The Stephensons in the 1800s

July 14, 2009

 

George Wold Stephenson, 1813-1896

George Wold Stephenson

George Wold Stephenson

George was born in 1813, the son of George Stephenson and Elizabeth Would.  Family tradition has it that he was named for his second cousin, George Stephenson, the inventor of the first practical railroad steam engine.  To this date, we have not been able to verify this connection.

George was apprenticed at the age of 11 and worked faithfully for seven years.  At the age of 18, he went to London and became involved in the trade union movement.  It became his lifelong ambition to free the labor class from the oppression of the rich. The following year, he marched with 90,000 men to appeal to the King.  He walked 200 miles to Liverpool.

Agnes Catherine Hamilton

Agnes Hamilton Stephenson

He married Agnes Hamilton in Liverpool 1835.  They had five children there, but two of them died very young.  In 1844, with three sons, George and Agnes left for America. The family stayed one year in New York City, and then moved to Long Island where they lived for ten years and had five more children.  The last child born was Edward William, our ancestor. In 1855, they set out for the “West,” settling in St. Johns, Michigan.  George’s son, James, described their arrival in St. Johns in a letter:

In September, 1855, during a heavy storm of rain, which had continued for about a week, my father and mother with seven children, came into this town from Corunna by team with one wagon loaded with furniture and household goods.  In the wagon there was only room for two besides the driver and the roads being in such primitive state and so terribly muddy, all of us were compelled to walk a great share of the way.  I never shall forget my first view of St. Johns.  Emerging from a dense forest on a prominence overlooking the infant village, a strange sight greeted our eyes.  A hole in the wood, about 20 houses and muddy unimproved streets were before us.  Our home was to be the upper story of a store building and our provision to be potatoes, cod fish, and hulled corn.  Nothing else would be obtained in the place for at least six weeks, at the end of which time father succeeded in securing a cow which added miraculously to our commissary.  The roads were utterly impassible and our beds and bedding were in Lansing.

George established a business as a merchant tailor which prospered throughout the years.  He was very active in community affairs.  He was president of the village trustees and was appointed by the governor to serve in management of the State House of Corrections.  When the Clinton County Courthouse moved from Dewitt to St. Johns, the court rented space in Clinton Hall from George for several years.  The Clinton Independent  was started in 1866 by two of his sons, and it operated in the back of his store.  He also helped establish a “Live Association,” the intent of which was to provide a good burial at a reasonable price.  He was treasurer of the association for the next 29 years.

He was a member of the Knights of Labor for fifty years. He was considered a “free thinker,” and was a liberal in many fields, including his Christian faith.  He was one of the founding members of the Episcopal Church of St. Johns, and the names of George Wold and Agnes Stephenson were inscribed in a memorial window in the church.  Donald Winegar saw the window in 1936.  I don’t know if it is still there.

G.W. Stephenson's Watch

G.W. Stephenson's Watch

Agnes died in 1879. George retired in 1888 and died in 1896.  They are buried in St. Johns.   At his death, his pocket watch was given to his son, E.W. Stephenson, who carried it for 53 years and gave it to Donald Winegar, his oldest grandson, in 1931.  James Winegar, Donald’s son now has possession of the watch, and it is still working.


Winegars in the 1800s

July 11, 2009

 

Edwin Ashbel Winegar,  1873-1946

Edwin Ashbel Winegar age 18

Edwin "Edd" Ashbel Winegar, age 18 or 19

Edwin Ashbel was born in Vergennes Township, near Lowell, Michigan.  In 1879, his father, Ashbel, died leaving his mother, Mary Rease Roberts, with four young sons and no one to help raise them. In 1883, she moved back to New York to live with her sister. She died in 1889.

 The next record we have of Edwin and his younger brother Ira, at ages 16 and 14 respectively, is of them living in Clinton County, Michigan with a Howe family.  According to Howe records, the boys were orphaned and found shelter in an unused shack.  Fred Howe felt this was not a proper place for the young boys and took Edd in.  Ira went to live with Fred’s brother Rozelle.  Edd worked for room, board and school and became a member of the family.  A young son of the Howe’s reports how he cried when he learned that Edd was not his brother.  Edd stayed with the Howe family until he was ready to attend Michigan Agricultural College and learn the dairy business.
Myrtie Louisa Stephenson Winegar, age 18

Myrtie Louisa Stephenson Winegar, age 18

The Howe home was not far from the Edward W. Stephenson farm and he became acquainted with the Stephenson sisters, Bertha and Myrtie. At first, he courted Bertha until Myrtie was old enough to be courted.  Edd and Myrtie were married in 1900 at the bride’s home.  More about Edd and Myrtie will be covered in the 1900s section.

