a gentleman who, by his enterprise and practical ability has materially advanced
the agricultural interest of St. Joseph County, representing, as he does, two
of its important townships, the subject of this biographical sketch occupies
no unimportant place among its citizens, and should receive due recognition
in this work. He owns two valuable and well-improved farms, one in Florence
Township and one on section 25, Constantine Township. The latter is under his
personal supervision, and there, in the pleasant home that he has built up,
he is passing his declining years.
His parents, William and Eliza W. (Cross) Barnard,
were respected pioneers of St. Joseph County, being among its earliest settlers,
and for many years they were members of its farming community, with patience
and self-sacrifice enduring the hardships of life in the wilderness, that they
might build up a home for themselves and family. They were natives of Yorkshire,
England, and in the year 1833, desiring to better their condition and to give
their children more advantages than they could have in the old country, they
embarked on a sailing-vessel with their family of little children, and bravely
set their faces toward the New World, and after a long and tedious voyage landed
in this country. The same years they made their way to Michigan, and settled
for a short time in this township, near Pigeon River. Later they removed to
another part of the county, and located on the banks of the same river, in what
is now Florence Township. In 1852 Mr. And Mrs. Barnard returned to Constantine
and made their home in the village, and there she died in 1860. One year later
the husband and father, in the fullness of years, after an honorable and useful
life, also passed to his rest from the home of his son, our subject, in Florence
His parents, William and Eliza W. (Cross) Barnard, were respected pioneers of St. Joseph County, being among its earliest settlers, and for many years they were members of its farming community, with patience and self-sacrifice enduring the hardships of life in the wilderness, that they might build up a home for themselves and family. They were natives of Yorkshire, England, and in the year 1833, desiring to better their condition and to give their children more advantages than they could have in the old country, they embarked on a sailing-vessel with their family of little children, and bravely set their faces toward the New World, and after a long and tedious voyage landed in this country. The same years they made their way to Michigan, and settled for a short time in this township, near Pigeon River. Later they removed to another part of the county, and located on the banks of the same river, in what is now Florence Township. In 1852 Mr. And Mrs. Barnard returned to Constantine and made their home in the village, and there she died in 1860. One year later the husband and father, in the fullness of years, after an honorable and useful life, also passed to his rest from the home of his son, our subject, in Florence Township.
Richard Barnard, of this sketch, was the fourth child of the family of six children born to his parents, his birth taking place in Yorkshire, England, in 1828. He was scarcely five years of age when his parents abandoned their English home to come to this country, so that most of his life has been passed here. He was reared on his father's homestead, and doubtless the pioneer influences that obtained in St. Joseph County at that early date helped to mold his character, to make him, in short, a strong, self-helpful, manly man. In 1850, with many other courageous, adventurous spirits, he being then in the bloom of early manhood, ambitiously sought his fortunes in the mines of California, proceeding to his destination over the great plains. He remained a citizen of the Golden State two years, and met with good success in his quest. But he tired of the rough, hard life of the miner, and at the expiration of that time returned to his home in this State. He established himself in the livery business in Constantine, and was thus engaged for a years, and then sold out to his brother John, who continued the business in Constantine for twenty-five years, our subject retiring to his farm in Florence. This is still in his possession, and contains 120 acres of arable land under admirable tillage, and well supplied with comfortable buildings. In 1872 he took up his abode on his Constantine farm, which comprises eighty acres of as fine farming land as to be found in all Southern Michigan. It is carefully cultivated after the most approved methods, has a neat and handsome set of farm buildings, and everything about the place denotes the presence of a skilled hand, directed by a clear, well-balanced mind. Besides giving much attention to tilling the soil, Mr. Barnard is actively and profitable engaged in buying and shipping stock. July 4, 1885, he met with a serious financial loss, his dwelling being destroyed by fire, with nearly all of its contents, entailing a loss of about $3,000. He has since replaced it by a commodious and conveniently arranged residence.
