VAN BUREN CITIZENS
Captain Oran W. Rowland
, the author
of this history, was born in Savannah, Richland county, Ohio, on the 25th
day of March, 1839. His parents, Eber and Jerusha (Fowler) Rowland,
were both natives of the state of New York. Captain Rowland was a
country lad, and, his father being a miller, he very naturally learned
that trade while he was yet a boy in his 'teens. When he was a youth
of fourteen years he came to Calhoun county, Michigan, and spent one winter
in the township of Sheridan with the family of his maternal grandfather,
Edmund Fowler. His parents followed him to Michigan within a few
months. While a resident of Sheridan he attended school in one of
the primitive school houses of those days known as the "Tamarack," from
the fact that it was constructed of logs cut from tamarack trees.
The young man afterward removed with his parents
to the town of Springport in Jackson county, Michigan, where he was engaged
in milling, working in both saw-mill and grist-mill and for a portion of
the time being the engineer, the mills being run by steam power.
When he was in his eighteenth year, he came with his father and mother,
to Lawrence, Van Buren county, Michigan, in which county he has ever since
resided, except while in the service in the Civil war and for a short time
thereafter. He received a good common school education and afterward
attended a private "select" school in the village of Lawrence taught by
a very competent instructor, the late Rev. Edwin S. Dunham. At this
school he became proficient in the science of mathematics and acquired
a good knowledge of English and a smattering of the Latin language.
He began teaching school when he was nineteen years of age and followed
that profession for a considerable length of time, his last experience
in that line being as teacher of the Lawrence village school.
Mr. Rowland entered the military service of
the country on the 17th day of September, 1861, in Company C, of the Third
Michigan Calvary. At the organization of the company he was appointed
a sergeant and was subsequently promoted the orderly sergeant. He
reenlisted in the same company in 1863, and was soon afterward commissioned
by Governor Blair, Michigan's great "war governor," as second lieutenant,
and was assigned to Company E of the same regiment. The next year
he was promoted to the first lieutenant and was assigned to Company I.
Not long afterward he was promoted to a captaincy and was reassigned to
Company C, the company in which he first enlisted. In this capacity
he served until the middle of June, 1865, when he was mustered out and
honorably discharged, after having been in the service for about three
years and nine months.
Five days after his entry into the service,
on the 22d day of September, 1861, Captain Rowland was married to Miss
Mary Ann Benjamin, daughter of Daniel and Eunice (Hazard) Benjamin,
with whom he has lived upwards of fifty years, they having celebrated their
golden wedding anniversary last September. To them have been born
three children- Mary L., Marion O. and Mina B. The first born daughter
is now the wife of Henry E. Shaefer, register of deeds of Van Buren county,
and has a family of four children, two sons and two daughters. The
son resides in the city of Detroit and is the president of the Detroit
National Fire Insurance Company. He was formerly connected with the
Michigan state fire insurance department and for a time was state insurance
commissioner, a position which he resigned to accept the presidency of
the company with which he is now connected. He was married to Miss
Rose Smith, of Paw Paw, and they also have four children, two sons and
two daughters. Captain Rowland's youngest daughter, Mina, died when
but twelve years of age of that dread disease diphtheria.
For a time after leaving the service Mr. Rowland
followed his trade of milling, then was engaged in teaching and in the
mercantile business in a moderate way. In the fall of 1868 he was
elected to the office of county clerk of Van Buren county, a position which
he held for four years, and has been deputy for every one of his successors.
While filling the office of clerk, he studied law and as admitted to the
bar in the fall of 1872. He has since held numerous other official positions;
has filled the office of prosecuting attorney of the county; had been and
still is court commissioner; was on special duty as a federal agent of
the census of 1890, and, as circuit court commissioner, was at one time
ex-officio judge of the juvenile court, a position that he held only long
enough to get the title of Judge prefixed to his name, the supreme court
declaring that the statute which created the office was unconstitutional.
While engaged in the office of prosecuting
attorney Mr. Rowland entered the newspaper business. He was in the
company of A. C. Martin, his partner, owner of the True Northerner, of
which he was the editor for a period of six years. He the sold his
interest in that sheet, and purchased the Van Buren County Republican,
at Decatur, which he and his son published for a number of years.
He has served many terms as one of the justice of the peace of the township
of Paw Paw, an office which he still holds. He was a member of the
board of trustees of the Paw Paw graded schools for about twenty-five years
and was president of the board much of the time.
In politics, Captain Rowland is and always
has been a Republican. His first presidential vote was cast for "Father
Abraham" and he has ever since been proud of that vote.
Both Mr. and Mrs. Rowland have been members
of the Christian (Disciple) church in Paw Paw for the past twenty-five
years. Mr. Rowland has been an elder in the church for many years,
has taken great interest in all departments of its work and has been a
teacher continuously for a longer time than he has been a member of the
Barbara Eberhart is the gggranddaughter of Captain Oran W. Rowland
Barbara Eberhart BEerh5501@aol.com
Albert Horace Abrams
.- Since 1898
actively identified with the grocery business established by his father
in Lawrence in former years, Albert Horace Abrams is, by reason of his
ever progressing tendencies and his many admirable traits as a business
man and as a citizen, recognized in his home town as one of the representative
men of that place, and takes a prominent rank among the foremost men of
Lawrence. Never a politician, but always deeply interested in all
civic affairs pertaining to the welfare of the community, Mr. Abrams has
made his influence one of the uplifting elements in the life of his town.
Fair minded and honorable in all his dealings, he has established a name,
or rather, perpetuated a name which his worthy father established in Van
Buren county in the early fifties.
Albert Horace Abrams, born February 27, 1870,
in Paw Paw township, Van Buren county, is the son of James Edward Abrams
and Helen Beddoe. The former was born on November 11, 1841, in Albany,
New York. He was the son of John Abrams, born in 1797, and lived
for many years at Newburg-on-the-Hudson, later settling near Albany, New
York, where his son James was born. In 1852 he removed to Michigan,
bringing with him his family, and there he made his home henceforth.
James Abrams was a veteran of the Civil war, offering his services when
the war broke out. He enlisted in the Seventh New York Infantry on April
12, 1861, and in November 1862 was transferred to the First Regular Cavalry,
serving with honor and distinction until he was honorably discharged on
December 12, 1864. Following his return to civilian life Mr. Abrams
became engaged in agricultural pursuits and the closing years of his life
are spent in that capacity. He was always a firm supporter of the
Republican party, and during his life he held various township offices
of trust and responsibility. He was a member of the Methodist Episcopal
church and an earnest supporter of the faith. His wife, Helen Beddoe,
was born in Southfield, Oakland county, Michigan, in 1847, and was the
daughter of John and Abigail (Green) Beddoe, who later became residents
of Van Buren county.
The boyhood and youth of Albert Horace Abrams
was spent in attendance at the district schools of his town until he was
sixteen years of age. He then secured employment as a mail carrier
on the route between Prospect Lake and Decatur, saving in the three years
of his service in that capacity, sufficient money to permit his to avail
himself of a complete course at Parson's Business College in Kalamazoo,
Michigan. Following his graduation from that institution Mr. Abrams
was employed by the West Chicago Street Railway Company between 1892 and
1894. In 1896 he took a clerkship in the store of his father and
in 1898, after having become fully experienced in the matter of managing
such an establishment, he took over the grocery store in which his father
had been occupied for a number of years, and where he had built up a reputation
and attained a success of a most worthy nature. Since that time Mr. Abrams
has been successfully conducting the grocery business established by his
parents, and marked success has attended his well directed endeavors.
