The following is a narrative on the life of an early St. Joseph County pioneer, Amos Howe. It was dictated by him to his daughter-in-law, Cecelia (Palmer) Howe. Amos was the fifth and last child from the marriage of Hezekiah and Margaret (Wellman) Howe. The narrative was first "published" in the Palmer Family History Book in 1874 and was re-published in the Orange County California Genealogical Society Quarterly in March of 1976 (Vol. XIII #1). Below is the complete transcription which is shown exactly as it appeared in the OCCGS Quarterly, spelling and grammatical errors included. Used with permission:
HISTORY OF AMOS HOWE OF ST. JOSEPH CO, MICHIGAN
submitted by Doris (Palmer) Buys
The following account of the life of Amos Howe was dictated to his daughter-in-law,
Cecelia Lorette Palmer, who was married to William W. Howe. She wrote the entire narrative into the Palmer Family History Book in 1874. Contributor's comments are in parentheses.
I was born Sept. 7 th , 1794 at Jamaica, Windom County, Vermont. My parents were both of Presbyterian persuasion. My mother by inheritance, and by the unnatural desertion of my father, the whole care of my infant years devolved upon my mother; myself the youngest of five boys. She soon became convinced that she was unable to care for and support so large a family and she became relieved of her infant charge, through the kindness of her mother who took me and cared for me until I was eight years old. Then my mother married a rich farmer and claimed shelter for me, and I lived with them until I became of age. In the eighteenth year of my age, my name was enrolled as a private in Militia; on being examined was pronounced exempt from duty on account of rheumatism (1812), a disease which had troubled me at times all my life. It was at this time the trouble arose between the Americans Government and the British, the British claiming the right of search among our vessels in view of obtaining their deserted seamen who had left them and sought shelter among Americans where they could obtain food and good wages for their labor.
Not being satisfied with rescuing their own men they commenced the traffic with others, claiming Americans and forcing them into their ranks where they made them serve as British seamen aboard their “Men of War,” fro which charge the Government laid an embargo which insured no remedy and, in the extreme, War was declared, a war which proved severe and tedious and not until the four great battles on September 10, 1815 that the victory was achieved: the one on Lake Erie commanded by Perry; one on Lake Ontario by Commodore Chancy; one on Lake Champlain by McDover; and one on the land at Plattsburg under the command of General Deerborn, being four the greatest battles fought, rendering the names of the Commanders ever famous in the annals of history.
In March 1816 I left my native State to journey in what was then called the “Holland Purchase” near Buffalo in search of a situation as I had now arrived to the age that I began to have an inclination to carry on a farm in my own name. Not being pleased with the general appearance of the country here I was induced to continue my travels until I reached Chataqua (Chautauqua) in Chataqua County in the extreme western part of the State of New York where I was engaged for three years in the manufacture of Pearlash. At the end of which time (This would have been 1818 and Amos Howe would have been 24 years of age.) I concluded to further my course to the West, in view of better land and better climate and better prospects, to which end, I took my knapsack of provision and started for Michigan continuing my journey from place to place until I reached Detroit by way of Cleveland, my trip providing rather a lonely one, traveling whole days without seeing a person or habitation, taking my way sometimes on the ice, the largest days travel on ice being from block house on Carron River to Monroe a distance of Forty six miles. I remember of passing through a little place called “Cedar Point.” I met six men with teams, on their way to Cleveland. I asked them questions as regards the route to Detroit; also farming prospects, to all of which they gave incouraging answers, stating that a person could have all the land he wanted by merely settling upon it – if government did not give it, Detroit would.
On arriving at Brownstown I found a friend and acquaintance, Moses Allen, who I decided to spend summer with, and we took the job of furnishing timber to build a bridge across Huron River between Monroe and Detroit, contracted with one called Godfrey who was in the employ of a North Western Fur Co., this being the first bridge ever built on that river.