December 31, 1854, Mr. Barnard was married to Betsey Hotchin, who was a native of England. When she was eight years old she came to America with her parents, Samuel E. and Martha Hotchin, in 1844. They came to St. Joseph County and settled in Constantine Village, whence they subsequently removed to Florence Township, where her father engaged in farming, and there died. After a happy wedded life of nearly thirty-two years, Mrs. Barnard died, March 22, 1886. She was widely respected and beloved for her many amiable qualities, and as far as in her lay she left no duty undone, but was ever true in all the relations of life. She was a consistent and valued member of the Reformed Church. The following is the record of the children born of that marriage: Mary E. if the wife of E. A. Hamilton, of White Pigeon; Hattie E. is the wife of Oldos Barry; William is a farmer in Florence Township, as is also Charles L; and Hannah lives at home.
Mr. Barnard was married to his present estimable wife, a woman of genuine worth, July 18, 1888, the ceremony taking place in Plainwell, Allegan Co., Mich. Mrs. Barnard was formerly Mrs. Alvira Bigelow, widow of Riley Bigelow, and New York was her birthplace, her parents being Mr. And Mrs. Andrew Hicks.
From the perusal of this sketch it will be seen that our subject, the son of St. Joseph County's pioneers, has energetically carried on the work in which his father was engaged, and has been of much assistance in developing and sustaining the interests of the county. He is a man of varied experience, of good understanding, keen, prompt, and withal, honorable in his dealings, and may well be classed among the most trustworthy and esteemed citizens of St. Joseph County. He was formerly identified with the Reformed church, but is now a prominent member of the Congregational Church.
John Lohoff is numbered among the most able, enterprising and wide-awake farmers of St. Joseph county, and in him Constantine Township has one of her most valuable citizens. He there owns a farm which for fertility, productiveness, neat, tasty and commodious buildings, is not surpassed by any in the neighborhood, and the dwelling erected thereon is considered one of the finest in this part of St. Joseph County, and is an ornament to the locality.
Our subject is a native of Prussia, and his birth occurred in that distant country April 17, 1832. His parents, John and Anna M. (Lamy) Lohoff, were likewise natives of that Empire, and there spent their entire lives. Our subject was reared in his native land, and inherited from virtuous and industrious parents those traits of character which form the best legacy that children can inherit to make life a success-an independent, self-reliant spirit, strong muscles and ability to use them. At the age of twenty years he decided to try his fortune in America, having been previously engaged in agricultural pursuits in his native country. After a voyage of some weeks he landed in New York, and went directly to Canada. He there found employment on the Great Western Railway, and in a short time he came to Detroit. He worked there six months in a brickyard, and in the fall of 1852 made his way to St. Joseph County. He found employment on a farm in Constantine, north of the village, and continued there until 1862, when he bought a farm in the township, comprising fifty-three acres. By persistent and untiring labor he has not only brought this land to an admirable state of cultivation, but has been so successful and has cultivated it to so much profit that he has been enabled to increase the acreage of his land by further purchase, so that his farm now comprises 120 acres of well-improved land, and with its neat and tasty buildings is considered one of the most desirable estates in St. Joseph County. He has erected one of the finest residences in this part of the county.
In 1859 Mr. Lohoff made a trip to Pike's Peak in search of gold. He was away from St. Joseph County in all thirteen months, six of which were spent in the diggings; not being very successful in the search for the precious metals he went to Missouri, and from there back to his Michigan home, arriving in Constantine in April, 1860.
Mr. Lohoff was united in marriage with Miss Henrietta L. Field, in Porter Township, Cass Co., Mich., Aug. 12, 1862. Her parents, the late Harvey and Elizabeth (Davis) Field, were natives of Vermont. The mother died in Porter Township, Cass Co., Mich., and the father in Chautauqua County, N.Y. Mrs. Lohoff was the fifth child in a family of eight children, and was born March 26, 1835, in Cohocton, Steuben Co., N.Y. Mr. And Mrs. Lohoff have had two children- Helen L., and Martha A. Grief has come to this happy household in the death of the beloved daughter and sister Helen, at the age of twelve years, and they can realize the truth of the poet's words:
Tis sorrow builds the shining ladder up.