Mr. Abrams, during the years of his residence
in Lawrence as a man of business, has done much for his advancement of
that community. Never actuated by motives of any but the highest
order, his service as a member of the village council in 1901-2 was of
a nature calculated to tend to the best good of the communal life.
He is recognized as an active and forceful citizen, in his capacity as
such having a reputation for carrying to successful consummation everything
in the way of public service which may fall to his lot to perform. He is
not a man of any political aspirations, believing as he does that such
an attitude is harmful to this best business interests, but he is never
laggard in the performance of his duty in a civic way, and his political
support is always directed towards that influence which is for the seeming
good of the village. Mr. Abrams is an enthusiastic sportsman, and
his annual expeditions in the northern woods of Michigan in the legitimate
deer-hunting season afford him a pleasure that he is seldom induced to
forego. As a disciple of Izaak Walton he is not less deeply concerned.
He is absorbed in landscape photography as a pastime, and has produce some
particularly artistic work in that line. Mr. Abrams is prominent
in Masonic circles, and has been connected with the work of the order for
a number of years.
On April 2, 1895, Mr. Abrams was united in
marriage with Miss Nellie E. Wakeman, daughter of Nathan B. and Isabelle
Wakeman, and the reside in their beautiful and modern home, which expresses
eloquently in its character the refinement and culture of its owners.
Burrill A. Robertson
.- The pioneer
settlers of Van Buren county had many difficulties to encounter in the
early days, but they were, for the most part, hardy and persevering men,
and more than one lived to see his final triumph over all. Among
these there have been persons of various nativity's, all alike struggling
to acquire a competence, and all developing into excellent citizens, public
spirited and live to the best interests of their community, but principally
they were natives of the United States, Easterners who found their own
localities to congest for the advantageous display of their own abilities,
and who therefore struck out for the new West to hew their homes and fortunes
out of the great wilderness. Prominent among the pioneer families
of Van Buren county stands that of Robertson, a worthy representative of
which will be found in Burrill A. Robertson, one of the progressive agriculturists
of Keeler township, and a native-born citizen of the county. He was
born March 23, 1853, and was the tenth of the eleven children born to Samuel
and Deborah (Crabb) Robertson, of whom eight children are still living,
all residents of the Wolverine state except Mrs. Isabelle Wilson, who makes
her home in Woodson county, Kansas.
Samuel Robertson was a native of New York
and was born in 1807. He was reared in the Empire state, being educated
in the common schools, and early in life learned the carpenter's trade.
As a young man he spent some years in the South, caring for an invalid
uncle, but during the early history of Michigan came to this state, and
settled in Keeler township at a time when the present thriving town of
Hartford, with a population of 1,100, was but a handful, and the people
went to Paw Paw by ox-team to have their milling done. Wild animals
still roamed the heavy timber, Indians lurked in the woods and were none
too friendly to the whites, roads, churches, schools and other conveniences
there were none, but this sturdy pioneer overcame all obstacles and became
one of the successful men of his community. His first property, on
the town line next to Hartford, was covered with heavy timber, and here
he erected a little log cabin and began to clear his property. The
heavy timber soon gave way to the axe, the stumps and brush were cleared
from the land, then the plodding ox-teams assisted the farmer to break
his ground, and soon the land blossomed forth into smiling fields, rich
with grain and agricultural products. From time to time this thrifty
and industrious farmer added to his land, and at one time he was the owner
of 290 acres, all of which was located in Keeler township. Politically
a Democrat, he served as justice of the peace for twelve years, and he
and his wife were consistent members of the Christian church, in the faith
of which died in 1879. Samuel Robertson was married to Deborah Crabb,
who was born in Ohio in 1820 and died in 1892, and both are buried in Keeler
cemetery, where monuments have been erected to perpetuate their memory
in the minds of their friends and children.
Burrill A. Robertson, the worthy son of a worthy father,
was reared to manhood among pioneer surroundings, and early in life was
trained to the habits of the industry, integrity and economy. When
he began life on his own account, he had not capital other than a strong
physique, a willing heart and a determination to succeed, and whatever
success has come to him has been well merited, for it has been but the
just reward for years of hard, unremitting labor. After his marriage
he settled on thirty acres of land, a part of the homestead, for which
he went into debt, and not only has he cleared this encumbrance, but he
has added to his property from time to time and is now the owner of 120
acres of some of the best land to be found in Keeler township. It
is in an excellent state of cultivation, and Mr. Robertson's ability as
a farmer has enabled him to raise some of the "bumper" crops of this locality.
The little frame house that was the first family home of this young couple,
has given way to a modern, two-story structure, equipped with all up-to-date
appliances, and a splendid barn and numerous substantial outbuildings greatly
improve the appearance of the property. Progressive in all things,
Mr. Robinson has been quick to take advantage of new innovations, and he
now has a high-power automobile, which he finds not only a great source
of pleasure, but of much help to him on his farm work. He and Mrs.
Robertson are welcomed into the leading social circles of Keeler and have
hosts of warm personal friends who are pleased to note their business success
and their social prominence. Politically, Mr. Robertson is a stalwart
Democrat, and since the candidacy of Samuel J. Tilden he has supported
the principles of this party. He has served as treasurer of the district
board for two years and as highway commissioner for a like period.
He and his wife are consistent members of the Methodist Episcopal church,
and give their moral and financial support to all benevolences worthy of
On November 14, 1876, Mr. Robertson was married
to Miss Oretta R. Dean, in Berrien county. Mrs. Robertson was born
November 27, 1855, in Bangor, Michigan, and was the eldest of two children
born to Daniel R. and Margaret (Ducolon) Dean. Her brother, Frank,
is an agriculturist of Bangor, and is married. Daniel R. Dean was
born June 27, 1831, in New York, and died March 29, 1902. He was
still a youth when he accompanied his parents to Van Buren county, and
settled in Bangor when the country was one vast wilderness. As a young
man Mr. Dean learned the trade of carpenter and joiner, which was his principle
occupation throughout his life, but he also purchased land in Van Buren
county, and became reasonably successful as an agriculturist. During
the gold rush in the "Days of '49," he went to the California gold fields,
but meeting with only partial success returned to Michigan after two years,
and there he spent the rest of this life. He and his wife were members
of the Christian church, and he was fraternally connected with the I. O.
O. F. at Benton Harbor. Daniel R. Dean was married to Miss Margaret
Ducolon, who was born March 3, 1835, in Canada, in which country she lived
until she reached the young womanhood, and she now resides in the town
Honorable Milan D. Wiggins
many noteworthy achievements of Honorable Milan D. Wiggins, of Bloomingdale,
not only in the agricultural, manufacturing and mercantile world, but in
public life, have marked him as a man of much ability, sound judgment and
great force of character, and won for him an influential position among
the leading men of the village. A son of Nahum Wiggins, he was born
in Newbury, Cuyahoga county, Ohio, and comes of stock which since early
colonial days has produced men of strength, brains, and integrity, being
a lineal descendant of one Wiggins, who immigrated to America in
For many years a resident of Vermont, the
grandfather of Milan D. Wiggins, removed with his family from that state
to Ohio about 1800, becoming one of the first prominent white settlers
of the Western Reserve. Securing from the Government a tract of heavily
timbered land that is now included within the limits of the city of Cleveland,
he built a log cabin in the wilderness, and on the farm which he redeemed
from the forest spent his remaining days, dying when upwards of eighty
years of age. During his residence in Ohio he watched with pride
and pleasure the development of the state from a wilderness to a well-improved
and populous region, large towns springing into existence, while the little
hamlet containing but a few rude log cabins grew into the prosperous city
Born in the Green Mountain state, Nathan Wiggins
was but a small lad when he accompanied his parents on the tiresome overland
journey to the Northwest Territory, where he was reared and educated.
