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?)