Sandra and I recently spent two weeks at our cottage in Michigan. While there we did some exploration in the localities where descendents of Ulrich Winegar settled in the mid 1800s. In the next several posts I will share some of our findings. One of the earliest of the Winegars to settle in Michigan was Isaac Winegar, Jr. Isaac’s grandfather was Samuel S., the son of Garrett Winegar. His uncle, Samuel Thomas Winegar was discussed in an earlier post as one of the early Mormons.
Details on Isaac’s journey to Michigan come from a book, A Century of Progress-Byron Township 1857-1957, which was published as part of Byron Center’s centennial. Issac Winegar, Jr. was born in Chenango County, New York in 1816. He was a successful harness maker. In 1845, Issac became dissatisfied and decided to move West to seek his fortune. He and his brother John had intended to go to northwestern Pennsylvania but changed their minds when they reached Buffalo, New York, and got caught up in the excitement of many people heading for Michigan. They traveled by boat to Detroit where they visited a land office and learned of land available in the Grand River Valley. They bought rail tickets which were labeled “as far as the railroad is built.”
They traveled to within a few miles of Marshall, where they were told that the steel rails were incomplete to Marshall, but that wooden rails were laid. The engineer was planning to go ahead to Marshall on the wooden rails and said that anyone wanting to risk it could continue on for no charge. Thus, Isaac and his brother were on the first train to reach Marshall. From there, Issac traveled by stagecoach to Grand Rapids, a small village which was about three-fifths Indian. There he learned of two sections being settled: Flat River, around what is now Lowell, Michigan, (to be discussed in a later post) and South Woods, which is now Byron Center. Isaac elected to settle in South Woods which he visited and selected his land.
Isaac then returned to New York to pick up his wife, Sarah Farnsworth Whitcomb, and young son, Isaac Milton, and travel to their new home. They traveled by steamer to Detroit bringing with them only what they would be able to carry in their wagon when they reached Michigan. It was very late in the season and the trip was exceptionally rough. Food ran out and they survived on a barrel of apples that one of the passengers was bringing with him. With one horse and a wagon they traveled 100 miles over dirt and wood roads arriving at their new home on December 3, 1845. Fortunately, there was a log home which had been built by a man who had decided not to stay in the area, so the family had a home for the winter.
As soon as was possible, Isaac built a cabin. It was the first frame house in Byron Township. He later made his own bricks and built a brick home. The school was two miles from their home and there were wolves, wildcats, bob cats and an occassional bear along the way. In 1848, when Isaac Milton was six years old, he was sent to board with another family so he could attend school without having to face the dangers of wild animals on his walk to school.
More about the life of the Winegar family in Byron Center will be shared in future posts.