The true pioneer spirit of enterprise and action dominated him from boyhood,
and he became a leader in the establishment of beneficial projects, being
a consistent and persistent "booster," and a loyal supporter of all good
movements for the welfare of the community. He was one of the first
to introduce Connecticut clocks into Ohio; was one of the builders of the
Ohio canal, and owned and operated some of the first boats used on the
water-way; and was one of the pioneers in buying cattle in Texas, and raising
them in Ohio. During the later years of his life he met with financial
reverses, and died, in 1850, a poor man. He married Phoebe Dunham,
who was born in Bedford, Ohio, a daughter of John and Elizabeth (Hungerford)
Dunham, and she survived him many years, passing away in 1896, in Bloomingdale,
Michigan. Four children were born to them, namely: Milan D., Cullen
H., Lizzie and Asa.
Laying a substantial foundation for his future education
in the public schools of his native county, Milan D. Wiggins subsequently
attended Hiram College, of which the late President James A. Garfield was
one time at the head. At the age of eighteen years he began teaching
school, whereby he earned enough money to pay his tuition and expenses
at Oberlin College, which won distinction not only as being the first to
introduce co-education, but as the first to admit colored students to its
halls. Coming to Michigan in 1876, Mr. Wiggins bought land in Bloomingdale,
and engaged in the tilling of the soil. He subsequently enlarged
his operations, embarking in the manufacture of cheese, and also opened
a store of general merchandise, successfully conducting all these enterprises
until 1899, when he sold out. In 1901 Mr. Wiggins established the
People's Bank, at Bloomingdale, and has since devoted his time and energies
to the affairs of this thriving institution, which has gained decided prestige
under his skillful management.
Mr. Wiggins married, in 1870, Maria F. Hubbard,
who was born in Copley, Summit county, Ohio, a daughter of William and
Sophia Frances (Wilcox) Hubbard. Mr. and Mrs. Wiggins are the parents
of four children, namely: Helen, Nellie, Leburn, and Arthur B. A
stanch Republican in politics, Mr. Wiggins cast his first presidential
vote for U. S. Grant. He has ever taken an intelligent interest in
local, state and national affairs, and has filled various public offices
of trust. For six years he was township treasurer; has been a member
of the County Board of Supervisors; from 1888 until 1891 he represented
his district in the State Legislature, during which time he voted for Senator
McMillan; in 1910 Mr. Wiggins was elected to the State Senate, and cast
his vote in favor of Charles E. Townsend for United States Senator.
Fraternally Mr. Wiggins is a member of Bloomingdale Lodge, No. 221, Ancient
and Free Accepted Order of Masons; and of Bloomingdale Lodge, No. 161,
Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Religiously both Mr. and Mrs. Wiggins
are consistent and valued members of the Christian church.
James D. Ferguson
, a successful
farmer and representative citizen of Van Buren county, Michigan, who with
his brother Edward E. Ferguson owns and operates a tract of one hundred
and sixty acres of well cultivated land situated in section 1, Bangor township,
has been prominently identified with the business and agricultural interests
of Michigan for a number of years and is a direct descendant of Elder William
Brewster, the spiritual leader of the Massachusetts pilgrims, who was born
in Scrooby, England, in 1560, came to the New World in the "Mayflower"
and died in Plymouth, Massachusetts, April 10, 1644. James D. Ferguson
was born January 29, 1852, in Jefferson county, New York, and is a son
of Elias Brewster and Catherine Ann (Doolittle) Ferguson, natives of New
Elias Brewster Ferguson as a young man followed
the profession of a physician in New York, and later engaged in the jewelry
business there, but on coming to Bangor, Michigan, in the fall of 1866,
he was with his brother, Dr. J. E. Ferguson, established a general merchandise
business, and conducted this store for many years. He died at the
age of eighty-four years, March 3, 1906, while his widow, who still survives,
is in her eighty-third year. They had two children: James D., and
Edward, who resides in Bangor.
Until he was eighteen years of age, James
D. Ferguson was associated with his father at Bangor, and he then went
to Lawrence, where he was employed by H. M. Marshall in the mercantile
trade. Returning to Bangor when he was twenty-two years of age, he
organized the Bangor Furnace Company store, but a year later the business
was sold to a Paw Paw concern, although he continued with the business
for a number of years thereafter. Eventually Mr. Ferguson took up
farming, but after five years spent in tilling the soil he again engaged
with Silas De Long in the mercantile business, retiring at the end of thirteen
years on account of poor health. For two years he was again engaged
in a wholesale and retail confectionary business, but after seven years
of successful business dealings he returned to Bangor, and he now is engaged
with his brother in general farming and stock-raising on an excellent tract
of one hundred and sixty acres located in section 1. At one time he made
a specialty out of horse breeding, but he now operates his land along general
lines, and has achieved considerable success. His long years of experience
as a business man have assisted him greatly in disposing of the product
of his farm at a profitable figure, while his large business acquaintance
helps him materially in his transactions. He bears an enviable reputation
for integrity and honesty in all matters with which he is connected, and
his standing as a public-spirited citizen is equally high.
On January 8, 1890, Mr. Ferguson was united
in marriage with Miss Stella A. Barber, daughter of Charles W. and Agnes
(Tallman) Barber, natives of New York. Mr. Barber came to Michigan as a
young man, and settled first in Kalamazoo, where for twenty-four years
he served as agent for the Michigan Central R. R. at Alamo, Michigan.
On his retirement, he moved to South Haven, where his death occurred in
August 1904, his wife having passed away eleven years before. They
had six children, of whom the eldest died in infancy; Elvira K. is the
wife of D. Morrison of Paw Paw; Mary Elizabeth, the wife of Frank Ford
of Kalamazoo, died in 1876; Warren George died in 1878; Stella A. married
Mr. Ferguson, and Ora P. died in 1893. Five children have been born
to Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson, namely: James Barber, who is attending the State
Agricultural College; George Kendall, a student of Kalamazoo College; Earl
Robert, attending Bangor high school; and Elias Brewster and Catherine
Agnes, at home with their parents.
Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson are consistent members
of the Congregational church, and have interested themselves in its work.
He is a Democrat, although never an office seeker, and a popular member
of the Knights of Maccabees.
Liberty H. Bailey
.- Venerable and universally
venerated on account of the number of his years and he uprightness and
usefulness of his life, comfortable in a worldly way, free from the cares
of business, and with health and strength remaining notwithstanding his
great age, Liberty H. Bailey of South Haven has found, even on this side
of the grave, a peaceful harbor where the storms of life bread not, or
are felt but in gentle undulations of the unrippled and mirroring water.
He has run his race of toil, and trade and ambition. His day's work
is accomplished, and he has come home to enjoy, tranquilly and unharassed,
the splendor of the sunset, the milder glories of late evening.
