The Plowman Family: Lide Remembers Father, part two

August 2, 2009

 

Today we continue with Lide Plowman’s memories of her father and life in the Plowman household.  If this is your first visit to this blog, you will want to read part one of this autobiographical story of life in the mid-1800’s in Michigan.  The family tree chart is at the end of today’s post.

Before I can remember, father built a large log house to accommodate the increasing family and used the old one for tools and black salts.  They used black salts to make soda and the like.  A shed on the east end of the house was a work shop.

 The first chimney was built of narrow flat split sticks, laid in plaster and plastered inside and out.  The jambs or sides of the fireplace, built of large stones, were about five feet apart, and spread out toward the front, which made a nice large place for the family to sit around.  The back of the fire place was laid up of stone.  The first hearth I remember was of brick, but at first it was likely of stone.

 The wood we burned would be a wonder to children now.  The body of the trees were drawn to the house by hooking a chain around the larger end, and the other end of the chain hooked into the ox yoke.  A 12” to 16” log chopped into four foot lengths served for a back log, while a log 6” or 8” thick served for a top stick.  This made the foundation of the fire, after which kindling was placed under, and smaller sticks piled between.

 You will wonder how these large logs were brought in.  We were never without a stout large home made sled with four posts.  The large log was rolled on to it and the stakes put in place, with one boy drawing and one behind pushing, it was brought in before the fire place.  Then with a boy at each end it was put in place.  Then another load for top and fore stick.

 The kindling was placed on “live coals” and the small wood put on top.  We never let the fire go out, for in those days we had no matches, and the only way to start a fire was by the use a flint or to borrow from the neighbors.  I myself remember going over the crick to Uncle Sammy’s with a little shovel to borrow fire.

 You who have never seen such a fire have no idea of the heat and light it afforded.  A candle was not needed to read by and we were all comfortable, if we were not too close.  I wish I could tell you the pleasure we had in watching the fire, seeing the flames and the sparks fly up and coals fall, and the many queer and fanciful shapes fashioned by it all.  It would take a post to do this justice, and we’ll let Till and Sate help us out.

 The great bed of coals served to cook our meals.  A long shovel was used to draw out enough coals to fry a large spider of meat.  The spider had three legs and set over the coals.  A crane hung and swung in the chimney supplied with iron hooks on which to hang kettles, for vegetables, meat and an iron tea kettle, when the fire was low the hooks were hooked in to each other to bring the kettles near the fire.

 Bread was baked in a tin oven set before the fire, and over the coals.  This oven looked something like a leanto, set back from the house, with a place for the dripper where the upper floor would be.  The bright tin of the roof helped to brown the top of the bread, while the coals browned the bottom.  This dripper must have been about 10” by 24” and was the one grandmother Plowman (Emily Crane’s mother) used for pumpkin pies for the boys, when Father and Mother went to Oakland.  I have heard Ezra and Charlie and Saron say they asked for a pie thick enough that when they bit into it it would touch their noses.

 I can just remember when father brought home the first stove.  I must have been about 6 or 7 years old.  This stove was never a good baker, so our bread was still baked in front of the fire or in the outdoor oven until the elevated oven came in to our home, when I was maybe 12 or 14.  Even after that, mother during harvest would bake 15 loaves of bread and pies in the outdoor brick oven, which had taken the place of the mud oven.  I wonder if George or Lute remember splitting oven wood for mother?  It was not a job the boys liked.

 Bringing in of the night wood was a job for two boys and the sled.  We had a shut-in stairway which was an unusual thing in the new country, as a hole in the chamber and ladder running up to it was the usual thing.  Between this stairway and the fire place was a space about 4 feet wide at the bottom and running up narrower.  I have no idea how many sled loads of wood it took to fill this space, likely one fourth cord.

 The fireplace was a cheerful, comfortable place for the family to gather to talk over the days doings, with mother and sisters knitting (mother did not spin and weave much after I can well remember, although Till and I helped her some.)  Father reading or finishing off an ax helve, of which each of the boys had their own, some righthanded, and some left, to suit the boy.  They were first shaped with a draw shave, then smoothed with a pocket knife, then scraped with a piece of window glass and rubbed with fine sandpaper until smooth as a piece of glass.  No one could make a better one than father.

