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.

The Bliss Family in the 1700s

July 1, 2009


David Bliss (1722-1760)

Following the death of Thomas Bliss in 1650, his widow Margaret Hulins Bliss relocated the family to Springfield, Massachusetts where she lived with her daughter Mary Bliss Parsons.  Margaret died in 1684, outliving both her husband and her son Lawrence. 

David Bliss, Margaret’s great-grandson, was born in Springfield in 1722 and probably lived in the house shown below.  He was for many years Town Constable of Springfield.  He married Miriam Sexton in 1757.  He lived only three years after his marriage and died of smallpox just a week before his 38th birthday. 

Home of Margaret Bliss in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Home of Margaret Bliss in Springfield, Massachusetts.

David Bliss, Jr. (1758-1791)

David Bliss, Jr. was born in Springfield in 1758.  He married Lucy Stebbins in 1787.  He was a shoemaker, tanner, and currier.  His health failed, and he lived only four years after his marriage.  He died in 1791 at the age of 33. 

Courthouse of colonial Springfield, Massachusetts.

Courthouse of colonial Springfield, Massachusetts.

Parsons Tavern in Springfield, Massachusetts, 1776

Parsons Tavern in Springfield, Massachusetts, 1776

The Bliss family in the 1600s

June 23, 2009


Thomas Bliss (1585 – 1650/51)

Thomas Bliss was born in Gloucester, England.  He married Margaret Hulins in 1621.  We do not know when or how they came to America, but he was in Hartford, Connecticut by 1639, and the records show that he had built a house by that time.  At his death, his widow was granted land in Springfield, Massachusetts, where she lived until her death in 1684.  She vigorously defended their daughter Mary Parsons when Mary was under suspicion of witchcraft in 1656, but in 1674 a formal charge was made resulting in Mary’s trial and acquittal in Boston.

Mary Bliss Parsons, who was charged with being a witch.

Mary Bliss Parsons, who was charged with being a witch.

Lawrence Bliss (1626-1676)

Lawrence, the son of Thomas, was born in England.  We do not know for sure how he came to America, but he probably came at the same time as his father before 1639.  He married Lydia Wright in 1654 in Springfield, Massachusetts.  He died in Springfield in 1676.

William Bliss (1670-1740)

William, son of Lawrence and grandson of Thomas, lived his whole life in Springfield, Massachusetts.  He married Margaret Lombard in 1710.

Bliss Mill at Chipping Norton, England.  Our family may have been associated with this mill that made woolens.

Bliss Mill at Chipping Norton, England. Our family may have been associated with this mill that made woolens.