Mr. Bailey was born in Townsend, Windham county,
Vermont, on February 26, 1820, and is therefore past ninety-one years of
age. His parents were Dana and Betsey (Walker) Bailey, the former
born in Massachusetts, and the latter of the same nativity as her son.
Both lived to an advanced age, the father dying when he was more than eighty-four
and the mother when she was more than eighty. They were the parents
of seven children, all of whom have died except the interesting subject
of this brief review, who remains, a shining link connecting the dawn of
civilization in this part of the country with its present high state of
development and advanced improvement, one of the men who laid the foundation
of Van Buren county mingling with those who are building it to finer and
greater proportions as the years go by.
Mr. Bailey's father was a soldier in the War of
1812 and took part in the battle of Bennington, Vermont, where General
Stark humbled the flower of the British army. He was a quiet and
peaceful farmer until the honor of the country was assailed, and then he
joined thousands of others like him to resent the insult and punish the
power that so haughtily thrust it on us. He was
a man of influence and prominence in Vermont, where he lived from boyhood,
and a member of the legislature of that state for over thirty years.
The first speech he ever made in public was delivered in Washington, D.
C., in April 1820, but he made many after that, for he took active part
in all public affairs, local and general, and his opinions had great weight
with the people of his county and state. He was also connected with
the famous "Underground Railroad," which was organized and conducted to
aid the fugitive slaves from the South to freedom and safety in Canada.
In early life he was a Whig in politics and later a Republican, and from
his early youth he was a devout and consistent member of the Congregational
Mr. Bailey's ancestors on both sides of the house
were English. His great-grandfather on the paternal side, Richard
Bailey, came to this country from England in his young manhood and settled
in Massachusetts Bay colony. He was a soldier in the Revolutionary war,
and faced the scarlet uniform and glittering bayonets of his former countrymen
on many a hard fought field in that momentous conflict. His son,
Richard Bailey, Jr., was born in Massachusetts, as was also his son, Dana,
but later the family moved to Windham county, Vermont, where Dana Bailey
passed the remainder of his days, being killed at last by a fall from a
wagon while in the performance of some useful labor. He grew to manhood
in Townsend, Vermont, and there married Betsey Walker, and during the rest
of their lives they occupied the house in which she was born.
The father of this Mrs. Bailey, Jesse Walker,
left England with his parents when he was but eleven years of age.
The family settled in Townsend, Vermont, where, when he grew to manhood,
he married and built himself a dwelling house which is still standing in
the town. He was one of the first young men in his locality to enlist
when the Revolutionary war began, and he remained in the service until
its close, being at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown, as well as
in the battle of Bunker Hill six years before. After that battle
he found among the dead of the British army on the field the body of one
of his boys chums in England, Samuel Marsh, who had his musket by his side
with his named carved on it. Mr. Walker took this musket as a keepsake,
and used it throughout the war. It has been cherished as a valuable
souvenir by the family ever since, and is now in the possession of Mr.
Bailey of South Haven.
Liberty H. Bailey was first married in 1845,
being then united with Miss Sarah Harrison, a daughter of Benjamin Harrison,
who was a first cousin to President William Henry Harrison. She was
born in Columbus, Ohio, and died in South Haven, Michigan, her death occurring
on December 16, 1862, when she was thirty-eight years of age. Of
this union three sons were born: Dana, who died at the age of fourteen
years; Marcus, who resides in New York city; and Liberty H., who is a resident
of Utica, New York, and one of the distinguished men of the country.
On August 27, 1863, the father of these children
contracted a second marriage in which he was united with Miss Maria Bridges,
a native of Avon, Livingston county, New York, and the daughter of Jeremiah
and Sarah (Richardson) Bridges, the former a native of the state of New
York and the latter of Connecticut. The family came to Michigan and
here the parents passed the remainder of their lives.
Mr. Bailey was educated in his native state,
completing his scholastic instruction at the Vermont Baptist College, from
which he was graduated in 1840. One of his classmates was Alphonso
Taft, the father of President Taft and attorney general in the cabinet
of President Grant. They lived on adjoining farms in Vermont, and
after their graduation they came West together. Mr. Taft stopped
at Cleveland, Ohio, and made his future home in that state. Mr. Bailey
came on to Michigan, and all his subsequent years have been passed in this
He journeyed from Buffalo to Detroit on the
steamer Madison, and from Detroit to Dearborn by rail over the only railroad
then in the state, and that only ten miles long. From Dearborn he
walked to Kalamazoo. This was in 1844. He did not tarry long
in Kalamazoo, but came on to Van Buren county, and here he was employed
by Isaac Willard for some months. He then returned to Kalamazoo,
but the next year, 1845, came back to this county and bought forty acres
of government land, the patent for which was signed by President James
K. Polk. Sometime later he bought the tract of 120 acres with a house
on it. This home he still occupies and it has been his home ever
since. As time passed and he prospered he kept on buying land until
he owned between 500 and 600 acres. But he has sold it all except
his original abiding place of 120 acres.
When Mr. Bailey located in this county
the whole country around him was wild and almost unpeopled except by the
Indians and wild beasts of the forest. His nearest neighbor was Lark
Pearce, who lived several miles distant from him. His strict integrity
in dealing with them and the benignity of his disposition made the Indians
friends, and he protected himself from the wolves and other beasts of prey
as well as he could. While the conveniences of life were few, nature
was provident in supplying the necessaries. Game and fish were abundant,
and the generous soil soon began to yield good returns to the persuasive
hand of the husbandman. And in a little while other settlers came
and located near the daring adventurer who has so confidently "struck the
stake" in the very heart of the wilderness.
In the nature of the case Mr. Bailey became
a prominent man in his locality. He was well educated, had good business
capacity, and was well informed on public affairs. When the time
came for the organization of his township he was necessarily one of the
leaders in the movement, and he never lost his supremacy during the long
period of his activity. He served as township supervisor two terms,
as a justice of the peace for more than twenty years, and as road commissioner
for an equal length of time. He was the first man in the township
appointed to this office, and when he began his services in it there were
no roads for him to deal with. His services were therefore of exceptional
value to the township, for he made roads as they were needed and opened
up the country for more numerous settlers, and started the region on its
career of progress that has led to its present high state of development
Mr. Bailey has been a Freemason for almost
fifty years. He was made one in Rising Star Lodge at Paw Paw in 1862,
and became a member of Paw Paw Royal Arch Chapter in 1863. The next
year he joined the Peninsula Commandery of Knights Templar at Kalamazoo.
When the Lake Lodge No. 158, in South Haven was in process of formation,
he dimitted from his old one and became a charter member of the new organization.
He was its first Worshipful Master, and served in that position eight years.
He also dimitted from his old Chapter and became a charter member of South
Haven Chapter No. 58, when it was formed, and he was its first High Priest,
holding the position six years. In addition he was a charter member
of South Haven Council No. 45, Royal and Select Masters, and its first
Thrice Illustrious Master for four years. He now belongs to Kalamazoo
Commandery, Knights Templar and De Witt Clinton Consistory, thirty-second
degree Masons, at Grand Rapids. This is a long and busy Masonic record
and Mr. Bailey is entitled to the pride he feels over it.