 Can any of you remember our brothers sitting facing each other straddle a flat iron shovel handle, placed on their chairs, with a bushel basket between them, shelling corn (on the handle)?  Not for the chickens and geese.  Oh! No.  That was a daily job for the smaller ones; but to make meal for food for the family, and some of the animals.  (How I should like some for my Christmas present, we never have any now so good). 

 

 

 

 

 

Plowman Family Tree

Plowman Family Tree

 

 

 


The Plowman Family: Lide Remembers Father, part one

August 1, 2009
 
Mary Eliza "Lide" Plowman

Mary Eliza "Lide" Plowman

According to her grandson Mark Andrews, the following is a letter written in late 1921 by Mary Eliza Plowman Benedict and directed to the PLOWMAN CHRISTMAS TREE.  Mary Eliza, better known as “Lide,” wrote from the home of her daughter Pearl Jones in Brooklyn, New York.

 I am going back to the time when our father went from Oakland Co. Michigan, to Orange Co. NY, where he was born Feb. 20 1813 (Wm. Tuttle Plowman) to get his first wife Mary Ann Potts.  This was in 1833.  He told me about it one night in 1866, when I was sitting up to watch for the meteoric shower.  He said he was in N. Y. state and going home from seeing Mary Ann Potts when the heavens seemed to be falling.  It was a wonderful sight!  I was not rewarded, however, for my watching and learned later that the “shower” was not visible in Michigan.

 Father and his first wife lived in Oakland on rented farms, working by the month until Ezra was born in 1834.  They had oxen and other things for settling on a new farm, and Sam Boughton and wife Kiziah or Jane E., father’s cousin, and two other families came with them to Westphalia.  There were only six families in the township (36 square miles) at that time.  It was not an unusual thing for bears to be looking for some of their live stock.

 Father built his first log house and began to clear the land, when one of his oxen was killed by a falling tree.  This made it necessary for them to go back to Oakland Co., and make a new start.  Charlie was born there in 1837 and they probably came back to Westphalia in ’40 or ’41.  Saron was born in 1842, and father was left with three little children (Mary Ann Potts died in childbirth).

 Aunt Adaline came from Oakland Co. to care for them, and Aunt Sarah came for company and help (they were about 13 and 19 years old).  [Note: Adaline and Sarah are William’s sisters.  See the chart.  JSW]  You can realize something what it meant when their only mode of travel was an ox team, through woods, and all the disadvantages of a new country.  But they came and I think Aunt Adaline always had a tender spot in her heart for Saron, and who could blame her.

 In 1843 father married our mother, (Emily Crane) who lived with her uncle Sammy Crane.  He had moved to Westphalia about the time father did.  His brother Francis Crane (Abagail’s father) lived just east of the Casper farm.

 Father was an enterprising, energetic man.  He soon had a large apple orchard, and the peaches, plums and cherries we had when I was a child were larger and better than Clinton Co. can offer now.  I could not have been more than seven or eight then.

 The four and six gallon crocks of peach and plum preserves made with maple sugar would be a wonder to you now.  All from their own labor and no money expenses.  When I was about sixteen I tried to can fruit in a crock by sealing it over with a mixture of resin, beeswax and lard.  But my first attempt failed, although “Met” had been able to keep it this way.  (Met – Luna’s mother).  [Note:  "Met" is Mariette, Charles Nelson Plowman's wife, JSW]  It was just after this that glass cans began to be used.

 The only thing they could sell for money was “black salts” made from the ashes they gathered where they had burned the log heaps in clearing the land.  The leaches would hold six or eight barrels of Ashes, and with a dozen leaches to run off, they took some water.  The Lye was boiled down to a shiny black sticky mass.  When it was ready for sale, which was a real blessing as it supplied the necessaries they could not produce from the soil (Lute collected it in hollowed out logs).  Lyons or Ionia was the place of sale.  The land office was at Ionia so that was an important town.

 This was a real pioneer’s life (would you like it?) 

