Sunday, January 8, 2012

A Sad Case - from The Big Rapids Current

Here is an article I cam across while reading an old issue of the Big Rapids Current dated 02 Feb 1881.
I thought I would see what I could find out about the Widow Lacey.  We are she had two children, a boy 12, and a girl 6.  The town of Au Sable is located in Iosco County, Michigan, so I started with the 1880 census.  There is only one family with the name of Lacey in the index.  Kate Lacey (listed as a widow) and her 8 year old son and six year old daughter.  It sounds like a pretty good match.

We have Kate Lacey, 34 (born circa 1846); William Lacey, 8 (born circa 1872); and Lizzie, 6 (born circa 1874).  The only thing is I cannot seem to locate any of the other individuals named in this story.  I couldn't find Kate Lacey or her family in the 1900 census. 

I did find this biographical sketch of Henry Russell and it does say he lived in Au Sable.
Using the information in the History of the Lake Huron Shore, I was able to find Henry Russell in 1880 census of Iosco County (indexed as Heney Russell) living in Oscoda.

The article in the Big Rapids Current mentions the Winchester Hotel.  I found a photograph of the Winchester Hotel at  
I also found J. W. Widdifield in the History of the Lake Huron Shore.  According to the biographical sketch, The Winchester Hotel was in Oscoda.  Still couldn't find J. W. Widdifield, though.  I wonder what happened to Kate and her children...

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Edward P. Strong of Sheridan Township

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

Edward P. Strong (Page 1 Column 6)
I have been located on my farm in the town of Sheridan, thirteen years.  Commenced in the midst of a dense forest, and now have fifty acres improved.  Soil, clay loam.  Have raised 65 bushels of wheat per acre; average, 23 bushels.  Average price received for it, $1.25 per bushel.  Hay has averaged 1 1/2 tons to the acre, and has brought from $12 to $35 per ton.  Corn about eighty bushels of ears per acre.  Average price, 35 cents per bushel of ears.  Potatoes have averaged about 150 bushels per acre, and have brought from 40 cents to $1.25 per bushel.  I have 200 apple trees growing, forty of them bearing some.  I have cherry trees bearing, and pear trees yet too young for bearing.  Grapes, particularly Delaware and Concord, do well when cared for.  Almost every kind of fruit grown in Michigan, except peaches, does well in this vicinity, when cared for as it should be.  Wild land, good soil, is worth in this vicinity, from $5 to $8 per acre.  Improved land, $25 per acre.
E. P. Strong dated March 30, 1878.

Edward P. Strong sounds like he has a pretty nice farm.  I'm sure it requires quite a bit of work.  I found his household in the 1880 Mecosta County census for the township of Sheridan.  I clipped the image below from
Edward can be found in the Portrait and Biographical Album of Mecosta County.  I clipped his biographic sketch below.  
I noticed that the online trees list Edward's wife as Mary Guthrie not Mary Howard as stated in this sketch.  I'm not quite sure why.  I love the comment, "Mr. Strong became 'his own man' at the age of 15...".  I wonder how many teenagers could do that today?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Jacob Gingrich of Wheatland Township

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

Jacob Gingrich (Page 1 Column 6)
I have had nine years experience in farming in the town of Wheatland, Mecosta county.  Have 160 acres of land; 90 acres under cultivation.  My wheat has yielded from 25 to 35 bushels per acre; oats, 35 to 40 bushels; rye, 15 to 20 bushels; corn - shelled - 40 to 50 bushels; and potatoes 300 bushels per acre.  Hay, from one to two tons per acre.  Fruit is rather scarce as yet, but is expected to do well.  The prices I have received for my crops average about as follows:  Wheat, per bushel, $1.25; oats, 40 cents; corn, 65 cents; rye, $1.00; potatoes, 45 cents.  Hay, $14 per ton.  My plan for preparing ground for crops is as follows:  For fall or winter wheat - plow six inches deep just before haying; harrow well, and let it lay until seeding time; then apply a heavy coat of manure, and plow again nine inches deep.  For oats and corn, plow in the fall.  For seeding with clover, sow buckwheat in July, and sow clover seed before harrowing the last time.  Buckwheat yields from 75 to 80 bushels from one bushel of seed.  Unimproved land in the vicinity are worth $8 to $10 per acre.  Timber, splendid beech and maple, and soil mostly clay loam, with plenty of good water for house and stock purposes.  Improved lands are worth from $25 to $30 an acre.
Jacob Gingrich dated April 5, 1878.