In politics he was a Republican until a Republican
Congress raised the salary of its members during their term of office in
direct violation of the constitution. Since then he has voted the
Democratic ticket and worked for that party. Notwithstanding the
burden of his years he still takes a very lively interest in public affairs,
but in reference to them he holds steadfastly to the teachings of the Fathers
of the Republic, believing firmly in the largest measure of local self-government
consistent wit the general weal and the absolute supremacy of the people
over all their constituted authorities, and has no tolerance for the unwarranted
stretches of power by public officials which present-day party government
has engendered and seeks to justify by any sophistry that is available.
He is in all respects a sterling, straightforward and upright citizen,
and has been a very useful one. He is an admirable type of the Michigan
pioneer, and a no less admirable representative of the later citizenship
of the state.
Professor Liberty H. Bailey
director of the College of Agriculture, Cornell University, since 1903,
is the youngest son of Liberty H. Bailey of South Haven, by his first marriage.
Professor Bailey is one of the leading authorities on botanical, horticultural
and agricultural subjects in the United States, having been thoroughly
educated in all the scientific and economic branches of these natural sciences
which have so important a bearing upon the fundamental welfare of the people.
A national authority on these subjects, he has been frequently consulted
by both Presidents Roosevelt and Taft in their broad investigations of
the Agricultural Problem. The former named Professor Bailey as the
head of the Commission on County Life, appointed to investigate the conditions
and requirements of the great agricultural communities of the United States,
and as a member of that body he so strengthened his past record as an economic
and scientific expert in every phase of the subject, that he was then marked
for public advancement. This judgment of President Roosevelt was
heartily confirmed by the son of his father's old classmate and cabinet
officer, President Taft.
Bailey was born in South Haven on the 15th of March, 1858, and was graduated
from the Michigan Agricultural College in 1882 with the degree of M. S.
The experiences of his boyhood life, on the farm and in the open generally,
directed his mind at an early period to the study of botany and horticulture,
to which were later added the phases of agricultural economics and education.
in 1882-3 Professor Bailey served as assistant to the eminent Asa Gray
of Harvard; was professor of horticulture and landscape gardening at Michigan
Agricultural College in 1883-8; professor of horticulture at Cornell University
in 1888-1903, and since the latter year, as stated, has been director of
the College of Agriculture of that institution.
As an author Professor Bailey has also a broad
and still expanding reputation. His individual publications include
the following: "Survival of the Unlike," "Evolution of Our Native Fruits,"
"Lessons with Plants,'" "Botany, an Elementary Text for Schools,"
"Principles of Fruit Growing;" "Principles of Vegetable Gardening;"
"Plant Breeding;" "Garden Making;" "Horticulturist's Rule-Book;" "Principles
of Agriculture;" "Nursery Book," "Forcing Book;" "Pruning
Book;" "Practical Garden Book;" "Cyclopdeia of American Horticulture"
(four volumes); " The Nature Study Idea;" Outlook to Nature."
Professor Bailey has also acted as editor of the "Rural Science" and "Garden
Craft" series and the "Cyclopedia of Agriculture" in four volumes, as well
as constant contributor to technical and popular magazines in line with
his professional work, studies and investigations.
.- For a quarter of a century
has Mr. Benton been a resident of Van Buren county, Michigan. He
is called the "King Raiser of Peaches;" is a progressive citizen and enjoys
the respect and esteem of all who know him. Mr. Benton is a native
of Berrien county, where he was born April 5, 1857, and he is the fourth
in a family of seven children, two of whom were sons and five daughters-the
offspring of Burr and Louisa (Juday) Benton. Of this number four
are living: Theodore, an agriculturist and member of the Baptist church,
is a resident of Oklahoma; Mary Ann, wife of George Vandestyn, is a resident
of Keeler township and the mother of four children; Burr is next in order
and Louisa is the wife of B. J. Smith, a farmer.
The father was a native of the Green Mountain
state his birth having occurred in 1812 and was among the pioneers.
At that time there was not a frame building in Niles. He was the
first sheriff of the county, being elected in 1832 when only twenty years
of age and one of the tax receipts issued by him to a neighbor has been
seen by his son Burr. On the land entered from the government by
his father Burr Benton, the immediate subject, was born. At that
early date deer and wolves were plentiful and life still wore a rather
adventurous aspect and even years later these wild creatures were seen,
for not so many years ago this part of Michigan was a wilderness.
Father Benton was a Jackson Democrat and an enthusiastic Union man and
during the Civil war he made speeches and raised troops to put down the
rebellion. Among the many public services of this prominent citizen
was that of many years as justice of the peace. He owned eighty acres
of land and a team or two of oxen were among his faithful servitors.
He was a resident of Berrien county for over half a century and in that
time witnessed great development and many changes. He was a member
of the Methodist Episcopal church and benevolent in his proclivities.
Mrs. Benton, the mother, was a native of Pennsylvania
of stanch old Pennsylvanian-German stock. She was born about 1830
and died in 1872 her demise occurring but sixty-two hours after that of
her husband. Thus this devoted couple, so happy together in life,
were not separated by death. She was but a girl when her parents
came from the Keystone state to Berrien county and here practically all
her life was spent. Both of these good people are interred in that
county where a beautiful stone stands sacred to their memory. They
were fine pioneers of the type which so well paved the way for Michigan's
present high standing. Father Benton was a great hunter and it is
related that one morning before breakfast he killed four deer and in one
memorable day he killed five bears. Many and many a time he conversed
and mingled with the redmen.
Until the age of twenty-six years, Mr. Benton
remained in his native Berrien county. He had the advantage of receiving
in his youth a training in the work he meant to follow and no one could
be better fitted for it. He now devotes his energies to agriculture
and horticulture and has been eminently successful. When he began
life independently he had about two hundred and fifty dollars in cash and
that was the nucleus of his present prosperity.
Mr. Benton has been twice married. His first
wife was Miss Luella M. Dempsey and their only child was Martha L.
She is now the wife of A. A. Burbank, of Whiting, Indiana. Mr. Burbank
was in San Francisco at the time of the earthquake. They have a small
son, Cecil J. On June 8, 1878, Mr. Benton was a second time married,
the lady to become his wife being Miss Martha Henderson. To this union
have been born three children, a son and two daughters. The son,
John F. Benton, is deceased. His lamentable demise occurred March
1, 1906, when only about twenty-two years of age. He had been educated
in the public schools, was an excellent musician and had adopted agriculture
as his own life work. Zelma A. is the wife of O. H. Mathayer, a resident
of the vicinity of Sister Lakes and their three children are Elsie, Fae
and Claire. Lousia B. is the wife of John Harrold, a farmer, and
their two children are Beatrice and John Burr.
Mrs. Benton is a native of Marion county,
Ohio, and was born November 3, 1856. She is the eldest of seven children,
five of whom are sons and two daughters, born to Joseph R. and Sarah (Long)
Henderson, more detailed mention of whom is given in the biographical record
of P. H. Henderson (Mrs. Benton's brother) given on other pages of this
work. Mrs. Benton was a little girl of eight when she came with her parents
to Michigan and here she was reared and educated. When she and her
husband began life it was on the Benton homestead in Berrien county, a
partially improved farm of eighty acres. There they resided five years
and cleared twenty-five acres, which they sold and then came to Keeler
township, where they purchased forty acres. As Mr. Benton's capital
at that time consisted of only about $800, he was forced to go partly in
debt. A part of the property was a blind team, but he managed very
well. As he was able he added to his property from time to time and
now is one of the prosperous agriculturists in this locality. In the early
days he raised garden truck and disposed of much by peddling. All
the fine improvements which his farm now boasts were brought about by him,
with the aid of his estimable wife, even the trees being set out by them.