Whose golden rounds are our calamities
Whereon our firm feet planting, nearer God
The spirit climbs, and hath its eyes unsealed.
True is it that Death's face seems stern
When he is sent to summon those we love;
But all God's angels come to us disguised.
Sorrow and sickness, poverty and death,
One after another life their frowning masks,
And we behold the seraph's face beneath.
With every anguish of our earthly part
The spirit's sight grows clearer: this was meant
When Jesus touched the blind man's lids with clay.
Life is the jailer, Death the angel sent
To draw the unwilling bolts and set us free.
Our subject may well be proud of the success that he has achieved in his adopted country, and of the honorable position that he occupies among the agriculturists of St. Joseph County who have assisted in bringing it to its present advanced and prosperous condition. He is a man of marked energy and capacity, and is prompt and reliable in his dealings; in his domestic circle he is all that a good husband and father can be, and to his fellowmen he is kind and considerate, and is justly regarded as a man of sterling worth. In him this township finds one who is ever ready to do his share toward promoting its interests, and while holding some of the school offices he has aided the advancement of the cause of education. In politics he casts his vote with the Republican party. Mr. Lohoff, who is equally esteemed by all in the community, is an earnest member of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
Prominent among the farmers of St. Joseph County, who have for many years taken an active part in sustaining its agricultural interests, is the gentleman whose name forms the caption of this biographical notice. He has one of the best farms in this part of the State of Michigan, finely located on section 34, Constantine, and section 3, Mottville Township. This land comprises 180 acres, in addition to which he owns sixty-two acres on section 17, in Mottville Township. He comes of good old New England ancestry, and his parents, Levi and Lucinda (Starkweather) Beckwith, were among the very earliest pioneers of St. Joseph County. They were born, the father in Massachusetts, and the mother probably in Connecticut. After marriage they settled in the town of Austinburg, Vt., and thence removed to Saybrook, Ashtabula Co., Ohio, of which they thus became early settlers. In August, 1828, with their household goods and family by ox and horse teams, they crossed the border, and coming into Michigan, made their way slowly over the rough, swampy forest roads to that part of St. Joseph County now known as Mottville. They located on section 3 of that township, and continued to live there about six years. They then removed to section 34, Constantine Township, Mr. Beckwith having secured land on the dividing line between Mottville and Constantine, and there they made their home until death. This land is still owned by the subject of this sketch. After their removal to this part of the county their lives were not prolonged very many years, Mr. Beckwith dying in September, 1839, and Mrs. Beckwith in August, 1847. They had ten children, five sons and five daughters.
He of whom we write was the youngest son of his esteem able parents. He was born in Ashtabula County, Ohio, Oct. 1, 1826, and was hardly two years old when they came to St. Joseph County, so that he was reared here in Mottville and Constantine Townships, and has spent the greater part of his life here. He was a lad of thirteen years when he had the misfortune to lose a good father. His mother was spared to her children a few years longer, and she carefully trained our subject in all that goes to make a good man and a useful citizen. Amid the pioneer influences that he obtained here in his early days he grew to be a strong, self-reliant man. In 1849, when scarcely twenty-three years of age, he went to California as one of the "49ers," fired by the ambition to seek wealth in that Eldorado of the gold-seeker. He was there engaged in mining for about four years, and met with reasonably good success where many failed. His thoughts often turned to his old home, and in August, 1852, satisfied with his gains, he returned home by way of the Nicaragua route. He invested his capital judiciously and resumed farming in this township. His farm originally consisted of 160 acres, but he has prospered so well in his agricultural ventures that he now owns 242 acres of as fertile and productive farming land as is to be found in Southern Michigan. It is under a high state of cultivation, and is provided with ample and substantial buildings, and the necessary machinery for conducting agriculture successfully.