Plowman Family Tree

Plowman Family Tree

 


The Plowman Family, Introduction

July 29, 2009
William Tuthill Plowman

William Tuthill Plowman

 

I am beginning a series of posts on the Plowman family in Wacousta, Michigan and Clinton County.  I have uploaded a genealogical file William Tuthill Plowman Descendants to ancestry.com to share the information that I have.  If you are not a subscriber to ancestry .com, you can get a 14 day free trial; or, if you e-mail me at jwinegar@tampabay.rr.com,  I can provide a guest membership for this file.  I have decent records up until about 1975 when the last reunion that I am aware of was held.  Since then, I only have information on my immediate family.  I would be very pleased to establish contact with other Plowmans or descendants and bring these records up to date. 

Emily Crane Plowman

Emily Crane Plowman

William Tuthill Plowman was born in Oakland County, Michigan in 1813.  He and his first wife, Mary Ann Potts, settled in Westphalia, Clinton County, Michigan around 1840.  Mary Ann died in childbirth with her third child.  William then married Emily Crane and had eight more children.  The Plowmans were to play a major role in the development of Clinton County.  Most of the 11 children settled in Clinton County and raised their families.  Their many children were very close and there was much interaction among the cousins. 

The Plowman brothers and sisters, ca 1880.

The Plowman brothers and sisters, ca 1880.

In the family photo above, Lide (the author of the stories about her family, is on the far left of the back row.  Don’t be fooled by the somber faces in the photographs.  This was a family who enjoyed life and one another, as will be evident as you read about their adventures.

In 1874, the first Plowman Christmas Tree was held. This became an annual event and was a family reunion.  Significant formal planning went into the event.  Officers were elected, and the menu and entertainment were planned.  The Christmas Tree continued until at least 1936.  Several  other reunions were held later. 

In 1921, Mary Eliza “Lide” Plowman Benedict, wrote a letter of her memories to be read at the Christmas Tree.  In subsequent years, she wrote at least four more letters for later trees.  These letters provide a wonderful look at the family and their history.  They are quite long so I am planning to divide them into several posts each.

Because of the size of the families, it is difficult to keep track of all the people.  Below is a chart that will help as you read Aunt Lide’s fascinating narratives.  The chart will be repeated in future posts, so there is no need to memorize the names!

The Plowman Family Tree

The Plowman Family Tree


Catherine “Katie” Daniells in the 1800s

July 18, 2009

 

Catherine Lowden Stowell Daniells, 1844-1923

Catherine Stowell

Catherine Stowell

Catherine Stowell, our ancestor, was born in Burlington, New Jersey, and moved with her family to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  The following are excerpts from her diary between 1862 and 1867 when she was between 18 and 23 years old.  (The excerpts are found in notes taken by Betty Daniells. I have no idea who has the original diary. Following clues from the diary has been an adventure. Surprisingly, we were able to identify James as James Lothian, who fought for the Union in the Civil War.  He was wounded at the Battle of Petersburg, but died a month later after having his leg amputated.  We don’t know how he is connected to the family, but he doesn’t appear to be a relative.  It is possible that he was a suitor for Catherine’s sister, Annie.  We learned that Carey’s sister’s family, the Escotts, and Catherine’s family were members of the Baptist Church and shared a pew.  This is where Carey and Catherine met.  JW)

July 26, 1862 James and Loucinda and Mrs. H. and myself went into the country to Mr. Baxter’s after Annie and Mary, had a fine time, stopped at Ada, and got home about 7 o’clock in evening.

July 26, 1863 I was taken sick with my throat.

Jan. 30, 1864 James came home, was very much surprised to see him, next day spent the afternoon and evening.

 

Catherine Stowell Daniells

Catherine Stowell Daniells

Feb. 1, 1864 James called before starting to Muskegon, stayed til Friday, called Friday and spent the evening.

March 12, 1864 James started to join his regiment, arrived there on the 17th, was gladly received by his company who had been urging his return. He was immediately placed in command of the reg., as the Lieut. Col. had been wounded.

June 16, 1864 James was wounded while leading a charge upon Petersburg, after lying 13 hours, he was removed to Alexandria by order of Lieut. Col. H. H. Wells. He had his left leg amputated but died upon the 12th of July, just four weeks after receiving the wound. His body was taken to Breadalbane C. H. by his parents who arrived a few days after he died.

July 3, 1864 Class of 1864 graduated at Luces Hall. I was invited to a festival in the evening given in honor of the class but was not able to attend. I was unable to graduate with my class on account of sickness during the past year.