In February 1907, they purchased their present excellent place of one hundred
acres, which property was in a deplorable state when they took it.
They have expended upon it much thought and honest toil and money.
It is largely devoted to fruit and is one of the best fruit farms in the
township. There are no less than one hundred and seventy-five apple trees
and sixteen hundred peach trees, twelve hundred and fifty of which are
bearing trees. The varieties represented in the latter are the Champion,
the New Prolific, the Kalamazoo, the English Mammoth, the Alberta Gold
Drop, the Lemon Tree, the Bismarck, and the Salloway. It is the general
opinion that Mr. Benton is the most skilled peach grower in all Van Buren
county. He is a born horticulturist. Mr. and Mrs. Benton have
surely prospered, for whereas they began without practically any capital,
they today, in 1912, have not a dollar's indebtedness against their fine
farm and pretty home. This estate had been rented for years and had
run sadly to waste, fences being down and buildings dilapidated.
It is now neat, well-kept, and well improved. In addition to their
property, they have money in the bank and their children are now in pleasant
homes of their own. No small amount of credit is due to the faithful
aid of the noble wife and mother.
Mr. Benton is a Republican in his political
sentiment and cast his first vote for James A. Garfield, the martyred president.
Fraternally his is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, at
Keeler, and Mrs. Benton belongs to Rebekahs. Both Mr. Benton and
his wife are generally respected and it is well that the record of their
lives be preserved in this History of Van Buren County, Michigan.
.- The schools of Van
Buren county are of a high order, and their work is well appreciated by
the people. The banks of vigorous and progressive, and the county
has prospered by the aid they have given it in keeping the financial machinery
well lubricated. The business houses in various parts of the domain
are up-to-date, enterprising and studious of the needs of the people.
Every other interest and industry among this people is in touch with the
times and has its highly credible representatives, making Van Buren county,
as it deserves to be, one of the most forward and progressive in the state
of which it is a part. But the leading occupations of those who reside
within its borders are agriculture and its allied pursuits, fruit culture
and live stock breeding, and the representatives of those industries are
the real bone and sinew of the county. Among them no man stands higher
or is entitled to the greater consideration than Eugene Phillips of Keeler
township, the interesting subject of this memoir.
Mr. Phillips was born in Mount Morris, Livingston
county, New York, on January 13, 1852, and is the third of the seven children,
six sons and one daughter, born to Richard P. and Sarah J. (McGiveney)
Phillips, five of whom are living. Mary is the widow of John McAlpine
and resides in Hartford township. Eugene is the second in the order
of birth of those who are living. William is a resident of Silvercreek,
Cass county, and a prosperous farmer. M. F., is a retired farmer
living at Dowagiac, is now engaged in the insurance business. Charles
H., the youngest of the living representatives of the family, resides in
Calgary, province of Alberta, Canada, and there he is a leading citizen
and successful in his business.
Richard P. Phillips, the father of these children,
was born in Columbia county, New York, on January 6, 1822, and died in
Van Buren county, Michigan, on March 26, 1893. He was a farmer in
both states, and never had any other occupation. His grandfather,
Martin Phillips, came to this country from Germany in Colonial days, and
when the Revolutionary war began he joined the Colonial army and was closely
connected in the service with General Washington. He was with the
great commander at Valley Forge, and helped to hold up his arms in various
other critical situations during the momentous struggle for American independence.
Richard Phillips had but little opportunity
to attend school, and while he became a man of extensive and varied information,
he was in all essential particulars a self-educated man. He was reared
and married in his native county, and moved his family to Michigan about
the year 1854. At that time the family located in or near Adrian
in Lenawee county, and a short time afterward changed its residence to
Allen county, Indiana, where the father rented land and farmed it for four
years. At the end of the period named he brought his household back
to Michigan and located it for one year near Dowagiac in Cass county, then
moved to Van Buren county, where he rented land for farming purposes for
a time. he prospered as a tenant and in time bought 200 acres of
good land, but seeing something more in accordance with his desire, he
sold this tract and bought 244 acres in Silvercreek township, Cass county,
and forty acres in Van Buren county at the same time. He built a
rude log shanty on his Cass county land, cutting the logs for it himself,
and having them scored by his son Eugene. The cabin was crude in
construction and limited in the range of possibilities for comfort.
But it made a shelter for the family circle, its members have never had
homes which gave them more substantial happiness.
In his political faith and allegiance the
elder Mr. Phillips was a Democrat until the crucial issues which brought
on the Civil war came to the front. He then became an Abolitionist
and a Republican, and cast his first vote for General John C. Freemont
for the presidency. After the war he returned to his former political
alliance and remained a member of the Democratic party to the end of his
life. He was a man of strong convictions, high character and strict
integrity, and was widely known and esteemed as such.
His wife was also a native of the state
of New York. Her life began in Franklin county of that great state
on March 12, 1829, and closed crowned with the high regard and universal
good will of the people in this county on December 23, 1907, when she was
nearly seventy-nine years of age. She was a typical American matron
of the highest type of excellence, ready for any emergency and prepared
to take her place and do well her part in any situation. The example
she gave and the rules of life she impressed on her children are embalmed
in their memory and will live there in perpetual fragrance, fruitfulness
and widening benefaction.
Eugene Phillips has passed the greater part
of his life in Cass county and Van Buren counties, Michigan, and is a true
type and worthy representative of the great body of farmers who have given
these counties the standing they have in the state and the influence they
exert in the industrial and commercial circles of this part of the country.
He remained with his parents until he attained his majority, and although
he then had less than $150 in money, he determined to get married and erect
a domestic altar of his own, trusting to his capacity, self-reliance and
industry to make it stable and build it into value.
On October 15, 1873, he united in marriage
with Miss Adeline Copley, who was born in Cass county, Michigan, on March
6, 1850, and died in Van Buren county on January 11, 1911. She was
a daughter of Ebenezer and Dorice (Knapp) Copley, obtained an excellent
education in the district schools and the high school in Dowagiac, and
was a very successful teacher, holding a first grade certificate as such
in both Cass and Van Buren counties. Her individuality was strong,
her intellect was superior and well developed, and her disposition was
of the most kindly and considerate nature. Her religious connection
was with the Methodist Episcopal church, of which she was for many years
a devout and energetic working member in all church enterprises, and especially
in the Sunday school. And when she departed this life in the prime
of her womanhood and fullness of her usefulness, her untimely death was
Of the four children born to Mr. and Mrs.
Eugene Phillips three are living. Edward E., their one son, is a
farmer in Keeler township, owning eighty acres of land in that township
and forty in Hartford township. He obtained the greater part of his
education in the common schools, but attended the high school at Hartford
one year. He was married to Miss Stella Burch, a daughter of Willard and
Celestra H. (Case) Burch, of St. Joseph county, Michigan, where their daughter
was born, reared and educated. Her father was a soldier in the Civil
war. He usually votes the Republican ticket in political campaigns,
and takes an active part in the fraternal life of his community as a member
of the Modern Woodmen of America and the Knights of the Maccabees in the
organizations of these fraternities located and working at Hartford.
Metta Phillips, the second child of the Phillips
household, married William Sibson and is living with him in Cass county
on one of her father's farms. They have seven children. Emma
Phillips, the youngest of the living children of Mr. and Mrs. Phillips,
became the wife of Myrle Evans and lives in Hamilton township, this county.
