Genealogy is a fascinating subject. No matter what area I research, new questions or areas of interest arise. In recent weeks, I have been working to expand my data base on the descendants of Ulrich Winegar who came to America in 1710 and settled in New York state. In a recent post I described the involvement of the Winegars with the early Mormon Church. As my project continued, I became aware that there was a large number of Winegars who settled in Michigan during the middle 1800s. My great-grandfather had settled in Wacousta in Clinton County, and I knew that some Winegars had settled in Grand Rapids, but the large number in Michigan surprised me. I also became aware that they seemed to be concentrated in a strip of counties in southern Michigan. I had lived in Eaton Rapids, Michigan, in the late 1950s and was surprised to learn that Winegars had settled near there over 100 years earlier. Some were buried in the Eaton Rapids cemetery. I vaguely remember my father contacting some nearby Winegars, but it seems they were unable to determine if we were related.
I decided to explore the migration of the Winegars from New York to the area in Michigan where they settled. Ulrich Winegar was a German Palatine who was brought to America by the English to work in the timber industry. After 14 years he was able to buy land and settled with his family in Amenia, Dutchess County, New York. Ulrich had two daughters and a son Garrett. Garrett had 14 children, nine of them boys. Descendants of at least three of these boys eventually settled in Michigan.
Dutchess County is located on the east side of the Hudson River, north of New York City. As the family grew, they moved north along the Hudson River but also settled in the area westward between Albany and Buffalo. This was the area where the Erie Canal was built and completed around 1825. Almost all of the Winegars who moved to Michigan were born or lived along the Hudson River or the Erie Canal. The Erie Canal made westward movement possible. Pioneers and their families could travel down the canal, catch a steamer across Lake Erie and be in Detroit. This was much easier than overland travel. Apparently, land was available in the territory which encouraged people to move there. Michigan became a state in 1837. The map below shows the counties where the Winegars who traveled to Michigan were born.
As it turns out, where the families settled was determined by the roads in the new territory. The government built a road north from Detroit northwest through Howell to Lansing, the new capital, and then west along the Grand River to its mouth at Lake Michigan. The road was called the Grand River Road or Grand River Turnpike. I found a lot of information about this road and that could make an interesting future post. Recognizing the path of this road, it is easy to see why the Winegars settled where they did. The road started at Detroit in Wayne County, went through Howell in Livingstone County, then to Ingham County where Lansing is located, and then followed the Grand River through Eaton, Ionia , Kent, and Ottawa counties. The map below shows the counties where Winegars settled, all within a short distance of the Grand River Turnpike. The heaviest concentrations were in Kent, Eaton, and Jackson counties. One exception was a large number who settled in Macomb County just north of Detroit.
As I compiled this information I found new areas to explore. Amos Winegar and his family were in Howell, Michigan by 1817, at least 8 years before the opening of the Erie Canal. I would like to learn more about this family. George Winegar and his family were in Eaton County by 1836, before the government had funded the highway. Isaac Winegar jr. was in Kent County by 1847. These families played a major role in the development of Michigan and I hope to explore their stories and share them in the future.