Feb. 8, 1863 My friend Mary and myself were baptized in Grand River by P. Vanwinkle (pastor). We were received into the church upon the first Sabbath of March. God grant that we may be faithful until we are called home.

Oct. 20, 1864 A great republican mass meeting, large procession. Three cheers for honest old Abe of the west.

Oct. 22, 1864 A great Democratic mass meeting, large turn out.

Dec. 12, 1864 There is still much fighting going on. Day by day new homes are desolated and many, many hearts broken. Grant, Oh God, this cruel war may close, that those who have not tasted of the bitter cup, which this rebellion has mingled, not be called to drain its bitter dregs.

March 13, 1865 Today is my birthday. I am 21. Oh! How much of my life has been spent in sin. God grant that my future may be spent in his service.

April 3, 1865 Richmond was taken today by our forces together with several thousand prisoners.

April 9, 1865 Gen. R. E. Lee surrendered to Gen. U. S. Grant.

April, 10, 1865 A day of great rejoicing throughout all the loyal cities in the United States.

April 14, 1865 Tonight between nine and ten o’clock President Abram Lincoln was assassinated, shot through the head. Upon the same night, Secretary Wm. H. Seward was assassinated while confined to his bed, cutting his throat. The son of Sec. Seward was also knocked down senseless. His head was badly bruised.

April 15, 1865 Every city and nearly every house in mourning.

May 28, 1865 Attended church today for the first time since July 26, 1863. Feel very thankful for the privilege of again worshiping God in his house.

June 2, 1866 Was examined today and received certificate for teaching.

June 4, 1866 Commenced teaching today in the Union School at Cold Brook.

 

 

 

 


The Stowells in the 1800s

July 18, 2009

 

Parents of Catherine Stowell Daniells

John Stowell

John Stowell

John Stowell was born in Burlington, New Jersey in 1819.  He moved his family to Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he worked in real estate. He was also Commissioner to the Indians in Grand Rapids. 

John Stowell acquired a large Bible July 5, 1847, when his daughter Catherine was about three years old.  The Bible is in very good condition despite some age spots and contains family records for several generations.  The Bible is in the possession of Jim Winegar. 
Stowell Family Bible

Stowell Family Bible

John Stowell died in 1888 in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Achsah Jones was born in Green Ridge, New Jersey, in 1820.  She was the daughter of Abram Jones, a Revolutionary War veteran.  In 1830 or 1831, when she was about 10 or 11 years old, she cross-stitched a sampler that was of excellent workmanship.  The verse on the sampler is: 
 

By cool Siloam’s shady rill

How sweet the lily grows

How sweet the breath beneath the hill

Of Sharon’s dewey rose.

Achsah Jones

Achsah Jones

The 179-year-old sampler is stitched with fine thread on linen canvas and has been well-preserved through the years.  It is currently in the appreciative care of James Winegar.

Achsah and John had four children:  Anna E. (called Annie by the family), Catherine, George W., and Ella V.  Ella died when she was only a few months old.  Achsah and her daughters were members of the Fountain Street Baptist Church.  Achsah died in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1902 and is buried in the Oakhill Cemetery, along with her husband John Stowell. 

 

 

Achsah Jones

Achsah Jones


Carey Reed Daniells in the 1800s

July 17, 2009

 

Carey Reed Daniells, 1845-1912

Carey Reed Daniells

Carey Reed Daniells

Carey Reed Daniells was born in West Bloomfield, Michigan.  He was a farmer, a general merchant, a miller, and a salesman.  He attended the University of Michigan for a time and roomed with Howard Ingersoll, the eldest of the Ingersoll brothers from Wacousta.  He married Catherine (Katie) Stowell in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  They had met at Fountain Street Baptist Church when he visited his sister, Mary Escott, in Grand Rapids.  