She has one child. Before her marriage she was a popular teacher
in the public schools of Van Buren county. When
Mr. and Mrs. Phillips began their married life they lived on a farm they
rented for three years. At the end of that period they bought sixty-five
acres, about thirty acres of which were partially improved and under cultivation.
They built a little frame house and lived in it for the first winter without
lath or plastering. When they bought their land the utmost they could
raise as a payment on it was $800, and the rest was held at ten per cent
interest until they paid it. There was not a fruit tree or shrub
of any kind on the place, and when they came to plant what they desired,
Mrs. Phillips held each slip and little tree while her husband judiciously
placed the ground around it. The well on the farm was so foul that
they were obliged to abandon it and dig another; and Mr. Phillips was forced
to give up a cow and six dollars to get a new well dug.
When they got their first tract of sixty-five acres
paid for they bought another of the same size, going into debt for that
also. The land in the new tract was unbroken and all its possibilities
were yet to be developed. In addition to these two tracts in Keeler
township Mr. Phillips now owns forty acres in Hartford township, this county,
and 136 1/4 acres in La Grange township, Cass county. All the improvements
on his several farms have been made by him, and as he started with nothing
in all way of capital and has accumulated a competency, he is a worthy
representative of the thrifty farmers of this portion of the state, and
his record furnishes a fine illustration of what can be accomplished by
industry and thrift in a land so blessed with natural richness and possibilities
of improvement and development as the region in which his energies have
been so profitably employed.
His home is known as the "Elmwood Farm," and
is located five miles and a half from Hartford and the same distance from
Keeler. He is independent in politics locally, casting his ballot for the
man he deems most fit for the office sought and most likely to look after
the best interests of the locality. For in all things he is essentially
a good citizen and eager to contribute in every way he can to the substantial
and enduring welfare of the people among whom he lives and labors.
All classes of residents in Van Buren and Cass counties know his merit
and esteem him in proportion to it, regarding him as one of the best and
most useful citizens among them and one of the truest representatives of
their most elevated, high-toned and productive manhood.
Fred W. Banks
.- Holding high rank among
the practical and progressive agriculturists of Van Buren county is Fred
W. Banks, one of the leading farmers and dairymen of Bloomingdale township.
A son of Captain Will H. S. Banks, he was born May 8, 1866, in Lawton,
Michigan. He comes of excellent ancestry, being a grandson of William
Hughs and Rebecca (Snyder) Banks, of whom a brief account may be found
on other pages of this volume, in connection with the sketch of Jacob F.
Born in Tuscarawas county, Ohio, Will H. S.
Banks was brought up and educated in his native state. Coming to
Michigan in early manhood, he located in Cass county as a time when the
greater part of the land in that region was covered in heavy timber.
At the outbreak of the Civil war he raised the Twelfth Regiment of Michigan
Volunteer Infantry, but becoming ill could not join its ranks. He
subsequently organized a company of cavalry, which was attached to the
regiment, and he was commissioned its first lieutenant, later, on the death
of the captain of the company being promoted to the rank of captain.
Captain Banks was a gallant and faithful soldier, serving ably in any position
to which he was called. He served as quartermaster in General Kilpatrick's
division, was with Sherman on his march to Atlanta and thence on the sea,
and on through the Carolinas to Washington, in the meantime taking an active
part in many fiercely-fought engagements. At the close of the conflict
he was honorably discharged from the service and returned to his home in
Lawton, Van Buren county, Michigan, where he farmed for a while.
Removing subsequently to the South, Captain Banks embarked in the wholesale
grocery business as a manufacturer of botanical oils and shipper herbs.
In 1890 the Captain returned to Van Buren county, Michigan, locating in
Columbia township, where he has since been successfully employed in general
Captain Banks married Ellen Mary Hicks, who
was born in Miami county, Ohio, a daughter of Perry and Margaret Hicks
and granddaughter of John and Caroline Hicks, life-long residents of England.
Margaret Hicks, whose maiden name was Nieve, was born in Norage, England,
near London. Caroline Hicks was a daughter of Commodore Perry.
Perry Hicks, who was educated in Oxford, England, was born at Plymouth,
Lands End, England, and in 1831 immigrated to America, settling first in
Ohio, but later becoming a pioneer of Cass county, Michigan. Mrs.
Ellen Mary Banks died in Columbia, South Carolina, leaving but one child,
Fred W. Banks.
Very young when his mother died, Fred W. Banks
was educated in the public schools of Virginia. In 1888, in the fresh
vigor of early manhood, he returned to Michigan, his sole wealth at that
time having been good health, a keen intellect, strong hands and a willing
heart. Thus equipped, he began working by the month, and at the end of
two years, through industry and economy, had saved two hundred dollars.
His father, perceiving that he was inclined to be thrifty and wise, then
gave him four hundred dollars in cash and the rent for one year of a farm
that he owned in Bloomingdale township. Mr. Banks immediately embarked
in farming on his own account, and was so successful in his undertakings
that at the end of a year he bought seventy acres of land now included
in his present estate and at once assumed its possession. Fortune
since smiled upon all his ventures, and he has since added more land to
his original purchase, his farm now containing one hundred and ninety acres
of rich and highly productive land, of which he has made improvements of
a substantial character, including the erection of good farm buildings.
Mr. Banks has stocked his farm with a high grade of cattle and makes a
specialty of dairying, finding this branch of agriculture quite profitable.
In 1891 Mr. Banks united in marriage with
Maude C. Haven, a daughter of Augustus and Emily Haven, of whom mention
is made in connection with the sketch of E. A. Haven elsewhere in this
volume. Mr. and Mrs. Banks are the parents of four children, namely:
Ella, Robert, Margaret and Mildred. Politically a stanch Republican,
Mr. Banks cast his first presidential vote for Benjamin Harrison.
Religiously both he and his wife are worthy members of the Christian church.
Theodore W. Valleau
.- A venerable and
highly respected citizen of Bloomingdale township, Van Buren county,
Theodore W. Valleau is an honored representative of the early pioneers
of this section of our beautiful country, and a true type of the
energetic, hardy and enterprising men who
have actively assisted in the development of this fertile and productive
agricultural region. In the days of his boyhood the wild beasts of
the forest had not fled before the advancing march of the sturdy pioneer,
and not a building had then been erected on the sites of the present villages
Bloomingdale and Goblesville, the country roundabout having been an
almost impenetrable wilderness. Mr. Valleau began life for himself
without other means than his natural endowments of energy, perseverance
and resolution of purpose, but by his wise management, sagacity and
keen foresight he has overcome all obstacles and has been able to accumulate
fortune, his success in life being entirely due to his own efforts.
A son Peter Valleau, he was born October 27, 1823, in Monroe county, New
York. His grandfather, Theodore Valleau, was born in the Empire state,
of French Huguenot ancestry, where his father, who served as a soldier
Revolutionary war, settled on coming from France to this country.
Born in or near Poughkeepsie, New York, Theodore Valleau
moved in early manhood to Cayuga county, and subsequently resided a few
years later in Monroe county, New York. Going from there to Ohio,
he spent the remainder of his life in the vicinity of Cleveland.
He was twice married, and was the father of eighteen children.
Peter Valleau was born in Cayuga county, New
York, and was a young man when he accompanied the family to Monroe county.
