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...