Prior to his marriage, he had purchased a farm in Wacousta.  There were no buildings on the farm, so he rented rooms from neighbors across the road.  That is where he took his bride and where his first child was born.  During the first year after his marriage he built a barn, and in the second year he built his house.  Sometime later he sold the farm and built a general store which he ran successfully for several years.  When the grist-mill owned by his uncle Nelson Daniells burned, he traded the store for the mill property.  Twenty-four hours after completing the transaction, the dam went out.  He repaired the dam at a cost of $16,000.  To make matters worse, it was at the time when the method of making flour was changing from the Stone to the Roller Process.  He did not have the capital to upgrade to the new technology.  He continued to run the mill for a time, but this venture was not very successful.  (The Daniels-Daniells Family, vol. 2, 263, 266)

Katie Lowden Stowell Daniells

Katie Lowden Stowell Daniells

In about 1900, he went to work as at traveling salesman, selling watches for Robert Ingersoll.  On one trip, he was impressed with Texas, so he sold his Michigan property and bought a Texas ranch, still continuing to sell watches.  In 1905 he was badly injured in a train wreck, and, although he went back to work after a year, he never fully recovered.  He and Katie died in 1912 and 1923, respectively.  Both are buried in Fort Worth Texas.

Carey and Katie had five children, Estee Stowell, Mary Anna, Allan Louis, Will Carleton (our ancestor), and Lucinda Augusta.


Daniells in the 1800s

July 16, 2009

 

Nathaniel Irish Daniells, 1832-1899

Nathaniel Irish Daniells 2

Nathaniel Irish Daniells

Nathaniel was born in Scipio, Cayuga County, New York.  He married Lucinda Reed in February, 1832, and in May of that year, they left for West Bloomfield, Michigan, where two years earlier he had purchased land and had hired 10 acres to be cleared and sowed to wheat.  They went by Erie Canal and Lake Erie steamer.  In six years he had 140 of his 240 acres cleared.  He taught school three winters.  He was a gifted penman and made quill pens for his students.

In about 1835, he and Joshua Coonley started a general store, but they were soon ruined in the “Wild Cat Panic.”  [Note: This may have referred to the banks with their free lending policies and their issue of paper currency (called specie) that were not backed up by gold or silver. Bank after bank closed its doors, causing a financial panic in 1837.] 

Lucinda Reed Daniells

Lucinda Reed Daniells

In 1848, he moved to Wacousta and started a long round of legal battles with Benjamin Silsbee who tried to keep him off the land he had bought.  The problems lasted until 1854 when Nathaniel finally gained clear title.  Several of his brothers, Elias, Nelson and David, also located in Wacousta and built a saw mill and grist mill.  

From the History of Shiawassee and Clinton Counties Michigan 1880, page 527:

N.I. and Nelson Daniells arrived in 1848 (having been former residents of Cayuga County, New York), and at once repaired the mill property.  The grist mill which was in a condition unfit for service, was at once remodeled, and the saw mill thoroughly rebuilt.  A store was opened by them and in 1855 the old grist mill was replaced by a new one, which is now owned by Nelson Daniells.  This mill has three run of stones, and is devoted to both custom and merchant-work.  It is located upon the Looking Glass River, from whence its power is derived, and has a capacity of four hundred bushels per day.  Much patronage is enjoyed from the adjacent country, though Lansing and the East furnish a market for its merchant-work.

The saw mill, which is also owned by Mr. Daniells, embraces planing machinery, and has a capacity of two thousand feet per day.  It does custom-work exclusively.

nihouseNelson’s oldest daughter, Cornelia Hazard writes:

The Daniells brothers were all men to take an active interest in public affairs, and though somewhat aggressive in their views, yet were all of uncompromising integrity, upholding and maintaining the rights of others in all respects, and so made themselves a force in the community.

In the spring of 1852, Nathaniel was elected Justice of the Peace and served for 17 years.  It was often asserted that he did more business than all the other Justices within the reach of his jurisdiction and paid more fees into the county treasury.  He built his home and conducted his business in the rear of the home.

In 1850, Nathaniel was Census Enumerator for Clinton, Gratiot, Isabella, and Clare Counties.  That same year he was appointed Deputy Marshall to go to Lake Michigan and to prosecute trespassers who were logging off public lands.  In 1867, he was elected to the Constitutional Convention for the State of Michigan.  [Note: family tradition holds that the Constitution was prepared in his handwriting.]  In 1870, he was again Census Enumerator for the east half of Clinton County.

50 years before the Daniells and Bliss families merged, N.I. Daniells recorded the Blisses in the 1850 census.

50 years before the Daniells and Bliss families merged, N.I. Daniells recorded the Blisses in the 1850 census.