Our subject now has a comfortable, attractive home, and to her who has faithfully assisted him in its up building he was united in marriage Dec. 23, 1853. The following is recorded of the twelve children born of their marriage: Ida I. is the wife of Rev. D. H. Reiter, of Mancelona, Antrim Co., Mich.; Solomon V. married Martha H. Wilemin, and lives in Red Cloud, Webster Co., Neb.; Mina A. died at the age of six years; Dougal R. married Ada C. Yoder, and lives in Cass County, Mich.; George A. died when about three years of age; Eliza Ann died when fifteen years old; William S. and Lillie S., twins, are dead; Jane E., Frank E., Elliot W. and Edith I. are all at home. Mrs. Beckwith's maiden name was Eliza Ann Rote, and she was born in Turbotville, Northumberland Co., Pa., Oct. 23, 1834. She was the fourth child of the twelve children, two sons and ten daughters, born to the late Solomon and Maria (Denther) Rote, natives respectively of Northampton County, and of the city of Harrisburg, Pa. They came to St. Joseph County in 1848, and settling in Mottville, made their home there until death; he died Oct. 4, 1874, and she on March 8, 1880.
Mr. Beckwith has had the fortune to witness almost the entire growth of St. Joseph County., since at the time of his earliest recollections it can scarcely have emerged from its primitive wildness. The greater part of the primeval forest with which Southern Michigan was mostly clothed must still have been awaiting the ax of the pioneer, and in their depths still lurked the bear, the wolf and other wild animals, that preyed sometimes on the little flock of sheep or invaded the pen and made away with some choice porker that the early settler was raising against the time of need. Deer, wild turkeys and other choice game were then plentiful, and often graced the table of the pioneer. Our subject was familiar with the Indians, who when his parents first removed to Michigan still frequented their old haunts, and for whom he has always had a friendly feeling. It has been his privilege not only to witness the wondrous change that has since been brought about, but to have been an actor in it. By his well-directed and untiring labors he has not only achieved prosperity himself, but has contributed to the material welfare of his township and county. Mr. Beckwith is honored in religious, social, business and political circles in this community as a man of sound principles and good habits, one who is trustworthy in every respect. Religiously, he and his wife are member of the Lutheran Church. Politically, he is a staunch supporter of the Democratic party. As a good citizen, he earnestly seeks to promote the welfare of Constantine Township, and as a member of the School Board has faithfully assisted in advancing the cause of education. Mrs. Beckwith has actively co-operated with her husband in his work, and has been an important factor in bringing about his prosperous circumstances, and we cannot close this biography of her husband without a further word in her behalf. In her are blended all the qualities that go to make up a good and true woman, and she fills in a perfect measure the duties of wife, mother and friend.
G. Lewis has been a resident of the State of Michigan for a period of thirty years, and of this county for twenty-two. His native State is Pennsylvania, where he was born on the 15th of January, 1807. While he was yet an infant, his parents, Griffith and Margaret Lewis, who were both natives of Pennsylvania, removed to Wayne County, N.Y., where his father carried on his trade, which was that of a shoemaker, in connection with the working of his farm.
The subject of our sketch was the youngest of fifteen children. He had little opportunity for obtaining an extensive schooling, but early in life became well acquainted with everything connected with farming, which he has chiefly followed through life. He is now the owner of forty-three acres of well-tilled, productive land, and has put up a very comfortable farm dwelling, which is a most pleasant home.
Twice has our subject stood before the altar of Hymen. On the 6th of June, 1831, he became the husband of Clarrissa Bristol, the excellent daughter of Cyrus Bristol, of New York. They became the parents of nine children, namely: Mary Jane, who married Mr. Thomas Shipley, of Putneyville, Wayne Co., N.Y.; Daniel, deceased; Sarah A., now the wife of Hon. Otis Moe, of this township; Amanda, who died when ten months old; Margaret, deceased; Ansel, who was a soldier in the war of the Rebellion and died and was buried at Fair Oaks; Eliza Ann, now Mrs. Edward Cummins; Rachael is married to Elius Shelley, and makes her home with her husband and parents on the home farm; and Amanda Sophia, the wife of William Johnson, of Fawn River.