Among the early pioneers of that county, he subsequently bought a
tract of timbered land in Wheatland, on the Genesee river, and on the farm
which he improved lived until 1843. In that year, with his wife and
nine children, he started for Michigan, going by team to Buffalo, thence
by lake to Detroit, and from there by rail to Marshall, the railroad terminus,
the remainder of the journey to Waverly township, Van Buren county, their
point of destination, being performed with teams. He purchased from
the government eighty acres of land, paying one dollar and twenty-five
cents an acre, with his pioneer's axe began the clearing and improvement
of a homestead, his first work having been the erection of a log cabin.
At the end of two months he bought a tract of land in what is now section
thirteen, Bloomingdale township, and settled in the wilderness, his nearest
neighbor being three miles away. He built a log house on his new
claim, making the chimney of earth and sticks and there lived in a most
primitive style for several years, subsisting principally upon the game
of the forest and the productions of the soil, the mother doing her cooking
in the fireplace and dressing the family in homespun materials.
Soon after his arrival new settlers came into
the county, prominent among the number being Orlando Newcomb, Eben Armstrong,
Ira Nash, Daniel Robinson and the Thayer, Brown and Meyers families.
Soon a schoolhouse was erected on the present site of the village of Goblesville,
it being the first building of that place. Peter Valleau cleared
a good farm, but was subsequently unfortunate and lost his property.
He spent his later years of his life in Waverly township, on a place belonging
to his son Theodore W. Valleau, the subject of this sketch, dying there
at the age of seventy-four years.
Peter Valleau married Samantha Pike, who was born in Vermont,
a daughter of Erastus Pike, who was a native of the same state and a pioneer
settler of Monroe county, New York. She died at the home of
her son Theodore at the advanced age of four score and four years.
She was the mother of eleven children, of whom nine grew to years of maturity,
as follows: Theodore W., Andrew, Susan, Norman, Freeman, William,
Adeline, Phebe and Caroline. Theodore W., the first born, is the
only survivor of this large family.
Theodore W. Valleau acquired his early education
in Wheatland, Monroe county, New York, and with his parents came to Michigan
to seek his fortune. Beginning life for himself even with the world,
he worked at anything he could find to do, when wages were high receiving
fifty cents a day for his labor, as a boy, however, being glad to get his
board and clothing. Prior to his marriage he was exceedingly anxious
to become a landholder, and found a tract of land containing twenty acres,
in Waverly township, that he could have for the modest sum of two dollars
and fifty cents an acres, but he had no money with which to make the purchase,
and the owner needed the cash, but
also wanted a cow. Mr. Valleau, therefore, bought a cow, giving
his note for the animal, gave the cow for the land, and then earned the
money to redeem his note. He soon built a small log house on his
newly acquired purchase, and was ready to receive his bride, but having
no money to pay the justice of the peace for performing the marriage ceremony
he made arrangements with the
justice to pay him by working for him at logging for two days.
This recalls another instance of a similar nature, when Andrew Impson,
of Almena township, this county, one of the first to be married in this
vicinity, gave Almon Colby, the justice of the peace, one thousand shingles
to perform the
marriage ceremony, he and his bride-to-be going to Mr. Colby's house
in a cart drawn by
a pair of oxen.
For a number of years after taking unto himself
a wife, Mr. Valleau took contracts to build roads and bridges, devoting
his leisure time the clearing of his land. In 1888 he moved from
Waverly township to Pine Grove township, and there lived for two years
on the large farm that he owned, and on which he made substantial improvements.
Coming to Bloomingdale township in 1890, he
purchased what was then known as the Beddo farm, and is now living
here retired from active business, enjoying the fruits of early years of
judicious toil. A man of real discrimination and ability, Mr. Valleau
has acquired large property interests, at one time having owned upwards
of eleven hundred acres of choice land, and has assisted each of his children
to homes of their own.
Mr. Valleau has been twice married.
He married first, at the age of twenty-four years, Mary B. Luddington,
who was born in Ashtabula county, Ohio, a daughter of Archibald and Abby
(Matterson) Luddington, natives of either New York state or Pennsylvania,
and pioneer settlers of Portage township, Kalamazoo county, Michigan.
She died in 1865, leaving six children, namely: Alice, Eber, Harmon, Merlain,
Mina and Archie. Alice married James Scoville and has seven children,
Archie, Roy, Robert, Myrtle, Marion, Benjamin T., and Earl. Eber
died at the age of forty years. Harmon married first Alma Phillips,
who bore him three children, Harley, Lulu and
Gladys, and married (second) Maria Scoville, by whom he has three children
also, Donald, Jack and Allie. Merlain, who married Stella Hanawald,
has nine children, Erwin, Russell, Merle, Lawrence, Esther, Emilleo, Law,
Antha and Asal B. Mina, wife of Clarence Brown, has six children,
Effie, Ruby, Maude, Milton, Alice and Clare. Archie married Mary
Bell and they have two
children, Ethel and George.
Mr. Valleau married for his second wife Mrs.
Mary A. (Skinner) Snell, who was born in Hastings, Oswego county, New York,
of New England ancestry. Her father, Zeri Skinner, who was born and
bred in Vermont, removed to New York state when eighteen years of age,
and after living for awhile in Oswego county went to Hard Scrabble, in
Onondaga county, and from there to
Baldwinsville, New York. In 1847 Mr. Skinner came with his family
to Michigan, and was one of the earlier settlers of Waverly township, Van
Buren county, where he cleared and improved eighty acres of land, on which
he resided until his death, a the age of sixty-six years. Mr. Skinner
Mary Cornell, who was born in Vermont, a daughter of Nathaniel and
Sarah (Coffin) Cornell, native of New England. She died at the age
of sixty-five years, having reared nine children, as follows: Cornelia;
Christopher; Joseph; Hiram; Mary A.; now Mrs. Valleau; Irving; James; Hezekiah
At the age of nineteen years Mary A. Skinner
became the bride of Theodore W. Snell, who was born in Mohawk valley, New
York, a son of Jacob I. and Gertrude (Fox) Snell. Jacob I. Snell,
accompanied by his family, migrated from New York to Illinois, from there
coming to Van Buren county, Michigan, where he spent his closing years
of life. Theodore W. Snell learned the trade of harness maker when
young, and followed it successfully for several years. In 1861
he enlisted in Company K, Second Michigan Volunteer Infantry, which became
a part of the Army of the Potomac. He was at the front in many battles
of note, and in 1864, was captured by the enemy.
He was subsequently exchanged, and being very ill at the time
of his exchange died on board the vessel while enroute to Fortress Monroe.
He left his widow with a family of four children to care for, namely: Lillie
B., Milton Eugene, Isadore and Archie Theodore. Lillie B. Snell married
Kincaid, and six children, Gertrude, Grace, Ernest, Lillian, Marion
and Hobart. Milton E. Snell married Martha Smith, and they are the
parents of seven children, Mabel, Earl, Marvin, Harold and Herbert, twins,
Wendell and Lillian. Isadore Snell is the wife of Milton J. Sherrod,
and has two
children, Glen and Paul. Archie T. Snell married Rose Dunham,
and they have five children, Neil, Beulah, Breta, Shirley and Beryl.
Mr. and Mrs. Valleau have one child, Rose
M., who married David E. Rich, and has three children, Mollie, Florence
to Bio Index
to Van Buren Home Page