension based on the service of his son, John Nelson Pratt.  By this time, Horace's wife Nancy had been deceased for years.  Horace listed his marriage to Nancy Porter in the town of Chautauqua, New York on 11 Feb 1834.  This is a year off from the generally listed 11 Feb 1835.

Horace Pratt can be found in the 1840 Federal census in Livingston County, Michigan.  I figured he was part of the mass migration to Michigan from New York in 1836.  The population of the Michigan Territory quadrupled in 1836.  Three out of every four new Michigan residents were born in New York.  Nancy Porter dies 25 Jan 1872.  The photograph, below, is the only picture I have of her.  According to family lore, she was sickly and never fully recovered from the births of her last two children.  She looks exhausted in this photo.
I started my hunt for Nancy in Chautauqua County, New York.  I once read that most marriages took place in the county were the bride lived.  If this is the case, Nancy Porter would have been living in Chautauqua County.  There really is not much to go on, but as usual, I'm always up for the family tree hunt.

I have started with the 1830 federal census for Chautauqua County, looking for any Porter families which have a female who would be approximately 13 years old.  Of course this is assuming Nancy Porter is living in Chautauqua County in 1830.

I've listed the Porter families for the town of Chautauqua below:
 Two of the Porter families have females in the 1815 to 1820 age bracket which theoretically matches my Nancy Porter.  I can also tell you that there are three other Porter families living in Chautauqua County.  I just thought it would be best to start looking in the actual town of Horace and Nancy's marriage...

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Mabel and Julia Fritz of Dexter, Michigan

The photo above is of Julia A. Fritz of Dexter, Michigan.  Whoever wrote the name on the back of this photo also added '6 years old'.  I just love the long hair and the dress.  I'm not very good at dating photographs, so I started searching for her in the 1900 census.  Dexter, Michigan is in Washtenaw County and it didn't take long to find Julia.  I clipped the census record below for the household of Christian and Maragrite Fritz.  Julia and Mabel are listed as children.  Julia is 21 years old in 1900 and is listed as a dressmaker.  She is listed as being born in 1878, so her photo must have been taken in 1884.

I also have the photograph for Mabel B. M. Fritz (of Dexter, Michigan) and Bertha Aprill (?, Michigan).  I am not sure of who is who.  They almost look like twins!  Mabel's birth occurred in March of 1888, so I guess this photo could have been taken sometime in 1894 or 1895.  I'll let you figure out which one is Mabel and which one is Bertha.

Don't the photos just make the census images come alive?  I think this must be the correct census record for Bertha.  This family is listed in Scio Township in Washtenaw County (the same township Dexter is in).  She too, is born in 1888 so I wonder if they are cousins? school friends? or maybe neighbors?
One last photo which finishes off the Fritz family quite nicely.  The photo is simply identified as Mr. and Mrs. Fritz.  The cabinet card is from E. E. Shaver's Art Gallery of Chelsea, Mich.  I love the flower coming out of an urn.  The spider web is pretty neat, too.  I wonder if this has some kind of symbolism?
Maybe I'm just seeing things, but don't the girls look like Mrs. Fritz?  That includes Bertha Aprill!  I found this biographical sketch for Christian Fritz in the History of Washtenaw County, Michigan.  This book was published 1881 so Mabel isn't listed.  

I just love putting faces to these names...