The first wife of our subject died in Fawn River in 1869, and on the 17th of November, 1871, he was united in marriage with Mrs. Sarah E. Batson, the widow of Jesse Batson, of Burr Oak. This lady was born Dec. 16, 1820, and is the daughter of George and Polly Strayer.
Mr. Lewis is one of the venerable and much esteemed citizens of the county, and his home is at Fawn River, his property being on section 4 of that township. He has retired from the more active duties of life, leaving them to his son. He is a member of the Democratic party, and has in other days taken an active interest in matters connected therewith.
John P. Gladding, proprietor of a book and stationery store in Constantine, occupies an honorable place among the pioneers of St. Joseph County, and no one is held in higher respect and veneration as a man and a citizen. He is a native of the city of Providence, R.I., where he was born of sterling New England stock July 22, 1815. His parents, Timothy and Elizabeth (Perrin) Gladding, were also natives of that city, and there they reared, married, and spent their entire lives. There were well known and honored in the city of their birth, and bequeathed to their children the precious legacy of good and useful lives and an unsullied name. They had a family of eleven children, of whom our subject was the fifth in order of birth and the eldest son.
Our subject's early life was passed in Providence until he was sixteen years of age, when he went to Millbury, mass., to learn the watchmaker's trade. He remained there four years, and then for a few months lived in Fall River, Mass., working at his trade. In 1836, being a young man of more than average courage and intelligence, with much ambition and enterprise, he determined to try life in the "Far West," as Michigan, then a Territory, was considered, and September 19 left the embryo manufacturing city of which we have spoken for his future home in this State. Traveling slowly, as was necessitated by the limited facilities for travelers in those times, he arrived in Constantine on the 10th day of October, poor indeed in pocket, but rich in hope and in plans for future success in life. He found here a wild, rough, thinly settled country, and a small hamlet on the present site of the village, but he met with a hearty reception from the hospitable pioneers who had preceded him, and an opening to practice his trade, in which he immediately established himself, hiring a counter in a book store for that purpose. As settlers came in, and the country grew more rich in population and wealth, his business increased, and was quite flourishing up to 1868, when he was obliged to give it up on account of failing eyesight. He then opened a store for the sale of books and periodicals, in which business he has since been engaged. In 1871 he had the misfortune to lose his building in which he had his store, entailing a loss of $2,000, but he managed to save his stock. Notwithstanding this discouragement he promptly re-established himself, and now has an extensive and remunerative trade.
October 10, 1839, our subject and Martha Emily Howard were united in the holy bonds of matrimony, and thus for nearly fifty years they have walked life's pathway together, sharing its joys and dividing its sorrows, and in them the true marriage has been exemplified. Mrs. Gladding is a daughter of John and Patty (Loomis) Howard, both natives of Bolton, Conn. Mrs. Gladding was also born in that town, Dec. 1, 1817, being the date of her birth. When she was in her fourteenth year, in the year 1831, her parents came to St. Joseph County, and settled in what is now the township of Florence, where they continued to live until death. They had four sons and three daughters, of whom the wife of our subject was the sixth in order of birth. Of her marriage with our subject four children have been born, as follows: John L. H., who died when four years old; Emily E., the wife of George O. Garnsey; Mary J., the wife of Isaac W. Sprague, died of paralysis in Hancock County, Iowa, in the year 1881; Benjamin O. is a druggist in Constantine.
