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.


The Bliss Family Arrives in Wacousta, part 1

July 7, 2009


David Bliss, 1791-1860

David, son of David Bliss and Lucy Stebbins, was born in Springfield, Massachusetts.  He was a saddle and harness maker.

David married Samantha Griswold in 1812 and had 13 children, 12 of whom were born in Wilmington, Vermont.  He served as a Deacon in the Wilmington Congregational Church.  They also lived in Bennington and Shaftsbury, Vermont, and then moved to New York State before heading west. 

In 1848, David and several of his children, including our ancestor David Pitney Bliss set off for Michigan to their “soldiers claim” in Riley Township.  Their experiences as described by David’s son Henry were reported in the following article from the St. John’s newspaper.  The account is long and will broken into several installments.  There is not a date on the article, but Henry died in 1929, the last of the Bliss children to die.  The article is entitled, “BLISS FAMILY HELD REUNION.”

The Bliss family held a reunion at the M.A.C. Saturday, about 150 being present, the greater part of whom live in Clinton County.  G.F. Ottmar of Riley read the following family history.

David and Samantha Bliss lived in Vermont state and later moved to New York state in the early 40’s.  The family consisted of Stebbins, David, Horatio, Augustus, Henry, Sidney, Lucy Hodges, Sabrina Temple, Adeline Pratt, Elizabeth Osborn, and Emily, who died in New York state in the spring of 1848.  From this point of the family history begins our story as related to me by Uncle Henry Bliss.  [Note: Henry Bliss is son of David Bliss and brother to David Pitney Bliss, our direct ancestor.]  He said:

In the fall of 1848, father and mother, David, Horatio, Augustus, myself, Sidney, Cyrus and Adeline Pratt his wife, and Rufus Pratt started for Michigan, and settled on a soldier’s claim in the Township of Riley, Clinton County.  Stebbins came in 1849.  Jim and Lucy Hodges came from Wisconsin to Michigan and joined the family in 1849.  Elizabeth Osborn remained in New York.  Sabrina and Merret Temple came in 1861.

We took an Erie Canal boat at Schenectady, N.Y., and arrived in Buffalo one week later.  The weather was fine and the trip was very slow.  The boat was drawn with horses and they walked all the way.  We took a steamer from Buffalo to Detroit, Michigan.

Uncle Clark Griswold, who lived at Northville, Mich., sent a team of horses and lumber wagon to Detroit to get us and took us all to his place.  It was quite a load.  Uncle Clark was husking his corn, so we stayed a week with him and helped him finish.  He then sent his team and hired man, and a neighbor with his team and wagons, and took us and what goods we could carry to Riley.  The roads were very bad, and traveling was hard.  The balance of the goods we left at Uncle Clark’s.  The next summer we hired Freeman Nichols, who then lived the second house west of Boughton’s corners, to go to Northville to get the remainder of the goods.  We had no money to pay for this, so we agreed to chop and clear a certain number of acres of heavy timbered land to pay for this trip.  We had to chop down the trees, burn them and fence the field.  We got a lot of experience.  The logs were green elms and hard to burn.  This was our first experience clearing forests.

Uncle Clark asked Mr. Nichols how we were getting along and he told him that we were hard up, and so he sent along with the goods a whole barrel of pork for us.  I tell you that was good.  Uncle Clark was certainly a fine man.  (Right here let me say that the writer of this article met Uncle Clark at the home of the relater, Uncle Henry, a few years before his sad and sudden death and he can frankly say that he never met a kinder-hearted and more pleasing old gentleman than Uncle Clark Griswold.)

More tales of the Bliss adventures will be told in subsequent posts to this blog.

Migration to Michigan – the 1800s

July 6, 2009

At the beginning of the 1800s, the Bliss family was living in Massachusetts, the Daniells and the Winegars had settled in New York State, and the Stephensons were living in Lincolnshire, England.  By 1855, all four families had relocated to Clinton County, Michigan.  What made this migration possible was the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825.  This opened  up the “West” for development. 

Click on the link on the right side of the page labeled Routes to Michigan for an interactive map showing the paths the four families traveled.  You can click on both the markers and the lines to get information about the families and the routes they traveled.

The Erie Canal in the 1800s

The Erie Canal in the 1800s

Erie Canal today.  Photo by Sandra Winegar.

Erie Canal today. Photo by Sandra Winegar.