After this was completed I (put myself) to farming on a (piece of land) on the bank of Huron River in what is now called Huron in Wayne Co., sixteen miles below what has since become Ypsilanti. I had no team, no farming utensils; merely an open field without a stake or fence; all one had to do was step in and use their muscel which I did and was bountifully rewarded; that is to say. I had a splendid crop of corn & vegetables but was not permitted to enjoy them as I was taken sick the 9 th of Aug. (probably 1818) and did not recover until the first of Nov. and then only able to take the journey back to my friends in Chataqua. I returned by way of Steamboat called “Walk in the Water” on her last trip for the season, which was the first boat that ever ran on Lake Erie.
I staid in Chataqua until the next Spring when I had entirely recovered my health during which time I had been married and in April (1819) in company with my wife started out in view of our home in Mich. on the banks of the Huron (River) arriving there the Sec. of May 1819. After living here one year we decided to purchase the land of the Government and claim it as the peaceful and quiet possession of its rightful owner. The day for the sale of land which was the first land sale in Mich. having arrived, many were there with means to purchase land as it had been advertised at the rate of $2.00 per acre and the sale continued through the day and many farms sold the price not varying until the said above mentioned farm was put up for sale. There was a set price of $4.00 per acre. The question at issue arose why this land should be held in value above all the rest which was explained as follows: Sec. 16 was given for the use of Schools and Section 16-15-21 & 22 corner as it happened, was the centre of the township, giving sixteen for schools made it necessary to charge $4.00 for the others which price I paid and the contract was drawn requiring the payment of one fourth of the purchase money down and the ballence to be paid five annual payments, and it became my peaceful habitation for ten or twelve (years) during which time we suffered many privations as there was but little emigration to those parts; the times were very hard, the climate being new to us we suffered all those bothersome diseases so common to the early settlers of Mich. When we had been there two and three years, the township was organized; a town meeting appointed which was the first “town meeting ever held in Wayne Co. In March 1829 I came to St. Joseph Co. in company with Seth Dunham in hopes of finding a better prospect for farming and a more congenial settlement. We took our way on horseback by way of the “Chicago Road” previously called the “Chicago Trail” which then had only been surveyed two or three years. The route was entirely new. The general appearance of the country was good. Mostly thick woods, but dotted now and then by an opening. The only habitation on the whole route from Saline, was at Allen, Bronson, Sturgis and at White Pigeon on Pigeon Prairie.
When we reached Mottville we became so delighted with the country we decided not to look farther but go home and make preparations for our return. After reaching home concluded to again visit St. Joseph Co. and give it a more thorough investigation before moving our families to it. We mounted our horses and started: Wm. Hazzard, Samuel Wing and myself, carrying provisions with us and camping out at night with the braud canopy of heaven for our shelters. The trip lasted fourteen days, taking our way by Ypsilanti, which at that time had but two small dwellings; and from there to Ann Arbor, a place situated on the open plains on the bank of the Huron River, deriving its name from one Ann whose sir name was Arbor, wife of John Arbor. (Women then as now sought notoriety and sought to have her name famous for some wonderful object or thing).
From here we took Indian Trail leading in the direction of Kalamazoo River, staying the first night with Rosencrans, Tolen & Brown whom we overtook with their wagons, which were the very first wagons ever passed on that route. They were on their way to what is now called Kalamazoo which was then a new & uninhabited country. After leaving them we took our course west until we reached the Indian Settlement near which we camped for the night; the next day, taking an Indian for a guide we started in search of Prairie Round, from there to White Pigeon, passing a beautiful region of country, uninhabited save by Indians, were Three Rivers now is; there was nothing but “Natures Devine Revelations;” we passed through White Pigeon and camped on the bank of Clingers Lake, and from there went to Sturgis where we remained over night with one Judge Sturgis; then took a trip through Northern Indiana and back to Sturgis again and from there accompanied by our friend Sturgis, we went to Nottawasipi; while there selected what we decided should be our homes. Hazzard entering eighty acres, myself choosing land adjoining situate on Nottawasipi Prairie; from here we traveled until we reached an old French Trading House, where Mendon now is; ther we camped over night. The next morning Sturgis left us, and we went around the country by Indian Trails to what is now called Leonidas and from there turned our course towards home by way of Cold Water and Allen's Prairie, stopping there with my old friend, Moses Allen who owned a farm on the Prairie, the town of which was afterwards named after him. From here we went home, arriving there in June. We began at once to make preparations to move to our new homes; in the next Aug. I came in company with Heacox, McKee, Conor, Hazzard and Fletcher. I bought eighty acres of land; put in crops; we built a shanty on Hazzard's farm; then went back after our families. Hazzard and Fletcher came in Dec. but I was not able to come until March; then I was accompanied by Geo. Dilly, Cecil Sawyer & Samuel McKee & took quarters with our friend, Hazzard in his mansion 16 by 18 feet. Only twelve in family. We remained here until I built a shanty on my own land and we moved into it in the spring of 1829. At this time Nottawasipi and Sherman were one town called Sherman.