Mr. and Mrs. Gladding are very fine people, who combine true refinement of character with uncommon excellence of disposition and goodness of heart, and the citizens of this place have the rare privilege of having before them in the persons of our subject and his amiable wife the beautiful spectacle of lives fully rounded out by all that goes to make life worth living to a serene and gracious old age. In them kindness and charity are personified, and their warm hearts and open hands feel and respond to any call for aid for the weak, the unfortunate or the downtrodden. In so brief a sketch we cannot relate the deeds of bounty that have called down blessings on their venerable heads, but we mention that, nowithstanding they have had children of their own to care for, they have reared five orphans, who found with them happy home, not only in a comfortable abode, but in hearts which gave a father's love and care and a mother's devotion and tenderness. One of the children died young, but the remaining ones have been reared to honorable and happy lives. Would that more who are far richer than our subject and his wife in material wealth would follow their noble example, and rescue helpless and homeless little orphans from want and misery.
Mr. Gladding has taken an active art in the village government, and has been a wise and trust-worthy civic official, often holding responsible offices. In politics, the Republican party finds a staunch supporter in him. Religiously, he and his wife are valued members of the Congregational Church.
One of the most prominent figures of Constantine Village and vicinity is the subject of this biography, who owns and operates a farm of 810 acres of land, a very valuable property located within three miles of the corporation. This land is devoted to stock purposes, Mr. Wells buying, feeding and raising in large number horses, cattle and sheep, making a specialty of the two latter. He usually keeps a herd of a hundred head of cattle, about 400 head of sheep, and twenty-five head of horses. As a wool producer it is probably that he is excelled by few in Southern Michigan. Possessing great energy and perseverance, with admirable business capacities, while accumulating a small fortune he has at the same time been of great service in developing the resources of this section.
Joseph Wells, the father of our subject, came to this county with his family in 1837, arriving here on the 12th of June, shortly after Michigan had been transformed from a Territory into a State. He first settled n the old Chicago road in Mottville Township, but lived there only a short time, removing thence to Constantine, where both parents died a few years later, the mother in 1843 and the father in 1847. Their family consisted of four children, two sons and two daughters, of whom Franklin, our subject, was the youngest born. The latter first opened his eyes to the light April 19, 1823, in Salem, Washington Co., N.Y., and spend his boyhood and youth, from the age of fifteen, amid the scenes of pioneer life, acquiring his education in the primitive schools of St. Joseph County. He at an early age developed more than ordinary abilities, and soon after reaching his majority was elected to the minor offices of his township, in some of which he has served most of the time since then, having been a member of the School Board almost continuously since 1844.
Young Wells took kindly to the various employments of farm life, and at an early age conceived the idea of securing land of his own, to be followed in due time by a home and domestic ties. In 1842, at Constantine, he had made the acquaintance of Miss Helen M. Briggs, and they were united in marriage Oct. 31, 1844. This lady is the daughter of David and Cynthia (Kidder) Briggs, who were natives respectively of New York and Vermont. Mr. Briggs died when comparatively a young man, at Easton, N.Y. The mother subsequently came to this county, settling in Constantine, where her death took place in 1867. Mrs. Wells was born in Easton, N.Y., June 15, 1822. She was six years of age at the time of her father's death. She is a niece of Mrs. John S. Barry, whose husband became Governor of Michigan, and accompanied them to this State, living with them until her marriage, which took place from Gov. Barry's house. Of this union there have been born nine children, the eldest of whom, a daughter, Helen M., continues at home with her parents; Willis H. is farming his land in Florence Township, this county; Jeannette is the wife of Hon. Levi B. French, of Yankton, Dak.; Fanny H. is the widow of Dr. S. D. Radley, and lives with her parents; Louise S. married Mr. Charles E. Wilbur, who is now deceased; she lives in Constantine. Franklin, Jr., is engaged in the book and stationery business in Yankton, Dak.; Antoinette is with her parents; Jessie and Mary B. died at the ages of eight and five years respectively.