More Daniells in the 1700s

July 3, 2009


Nathaniel Daniels, 1719-1799

Nathaniel, the son of John and Elliner Daniels was born in Milton, Massachusetts in 1719.  He married Ann Grosvenor in 1741 in Pomfret, Connecticut.  They had 11 children before Ann died in 1762.  Nathaniel had two more marriages and outlived all three wives. 

Nathaniel was seventeen years old when his family moved to Pomfret,  which was a prosperous township.  “Trumpets sounded the approach of the coaches that stopped with a flourish before the Inns on their way between New York and Boston. Buisness was good.  It was a coming town” (Daniels-Daniells Family, Volume 2, p. 57).  He is referred to as a “cloathe dresser and a clotherier.”  In 1761, Nathaniel was made a Lieutenant in the 11th Regiment of Connecticut and served in the Indian wars.  In 1762 he was made a Captain. 

Nathaniel moved to Worthington, Massachusetts, in 1768, the year it was incorporated.  He built the first frame house in town.  At the first town meeting, which was held in his house, Capt. Nathaniel Daniels was chosen one of the Wardens.  He was a tavern keeper and took an active part in the affairs of the town. He was a selectman in 1770, 1773, 1775, and 1780. 

At first there were no roads.  Travel was entirely by blazed trail, and distances to neighbors were great and difficult.  Quilting was a favorite social event, but the pioneer women had to bake a supply to last their family for three days, farm the baby out with a neighbor, spend one day going, one quilting, and one returning.  The first road was laid out so as to connect with the Chesterfield road and running west until it reached the place where stood the Inn of Alexander Miller.  Subsequently, this road was changed so as to lead directly from “The Corners” to the Inn of Capt. Nathaniel Daniels.  This change was made by the town so as to prevent any travel by the house of Alexander Miller who favored the cause of Great Britain and to secure the same to Captain Nathaniel Daniels who was a zealous patriot.  The second road to Chester passes Daniel’s Inn.  (The History of Worthington by James C. Rice)

On June 28, 1774 word reach Worthington of an embargo on shipping in Boston.  Nathaniel was one of five members of the town Committee of Correspondence established to communicate with the committees in Boston.  (Dr. Thomas Young was also involved in this activity (see the Winegars in the 1700s post dated June 30, 2009).  Following the battles at Lexington and Concord, Nathaniel and his son Nathaniel, Jr. (our ancestor), marched as minutemen as privates in Capt. Ebenezer Weber’s Company to Cambridge.  Nathaniel Sr.’s term is recorded as one month and five days, his son’s as 24 days.  Short enlistments were the norm during this time but seriously hindered the cause of the colonies in the Revolutionary War. 

Revolutionary War Minutemen

Revolutionary War Minutemen

Josiah Gilbert Holland’s history of Western Massachusetts, published in 1855, provides interesting details of life in Worthington during the time that Nathaniel was actively involved in the war effort.

In 1780, a requisition made upon the town for horses, found the people without the required number, and even then they voted to give the security of the town for the price of the horses, if they could be found elsewhere.  Between 1779 and 1782, such was the number of men in the army that not more than ten or twelve men, out of more than seventy families living in the town, attended the church on the Sabbath.

Nathaniel later is recorded as serving under Lt. Constant Weber’s Company for 12 days during the Battle of Bennington.

Battle of Bennington

Battle of Bennington

After the war, Nathaniel sold his land and moved to a place near Albany.  He sold his land for continental currency which became worthless, and, at one point, both Nathaniel Sr. and Nathaniel Jr. were threatened with debtor’s prison.  There were thousands of other people with similar problems, including one Winegar ancestor, which led to Shay’s Rebellion.  Nathaniel was not a part of this rebellion but remained bitter about the experience.  He made his sons promise never to take pensions from the government, and apparently they never did. 

In 1783 Nathaniel moved to Rutland, Vermont, where he lived for the remainder of his life.  He died in 1799.


Nathaniel Daniels, Jr., 1742-1830

Nathaniel Daniels, Jr., son of Nathaniel and Ann, was born in 1742 at Pomfret, Connecticutt.  He married Esther Lee at Thompson, Connecticutt, in 1762, and they had 11 children.  The fourth son, William (born in 1775) was our ancestor.