 

Other Winegars 

William Wirt Winegar

William Wirt Winegar

William Wirt Winegar, a second cousin to Edwin Ashbel, fought in the Civil War and was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.  Apparently a huge number of these awards were granted, many of which were rescinded.  We do not know if his was or not.  An account of his award can be found on the Internet.

 Dr. Ira Winegar, possibly a cousin to Ashbel, served as a surgeon during the Civil War.  He was commissioned in 1861 and mustered out with a disability in 1865.

 
Another group of Winegar moved to Michigan by the Erie Canal in 1864.  At Detroit, they purchased a ticket on the train to “as far as the track is built.”  On August 19, 1844, they were a few miles out of Marshall, and the conductor told them that he was going to run into Marshall on the wooden framework even though the iron rails were not laid.  The conductor said that anyone so inclined might take the chance and ride in too.  Isaac and Jacob Winegar were on the first train to reach Marshall.  The trip from Albion was made in 40 minutes compared to the stagecoach time of two hours. The distance was twelve miles.


Winegars in the 1800s

July 10, 2009

 

 Ulrich(5)  1783-1864

  Ulrich was born in Amenia in 1783 and Married Elizabeth Winans. Elizabeth Winans Winegar is a direct descendant of one of the passengers on the Mayflower.  Consequently, all her descendants can trace their ancestry back to the Mayflower. 

Ulrich and Elizabeth had five boys and eight girls. Our ancestor is Ashbel(6).   At some point, the family moved to South Butler, Wayne County, New York. Ulrich died there in 1864.

Ashbel(6)  1823-1879

Ashbel was born in South Butler, Wayne County, New York. We have no information on his early childhood.  He worked on the Erie Canal for several years before going to Michigan. There he  worked in the retail clothing business for a time and then bought a farm in Vergennes Township near Lowell.

He was married twice, first to Eleanor Slaght, the second time to Mary Reese Roberts who was the mother of Edwin Ashbel our ancestor.  He and Eleanor had three children and she died in childbirth with the third.  He gave the infant up for adoption.  While visiting Eleanor’s parents he met Mary Reese Roberts who was teaching piano lessons to Eleanor’s sister.  Although Mary was 15 years younger than Ashbel, they were married about two months after Eleanor’s death, and over the next 11 years had four more sons.

The land on the farm that he bought was very poor and was mostly sand.  Don Winegar wrote, “This was a case of trying to farm woodland that should have never been lumbered off.  Once the top humus was gone from the soil it could not sustain crops.”  In spite of the poor land, Ashbel continued to farm the land until his death in 1879.

Donald Winegar also reports having a picture on the back of which was written, “He was a good farmer, a first class shot, and a number one hunter. It was a poor winter which didn’t furnish him with at least ten fox skins.”

With the death of Ashbel, his wife was left to care for four sons 11 and under and found this very difficult.  In 1883, she took the sons including Edwin Ashbel and returned to New York where her sister lived.  According to a letter from one of her sons, she met someone on the train that she later married.  She died in 1889.

Ashbel Winegar

Ashbel Winegar

Mary Rease Roberts Winegar

Mary Reese Roberts Winegar

 

 


The Bliss Family in the 1800s: Herman Sidney Bliss

July 9, 2009
 

 Herman Sidney Bliss, 1861-1946

(From the Notes of Betty Daniells) Herman was born in Riley Township in 1861 either in the D.P. Bliss place or in the home of P.P. Peck.  He grew up in both places.  In 1883, he married Dora Plowman.  Dora and her twin sister Nora were the youngest of 11 children of William Tuthill Plowman.  W.T. Plowman had three children by his first wife, Mary Ann Potts, and the other eight with Emily Crane, our ancestor. 

 
William Tuthill Plowman

William Tuthill Plowman

Emily Crane Plowman

Emily Crane Plowman

The 11 Plowman brothers and sisters.  Dora is 2nd from left, back row.

The 11 Plowman brothers and sisters. Dora is 2nd from left, back row.