In October, 1838, more than fifty years ago, Mr. Wells removed to Constantine, where he engaged as clerk in a store. This vocation he followed until 1842, when he went into business with his employer, Albert Andrus, the connection continuing until the spring of 1846, when he bought his partner's interest. He was thereafter almost continuously a merchant until 1873, sometimes alone and sometimes having partners.
The first land which Mr. Wells settled upon was purchased by him in September, 1861, and lies on section 8, Constantine Township. This constitutes the home farm, and to it he has given particular attention, effecting gradually the improvements which have made it a very valuable property. He has added by degrees to his real estate, and by his judgment and forethought has evinced those qualities which have commended him to his fellow-citizens as a gentleman capable of looking after important interests. In 1873 he was appointed by Gov. Bagley a member of the State Board of Agriculture, and served six years. In 1879 he was re-appointed by Gov. Crosswell, and served until 1885. He was appointed to his third term by Gov. Alger, serving six years, and in 1884 was elected President of the board, succeeding Hon. Hezekiah G. Wells, of Kalamazoo. In 1885 Mr. Wells was elected a member of the Executive Committee of the State Agricultural Society, and subsequently Chairman of its Business Committee, which position he still fills. Once he was elected to the office of President of the society, but declined the honor. The latter position is now filled by United Stated Senator Thomas W. Palmer. In 1887 he was elected President of the State Forestry Commission, which office he still holds.
In 1878 Mr. Wells was appointed by Gov. Croswell, agent for St. Joseph County of the State Board of Charities and corrections. He had in the meantime been identified with other important interest, being elected, in 1873, Secretary of the Constantine Hydraulic Company, in which capacity he has since served. Politically, he votes the straight Republican ticket. He cast his first Presidential vote for Henry Clay, and in regard to politics, as other matters, is a man of decided views, and keeps himself well posted upon current events. Both he and his estimable wife are regular attendants of the Congregational Church, with which Mrs. Wells is connected in membership. The Wells estate is one of the most valuable in the county, and will continue to be a monument to the enterprise and industry of its projector long after he has been gathered to his fathers.
Both the township and village of Constantine are largely indebted to the subject of this sketch for the success of the various enterprises to which he gave his support and encouragement. After the turmoil of a long and active career, he is now living retired in a handsome home in the village, respected by all who know him, and with the consciousness that he has, as much as man may, improved his opportunities not only for his own advantage, but to the interest of those around him. The record of his life if given in full would comprise a very readable volume, and it is a matter of regret that a history so pregnant with events and labors must necessarily receive comparatively brief mention.
The Driggs family have been known throughout New England for many decades as the exponent of all that was honorable and upright. Elisha Driggs, the father of our subject, and his wife, who in her girlhood was Miss Esther Palmer, were doubtless natives of Connecticut, where they lived during their younger years, and after their marriage. The father followed lumbering quite extensively during his early manhood, at the same time engaging in agricultural pursuits. Upon leaving New England they took up their abode in Rensselaerville, Albany Co., N.Y., where they lived several years, and then removed to Middleburg, Schoharie Co., N.Y., where the father died in his prime. The mother survived her husband some years, and died at the home of a daughter in the city of Buffalo, N.Y. their family included five sons and two daughters, Alfred L. being the fourth son.
Mr. Driggs was born in Rensselaerville, N.Y., Aug. 25, 1807. He spent the greater part of his boyhood and youth at his father's farm, remaining a member of the parental household until reaching his majority. Then, with the usual desire of youth for a change of scene and occupation, he went into the lumber regions about fifteen miles from Johnstown, N.Y., having been appointed foreman of a set of men, and was thus occupied about two years. In May, 1831, he migrated to Michigan Territory, and secured possession of a lumber-mill in the vicinity of Jackson, becoming the lessee, and operating it until the fall of that year. This was then the only institution of its kind in that county, and probably would have proved a source of profit, had its operations not been interrupted by the ague, which attacked our subject and caused him to leave that region.