Nathaniel and Lucinda had seven children.  Our ancestor is Carey Reed Daniells.  Lucinda died in1885, and Nathaniel married Susan Stansell.  He died in 1899, and both Nathaniel and Lucinda are buried in Wacousta Cemetery.  His brothers Nelson and David, and sister Cornelia are also buried in Wacousta Cemetery. 

 

 

 

 

 

The N.I. Daniells Family.  Front row from left to right: John Graham, Nathaniel Irish Daniells, Elias Daniells, David Daniells, Nelson Daniells.  Back row: Matilda Daniells Graham, Lucinda Reed Daniells, Almeda Daniells Davis, Sarah Harris Daniells, Laura Philips Daniells, and Olive Boorn Daniells.

The William Daniells Family. Front row from left to right: John Graham, Nathaniel Irish Daniells, Elias Daniells, David Daniells, Nelson Daniells. Back row: Matilda Daniells Graham, Lucinda Reed Daniells, Almeda Daniells Davis, Sarah Harris Daniells, Laura Philips Daniells, and Olive Boorn Daniells.

 

 

 

Wacousta Mill

Wacousta Mill


The Daniells Family in the 1800s

July 15, 2009

 

William Daniells, 1775-1866

William Daniells

William Daniells

From notes of Betty Daniells and The Daniels/Daniells Family, vol. 2, pages 236, 251:

William was born in 1775 in Worthington, Massachusetts.  He moved to Scipio, New York, in 1798, and settled in what came to be called “Daniel’s Settlement.”  He married Mary Irish in 1799.  He was a farmer; taught the first year he was in Scipio, but no more, as he was not qualified. 

He was for many years a deacon in the Baptist Church. 

He and Mary spent their declining years with their son Benjamin in Michigan.  He died in 1866 at Birmingham, Michigan, and is buried in the Crooks Cemetery. 

He passed through Wacousta on the way to Grand Rapids in the spring of 1836 and admired that section, so may have been partly responsible for so many of his sons settling there.


More Stephensons in the 1800s

July 14, 2009
 

 Edward William Stephenson  (1854-1931)

Edward William Stephenson

E.W. Stephenson

E. W. ”Will” Stephenson was born in Long Island, New York, but traveled to St. Johns, Michigan, when he was an infant.  He grew up and attended school in St. Johns.  As a teen, he learned telegraphy at the local railroad station, and, at 18, went to work for the Detroit, Lansing and Northern Railroad.  In 1873, he was appointed station agent at Eagle, Michigan, where he served for about five years. He then took up farming in Eagle Township, three miles west of Wacousta.  He served as Town Clerk of Eagle Township in 1878-79.

He married Alta Swiler in 1876, and they had two daughters, Bertha and Myrtie, our ancestor.

Alta Adel Swiler

Alta Swiler Stephenson

His grandson Donald Winegar writes:

In later years, he became an agent for farm insurance.  As a small boy, I can remember going with my grandfather in the Model T Ford touring car to call on clients to settle claims.  As a rule, he traveled about 12 to 15 miles per hour if the roads would permit.  At times, however, when he was in a hurry, he would ‘open it up’ to 20 or 25 miles an hour.  What a thrill this gave me.  I thought we were flying.

I can never remember my grandfather without a beard and mustache.  Indeed, my mother, Myrtie, once told me that she could not remember her father without a beard.

E.W. Stephenson Family

The Stephenson Family - Alta and E.W. front row, Bertha and Myrtie back row.

I do not remember much about my grandmother, Alta, except that she was always very good to me, her oldest grandson.  I doubt if there was anything she would have withheld from me, if she thought it would be right to give it.  I was only seven years old when she died.  I was permitted to go to the funeral because I loved my grandmother.

BERTWILL

Bertha and Will Parks

 After the death of his wife, Will invited his daughter Bertha and her husband Will Parks to live with him. They lived with him until his death in 1931.  Both E.W. and Alta are buried in Niles Cemetery, Clinton County, Michigan.

The Stephenson bedroom suite was passed down to Donald Winegar and then to me.  It is still in continuous use in our home.

Stephenson Bedroom Suite

Stephenson Bedroom Suite

EW Stephenson and Bill Winegar

E.W. Stephenson and his grandson Bill Winegar

 

The Stephenson Home

The Stephenson Home


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.


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