 The couple moved to Watertown Township to a farm they called Bunker Hill.  Their only child was a daughter named Iva.  Later they lived in Lansing for a year or two, where, as an excellent carpenter, he helped build many of the old houses.  Then, on the illness and death of John Benedict, husband of his wife’s eldest sister Eliza (Lide), he took over the operation and half ownership of the Benedict farm, The Pivot, 80 acres ¾ mile west of Watertown center.  The old house burned to the ground in 1911 and Herman built the house that now stands there.  It is now owned by Tom Lowell, Herman’s great-grandson.  The story of the fire, as related by Bel Gensterblum Maier, will be in the next posting on this blog.

Original Benedict-Bliss House: The Pivot

Original Benedict-Bliss House: The Pivot

Herman was much loved and respected in the community.  He was on the Board of Trustees of the Methodist Episcopal Church and served a term as Watertown Township treasurer.  He played fiddle, sang tenor, and whistled at his work.  He had the sweetest of tempers and a delightful sense of humor, which was at its best when the joke was on himself.  He loved a good argument and would talk either side.  He died at the Pivot in 1945 and is buried at the Wacousta Cemetery.

Herman Sidney Bliss

Herman Sidney Bliss

Dora Plowman Bliss

Dora Plowman Bliss


The Bliss Family in the 1800′s: David Pitney Bliss

July 8, 2009

 

David Pitney Bliss, 1828-1888

David Pitney Bliss, the son of David Bliss and Samantha Griswold, was born in Wilmington, Vermont.  In 1848, with his parents and several siblings, he made the trip down the Erie Canal and settled in Riley Township, Michigan.  Their experiences were described in the story earlier.  When they first arrived in Michigan they stayed in the home of Philip Philo Peck, one of the early settlers in Clinton County.  David Pitney married Amanda, Philip’s daughter, in 1853.   They had two children, Herman Sidney (our ancestor) and Eva. 

David Pitney Bliss

David Pitney Bliss

Amanda Peck Bliss

Amanda Peck Bliss

David was a good carpenter and had made the sleigh the family used to transport supplies early in their stay in Michigan.  In 1874, David and several of his brothers are stockholders in the establishment of the Forest Hills Cheese Factory.


The Bliss Family Arrives in Wacousta, part 3

July 7, 2009

 

Henry Bliss continues his recounting of the family’s travels and adventures in their new home:

While plowing among the stumps, Horatio broke a moldboard to the plow, so he and I walked to Portland and bought one, tied it to a pole, put the pole on our shoulders and carried it home, in one day.  Another time we walked to Lansing and got some drag teeth.  They were 1 ¼-inch teeth.  We put them in bags, divided them equally in the bag, slung the bags over our shoulders, and carried them home.  We bought them of Wm. Hildreth, who owned the Temple place and operated a foundry in North Lansing.  We paid for them in work.  I recall that Stebbins and I walked to Dewitt and bought some sheet iron for sap pans.  We took along some eggs to pay for some groceries.  We tied the sheet iron and the groceries to a pole and carried them home.  Westphalia was our nearest town and I walked there many times to do our trading.

Ruben Gunn was a wagon maker.  He lived just east of us.  He made our first wagon.  It was made with a wooden axle with a piece of strap iron over the top and bottom of the axle.  We cradled all of our grain up to the time of the Civil War.  We cut our hay with a scythe and raked it by hand.  When the Civil War broke out, so many men went to war that help became scarce, so David and I bought a combination reaper and mower.  We went to Lyons and bought a revolving rake.  It was a simple affair but saved lots of work.  We paid $110 for the first mower.

Father died in 1858, and left mother and me to struggle along.  Then came the Civil War and all the boys responded to the call but David and me.  Fortunately they all came back alive.  Those were trying days.  Mother died with typhoid fever in 1863, when all the boys were in the South.  Sister Adeline died when Orval was born, in 1861.

The second year that were here we got the ague.  This added to our misery.  We took lots of quinine.  Brandy and all the salt it would dissolve was the best remedy.  Mr. Boughton and Mr. Hill had young orchards in bearing and we got our apples of them.  We used to dry pumpkins for pies.  We would slice the pumpkins in rings, hang them on poles and dry them.  We had a cook stove, elevated oven; they were good heaters and answered the purpose of heating, cooking and baking.  Philo Peck had an oven that they placed in front of the fireplace and baked with.  The mosquitoes were thick and we had to build smudges in the house to smoke them out.  After a while we got netting.  We let our cattle run in common and had cowbells on them to locate them if they did not come home.  The first year that we had cattle, we kept them on browse winters, as we had no hay.  Cattle did well on it.