Jacob Gingrich is another example of why we should not just assume an individual is not in the census if they do not appear in the index.  I did a soundex search on Gingrich (with no first name) in Mecosta County, Michigan.  No hits were returned.  

It seemed to me that the farm Jacob was describing in his letter had to be at least eight years old as it seems quite prosperous.  So I did a page-by-page search for Jacob in the Wheatland Township enumeration.  Sure enough, Jacob is there.  The census enumerator listed him as Jacob Ginglick rather than Jacob Gingrich.  I clipped the household from the 1870 census image at  This family is spread across three contiguous households on two census pages.
The reason I started with the 1870 census is because I know something about Jacob That he and his family didn't.  Jacob would be dead in a little more than two years, though he did make it to the 1880 mortality schedule.  It always gives me an odd feeling when I know these individuals death dates.  I have always viewed census records as 'living documents'.  These endless lists of names really are snapshots of living families.  

Just like you and I, when we completed our 2010 census form, these individuals were very much alive fighting the good fight that we all do every day.  It's rather strange but when I see these records, I almost can smell the wood burning on the hearths and in the stoves of these households.  I hear the farm animals and smell the freshly cut hay.  I'm sure Jacob probably had no clue that his time on earth was rapidly drawing to a close.

Here is Jacob's death return for Mecosta County.  You can find this record at

The 1880 census shows quite a change for this large family.  Barbary Gingrich is now enumerated in her own household.  John Gingrich is enumerated several households away.     

Monday, January 2, 2012

Harvey Mansfield of Wheatland Township

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

Harvey Mansfield (Page 1 Column 6)
I commenced on 120 acres of land in the town of Wheatland, about the 15th of March, 1867, and now have about sixty acres under cultivation.  My soil is mostly clay loam - rather on the clay order.  Have raised wheat, corn, oats, potatoes, and hay.  Best yield of wheat, 37 1/2 bushels per acre; average yield, about 20 bushels.  Oats have generally yielded about forty bushels per acre.  Corn, usually a fair crop.  I have raised ninety bushels of ears per acre, but not quite so much on the average.  Hay has always been a good crop - from a ton and a half to two tons per acre.  Potatoes have always been a good fair crop.  Now as to prices:  Wheat has brought from $1.25 to $2 a bushel; oats from 40 to 75 cents; corn from usually 60 to 75 cents; hay from $10 to $25 a ton - more generally the latter price.  I have about 100 apple trees, and about half of them are bearing.  They are of different varieties, mostly of a hardy nature.  I would also add that stock growing pays well, particularly cattle and sheep.  Wild land is worth in this vicinity, from $6 to $10 per acre.  Improved land from $30 to $40, according to location as to roads, etc.
Harvey Mansfield dated April 3, 1878.
P.S. - I have on my farm a frame barn 30 by 42 feet; stable, 12 by 30 feet; wagon house, 16 by 30 feet, and a frame dwelling house 18 by 26 feet with a wing of like dimensions, all of two stories high; and best of all, I am out of debt and my land is free from encumbrance.  H.M. 

Harvey Mansfield seems to be doing quite well.  At a time when most of the people living in his vicinity were probably still in log cabins, Harvey is living in a large two-story frame home.  He obviously was proud enough of his success to add a post script letting everyone know it.  I wonder if he made any friends by doing this?

Here is Harvey Mansfield in the 1870 Mecosta County Census in Wheatland Township.  I clipped this from an image.
He lists the value of his real estate as $2,000.  According to my handy, dandy inflation calculator - $2,000 in 1870 is equal to approximately $34,000 today.  It certainly doesn't look like he has all of his buildings finished in 1870.

It was a little more difficult to locate Harvey in the 1880 census.  He was inadvertently enumerated as Henry Mansfield.  You can see it is obviously the same household as Harvey in 1870.
I also came across the photo below.  It is located at the USGenWeb archives.  I linked the image to the source.
I'd love to see if Harvey's buildings are still standing...