|In coming to Michigan the objective point of our subject had been White Pigeon, this county, where purposed investing in land. After abandoning his mill enterprise he carried out his first plan, securing a tract of eighty-seven acres in Constantine Township. This lay about one mile north of the present village site. He was not in a condition to settle upon it, and resolved to go to Detroit, whence, if his health was not better, he would return to New York State. While sick with the ague at White Pigeon, St. Joseph County, he made the acquaintance of a Mr. King, who had some means for which he was seeking profitable investment, Mr. Driggs, whose health was somewhat improved, went to Bronson Township, Branch County, to look at a mill site of which he had learned. Here he was joined by Mr. King, a partnership formed|
In June, 1836, Mr. Driggs sold his mill property and 400 acres of heavily timbered land for $4,500, and other land for $1,500. Chicago, Ill., was then but an inferior town, giving no promise whatever of its future importance. To that place Mr. Driggs journeyed on horseback, but on his arrival there it appeared to him little more than a mushroom, and he consequently did not invest any of his capital, returning home with it as he had started. In the summer of 1836 he applied a portion of it to the purchase of 200 acres of land in Branch and St. Joseph Counties, this State. A few months later he purchased and built on what is now known as Broad street in Constantine Township, then a tract of timber land. He cleared a portion of this, putting up a dwelling and living there until 1862. The year following, there being indications that Constantine Village might become a desirable place of residence, he erected a fine dwelling, within which when completed he took up his abode.
Mr. Driggs had in the meantime invested a portion of his capital in about 1,600 acres of pine land on Flat River, in Montcalm County, where he put up a sawmill which he operated about eighteen years, disposing of the product in Chicago. Prior to this he had purchased a sawmill, gristmill, a distillery, and a number of town lots southeast of White Pigeon, on the road to Lima, Ind. He only held this property about three years, disposing of it then to good advantage. In 1872 he invested in land on Sand lake, which is slowly but surely becoming valuable.
It will thus be seen that Mr. Driggs has led a very active life, and he has been for the most part fortunate in his vestments. After the completion of his residence he erected a brick block in Constantine, and later purchased the Commercial flouring-mill on Water street, which is operated by a renter. His example of enterprise and perseverance has proved the stimulant to many a man who might have retired discouraged from the field in the absence of a less worthy example. Mr. Driggs during the earlier years of his life took a very active part in political matters, his sympathies being uniformly with the Democratic party. For conscientiousness and integrity there are few who excel him, as is evinced by the expressions of confidence and esteem which are to be met with on every hand among his fellow-citizens.
After filling many other positions of trust, in which he acquitted himself in a manner greatly to his credit, our subject was elected a member of the Michigan Legislature in the fall of 1846, serving his term acceptably, and in connection with the many measures under discussion, evincing more than ordinary good judgment and foresight. He represented Constantine Township in the County Board of Supervisors a period of eleven years, and in both Branch and this county has officiated as Justice of the Peace. There have been few interests connected with Constantine and vicinity which have not sought his counsel, and to which he has ever given a cheerful and attentive hearing. The status of a community is dependent upon the men who have been the most prominent during its embryo state, and Mr. Driggs as a pioneer of Constantine is eminently worthy of record as one of its builders, and associated with its most important interests.
Miss Frances M. Pease became the wife of our subject May 29, 1833, the wedding taking place at the home of the bride in Jackson, Mich. This lady was born in Hampshire County, Mass., Feb. 6, 1811, and was of excellent old New England stock. Her union with our subject was blessed by the birth of eight children, four of whom died in infancy. The eldest daughter, Jane is the wife of C.W. Cord, of Constantine; Charles E., and Mary live with their father; George, who was a very promising and capable business man, died in July, 1886, at the age of thirty-six years. Mrs. Frances M. Driggs departed this life at the home in Constantine, May 3, 1864.
It gives us pleasure to present the accompanying portrait of this honored pioneer, to whom, as much as to an citizen within its borders, St. Joseph County is indebted for the development of its industries, which have been the basis of its prosperity.
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