These are just a few of the incidents of early pioneer life.  Here is another incident as related by Jim Warren.  Stebbins and David Bliss went to St. Johns to mill one day.  In those days we had to go around by way of the Jason schoolhouse.  The land north and east was very low and filled with water, but a road had been cut through and they were building a causeway through the low land.  Coming home it was late and they concluded to take the short way home.  There were no “Detour” or “Follow the Arrow” signs along the highways.  When they were within a mile and a half of home, the horses stopped suddenly.  It was late and very dark.  They got out and examined the cause and found that they were at the end of a causeway not completed.  They could go no further, so they unloaded the grist onto some logs to keep it out of the water, lifted the box off, uncoupled the wagon, turned the wagon around, coupled it up again, put the box on, loaded up the grist, hitched the horses back on the wagon, retracked their path and went around, concluding that “the farthest way ‘round was the nearest way home.” 

Quite a tale of perseverance and endurance.  What a family to be part of!  Below is an 1873 map  that shows Bliss-owned property, as well as their neighbors in that year.  Peck land adjoins Bliss land.

1873 map of Riley Township

1873 map of Riley Township


The Bliss Family Arrives in Wacousta, part 2

July 7, 2009

The article concerning the Bliss family’s trip from New York to Michigan, as related by Henry Bliss, continues:

We settled on the northwest quarter of section nine, Riley Township, Clinton County.  When we got here we had no money to buy any food with and nothing to live on.  The country was new and wild.  Lots of wild animals and game.  Where we made our mistake was when we brought no gun with us.  None of us were hunters.  We could have had plenty of game and deer for meat if we had a gun and ammunition.  No one had told us about it.  We knew nothing about the country that we were going to.  Most of our neighbors here were as hard up as we were.  Morris Boughton was the only one who had anything to sell and all he had was potatoes.  We bought potatoes of him for 25¢ a bushel and paid for them by chopping cord wood at 25¢ a cord.  We had to have some money so we took road jobs, that is, cut the trees in the road and built causeways of logs through the low places.  Competition was strong and we had to bid low to get the job.  We also burned logs and gathered the ashes and made black salts and sold it for $2.50 a hundred.  And when you got the money you were not sure that it was worth anything.  It might be worth something today and tomorrow be worthless.

We made a lot of sap troughs out of split logs.  The winter was mild and we made sugar nearly all winter.  This gave us some money to use and all the sugar we needed for the family.  There was no house on the land that we bought, so we moved in with Philo Peck.  We had one room and boarded ourselves.  Some of us slept on the floor in Bill Peck’s house.  Just six weeks from the time that we came here, we had a house up made of logs and moved into it.  It was 20 by 30.  We cut a nice white oak and split out shakes for the roof, and plank for the floors, both up and down stairs, all out of this one tree.  We had no cow the first winter that we were here.  The next summer Horatio and Augustus worked for a big farmer near Portland for $13 a month.  As soon as they had earned enough they bought a cow of this man that they were working for.  They also bought grain and potatoes of him until we could raise some ourselves.  That gave us something to live on.  They also bought and paid for a yoke of oxen in the fall of 1849.  That gave us our first team to work with.  We would chop in the winter and clear it off in the summer and sow it to wheat in the fall.  The first clearing we did by hand, as we had no team.  In that way we cleared a few acres and sowed to wheat in the fall of 1849.  The first wheat we raised we took to Dewitt to mill for flour for our own use.  [Note:  David Pitney Bliss married Amanda, daughter of Philip Philo Peck, five years after staying in the Peck home.]

Philip Philo Peck

David [Note:  our ancestor] was a good mechanic.  He made bob sleighs out of roots of oak stumps that had the right crook for sleigh runners, ironed them off, and we had something to go with.  The first wheat that we sold Horatio took to Detroit on these sleighs.  On his last trip he sold the sleighs.  That gave us more money to make a payment on our place.  The first summer that we lived here we rented ten acres of land of Morris Boughton.  We planted it to corn and potatoes.  Mr. Boughton let us use his team to do the work and we got half of the crop for our share.

We had six years to pay for the place, so after we had land enough cleared we raised wheat and sold it.  There was no railroad here, and Horatio had to haul it to Detroit.  When the railroad was built to Jackson, we hauled it there.  Later the Grand Trunk was built to St. Johns, and then we hauled our stuff to St. Johns and Fowler.  The second year that we raised wheat to sell, there was a wet harvest in the eastern part of the state, so the farmers from there came her and bought our wheat.  We got $1.50 a bushel at home.

Watch for the installment in the next post.

 


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