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  Apparently a huge number of these awards were granted, many of which were rescinded.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.


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.


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