As mentioned above, Nathaniel Jr. served as a minuteman in the Battle of Cambridge.  Following the Revolutionary War and the financial collapse of the continental currency, he and his father were sued and threatened with debtor’s prison.  They satisfactorily paid off all their debts.

Nathaniel died in 1830 in Saratoga County, New York.  He left a will that mentioned his wife and nine children.  Presumably, two of the eleven children were deceased or otherwise left unmentioned.

Home of Nathaniel Daniels, Jr., in Saratoga County, New York.  Photo from The Daniels-Daniells Family, Vol. 2.

Home of Nathaniel Daniels, Jr., in Saratoga County, New York. Photo from The Daniels-Daniells Family, Vol. 2.

The Daniells Family in the 1700s

July 2, 2009


John Daniell, Jr., 1685-1765

John Daniell, the second son of John and Dorothy Daniel, was born in 1685 in Milton, Massachusetts.  He married Elliner Verin in Milton in 1707.  Elliner was a relative of Captain Lemuel Gulliver who returned to Ireland in 1723 and described America to his neighbor Jonathan Swift in such an exaggerated way that Swift used his name three years later in his famous Gulliver’s Travels. Lemuel said the “frogs in America reached up to his knees and had musical voices like the twang of a guitar and the mosquitoes had bills as large as darning needles.”  (The Daniels-Daniells Family Vol. 2). 


 John was actively involved in the affairs of Milton, serving as constable, sealer of weights, “servaur” of highways, and fence viewer (surveyer).  He was a selectman and on the committee to build the meeting house.  In 1728, the property on Milton Hill which John Grenaway had given to William Daniel, John’s grandfather, 76 years earlier was desired by the Secretary of the Colony.  John sold the property at a good price and a few years later moved his family to Pomfret, Connecticut.

In Pomfret he bought Howes Mill on the Quinebaug River for 2400 pounds, a big sum of money then. He became a captain in the militia during the French and Indian War. At age 75 he sold the mill property to Benjamin Cargill and returned to Milton where he died at age 80.

Scenes from the Quinebaug River Valley

Scenes from the Quinebaug River Valley

Marker at Cargill Falls Mill, site of mill owned by John Daniels.

Marker at Cargill Falls Mill, site of mill owned by John Daniels.

The Stephenson family in the 1700s

July 2, 2009

 Henry Stephenson, 1697-

Henry Stepheson was born in 1697 and married Martha Richardson in 1723 in Hogsthorpe, Lincolnshire, England.  They had three sons and three daughters.  Martha Richardson Stephenson was christened in Mumby Chapel in 1702.  The original building washed into the sea in 1750 and was rebuilt. 

St. Thomas Church at Mumby, Hogsthorpe, Lincolnshire.

St. Thomas Church at Mumby, Hogsthorpe, Lincolnshire.

Henry Stephenson, 1728- 

Henry and Martha’s second son Henry, our ancestor, was born in 1728.  He married Mary Swin (or Swinn) in 1765. 

George Stephenson, 1774-1846

Our ancestor George Stephenson was born to Henry and Mary in 1774.  He married Elizabeth Would (or Wold) in 1797.  More information will follow on the life of George.

The Bliss Family in the 1700s

July 1, 2009


David Bliss (1722-1760)

Following the death of Thomas Bliss in 1650, his widow Margaret Hulins Bliss relocated the family to Springfield, Massachusetts where she lived with her daughter Mary Bliss Parsons.  Margaret died in 1684, outliving both her husband and her son Lawrence. 

David Bliss, Margaret’s great-grandson, was born in Springfield in 1722 and probably lived in the house shown below.  He was for many years Town Constable of Springfield.  He married Miriam Sexton in 1757.  He lived only three years after his marriage and died of smallpox just a week before his 38th birthday. 

Home of Margaret Bliss in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Home of Margaret Bliss in Springfield, Massachusetts.

David Bliss, Jr. (1758-1791)

David Bliss, Jr. was born in Springfield in 1758.  He married Lucy Stebbins in 1787.  He was a shoemaker, tanner, and currier.  His health failed, and he lived only four years after his marriage.  He died in 1791 at the age of 33. 

Courthouse of colonial Springfield, Massachusetts.

Courthouse of colonial Springfield, Massachusetts.

Parsons Tavern in Springfield, Massachusetts, 1776

Parsons Tavern in Springfield, Massachusetts, 1776


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