At the first town meeting held at Sherman on Sturgis Prairie the first Monday in April, 1831, I was elected Road Commissioner; with Hazzard and Judge Sturgis, in company with the surveyer, Robert Clarke, we surveyed a road from Indiana line through Sturgis to Marantatts and about this time we built a log cabin in Centerville which was the very first building of any kind built in that place. It was at this time the neighborhood was aroused by the startling news of the death of Cecil Sawyer who was killed by the falling of a tree. Being the first death that occured in the neighborhood, the people conveigned together at the residence of Johnathan Ingals and resolved to purchase two acres of land in Section Sixteen in town six and range ten for the burial of the dead and Sawyer was interred in this lot which afterward became the Township Burrying ground (later called Pioneer Cemetery).
Before the next township meeting, the township was divided and Nottawa set off by itself the first town meeting to be held at the Residence of Henry Powers. Previous to this meeting I received a commission from Governor Cass appointing me Justice of the Peace. I was sworn into office by Nell McGaffy, Justice of the Peace in White Pigeon township.
After receiving my Commission, regulations governing the meeting were sent to me, giving me power to rule over and call meetings and proceed to the election of a Moderator and to proceed to the election of town officers. There being only eleven voters in the Township, it became necessary to confer the honors of two or more offices upon one person, all of which they accepted without a discenting voice, and there was no electioneering, or bantering as to how men should vote the law giving them their choice of voting by ballot or “separate ticket” and they chose the ticket and the meeting went off harmoniously, this being the third Town Meeting I had ever voted in. I was present at the first meeting in Huron township; the first in Sherman, and the first in Nottawa.
From this time the country began to be settled, and in a few years the government bought the “Indian Reserve,” a plat twelve miles square, situate near, or about, where Mendon now is located, paying them off in goods; the Indians were disappointed; they claimed they had not had all the land which was promised them and they made the Governor who had charge of the payment some trouble in the settlement of the affair. The payment lasted two weeks, and it proved very annoying to some of the parties connected with it as there was plenty of liquor. Indians were not acquainted with Temperance Reform and “female crusaders” and “sick”. Consequently they drank and was merry; this was the last trouble the Indians gave us until report came that the Sack Indians were coming from near the Mississippi who were opposed to the whites settling the country, so they proposed war. There was a meeting appointed at Henry Powers for the purpose of calling out the Malitia; a committee was appointed to build a fort which was to be near the Hogan Place, a place now owned by Andrew McMillen, on the edge of Nottawa, situate in the Township of Colon.
Men were equipped for the line of Battle. It was at this time that my wife was taken sick from the exertion, excitement and fright; and after two weeks severe illness she died leaving me with to children, Saphona & Malinda.
Government sent troops from west of Chicago but they could not find even the track of a Sack Indian; Consequently the excitement died out and the people were again at peace and the men who were in actual service for fourteen days received a land warrent of one hundred and sixty acres of land; myself one of the number.
From this time there was nothing worthy of note. Each one working after the manner of American citizens. I married again; (there) was born unto me four boys and one girl.
In 1835 I was attacked with rheumatism and rendered unable to work, but kept at my farm until my oldest son took charge of (it) when I placed it in his hands, myself and my wife living with him. My wife died in the winter of 1870, and I am still on the old farm awaiting the summons to call me (to) rest.
(signed) Amos Howe
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