VAN BUREN CITIZENS
Claude D. Robinson
.- It is almost
a tiresomely trite saying that the farms have given us out best citizens.
Until two generations ago the most of our population lived in the country,
so naturally the farm-bred boy had the advantage. Later came the
great exodus to the city and for a time it was hard to find a young man
of talent who intended to devote his life to agriculture. But now
this is changing and we are beginning to return to our Anglo-Saxon notion
that farming is an occupation worthy to engage the best skill of our best
men, and ever increasing numbers of our youth are adopting it, not because
they drift into it but as the profession of their choice.
One of Keeler township's notable young agriculturists
is Claude D. Robinson. His family have lived in the state all their
lives and his father, Edmund J. Robinson, is a well known and successful
farmer in this county. This gentleman began life with no capital
and for five years after his marriage to Miss Minnie Winch he rented land.
His first eighty acres was purchased by going into debt, and their house
was a little log cabin. Now he and his wife own together one hundred
and twenty acres in Keeler township and in 1898 they built their handsome
modern residence on the first eighty acres which he bought. The ruins
of the old log cabin are still to be seen on the place. Three children
were born to Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, all living in this state. Clyde
lives at Marcellus and is a farmer. His wife was formerly Miss Elizabeth
Willis. Ruth Louise, the youngest of the Robinson family, is still
Claude Robinson was born July 30, 1888, in
Keeler township. He attended the public schools of the county and
early decided to devote himself to farming and stock raising. He
began his work with a capital of five hundred dollars from his parents,
who having made a success of the same pursuit desired to give their son
assistance in his undertaking. On July 30, 1909, he was married to Miss
Caroline B. Molter, a daughter of Katherine Weber and Peter Molter, of
Bainbridge, Michigan. She was born January 25, 1889, and is one of
a family of twelve children, seven of whom were sons. She received
her education in the county schools and is a young woman of ability, well
fitted to fill the position which devolves upon her. All but one
of the children of her parents are still living and reside in Michigan.
The father and mother, too, are still conducting their thriving truck farm,
whose products they market in Benton Harbor. Both are members of
the German Lutheran church.
In 1910 Mr. Robinson built a pleasant residence, opposite
his father's home, on eighty acres of land which belongs to him.
Here he and his wife and their small son, Maurice Leland, constitute a
household whose elders are well known and popular in the county in which
they hold and eminent position. Mr. Robinson is a Republican in this
politics, as is also his father. He has already attained an enviable
reputation as a farmer and will doubtless always keep his place in the
front rank of the progressive agriculturists.
was born in the state
of Minnesota, March 22, 1883, and is a son of William and Maggie (Collins)
Torrey, the former is a native of New York and the latter of Minnesota.
Mr. Torrey's mother died December 30, 1891, having been the mother of three
children: Nellie and Fred, who are deceased; and Arthur. Mr. Torrey
then took for his second wife Dora Edwards, and they had two children:
Lewis and Pearl, both of whom reside in Colorado. Arthur Torrey attended
the district school until he was thirteen years of age, at which time he
began working at farming, and followed that occupation until March 20,
1911, when he came to Bangor and went into the shed business. On
August 7, 1911, he purchased all of the stock in a livery stable here,
and three weeks later sold a one-half interest to Walter A. Wood, and later
sold his entire interest in that business. On March 3, 1905, Mr.
Torrey was married to Miss Ellen Parrish. He is a stanch Democrat
in political matters.
.- Among the citizens
of Van Buren county whose names appear in the list of those whose industry,
integrity and ability are responsible of the prosperity enjoyed by the
county, no name is more deserving of its place than that of Orville Fowler,
an agriculturist well known in Hartford township, where he owns two fine
farms of one hundred acres each. Mr. Fowler was born in La Salle
county, Illinois, on the 11th of February, 1854, the son of Milton and
Hannah (Phillips) Fowler. His father, Milton Fowler was a native
of Warner, New Hampshire, and his mother was born in Erie county, Pennsylvania.
His parents both came when young with their respective families to settle
in Newark, Kendall county, Illinois, some time prior to the end of the
year 1842. The young people met, married and lived the rest of their
lives in Kendall county, quiet and unassuming people, well-liked by all
who came to know them. The father passed to his eternal reward in
1898, ten years after the demise of his wife. Orville Fowler
was one in their family of nine children. He was brought up on the
pleasant acres of the home farm, learning there the lessons of industry
and honor which have so marked his after life, and there gaining the robust
constitution that meant much when added to his native ability. His
education was obtained at the local district school, which he attended
until his eighteenth year. At that age he definitely took up agriculture
as his permanent work and began to give his entire time to it.
On the 6th of November, 1878, was solemnized
the marriage of Orville Fowler to Miss Amelia Jones, the daughter of William
and Martha (Powell) Jones. Both of her parents were natives of Dowlais,
South Wales, who had come from the old country about 1867 and located their
new home at Wilkesbarre, Pennsylvania. They had only been in this
country a short time when both the father and mother died, leaving their
daughter Amelia to make her own way in a world that is none too kind to
those who buffet its blasts alone. She was young and strong, however,
and though her early education had been sadly neglected she won out against
all odds. In 1876 she went to Newark, Illinois, and it was there
that she met Orville Fowler. After a two years' courtship they were married,
and they later came to make their home in Van Buren county, Michigan.
Their union has been blessed by the birth of two sons. Claude E. Fowler
married Miss Inga Krone, and they are now living on a farm in Hartford
township and are the parents of two fine children. Ray B. Fowler
was united in marriage to Miss Deldee Martin, and, like his brother, is
engaged in farming in Hartford township.
Fraternally Mr. Fowler is connected with the
Charter Oak Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and he is also
a member of the Modern Woodmen of America. His wife is a member of
the Benevolence Chapter, No.46, of the Order of the Eastern Star, in which
she was initiated on October 9. 1911. Politically Mr. Fowler is allied
with the party of Jefferson, Jackson and Cleveland, but he has no desire
for the honors and emoluments of public office and takes no active part
in party affairs.
Mr. Fowler's farms are admirably located and
are farmed by his two sons. He and his wife are quiet, kindly and
both liked and respected by all who knew them.
Hiram A. Smith
.- Many years ago Oliver
Wendell Holmes wrote of one of his classmates,
"There was a young fellow of excellent pith,
Fate tried to obscure him by naming
It is unnecessary to add that Fate was cheated in her nefarious designs
and the same is true of the subject, who is one of the prominent citizens
of the county, of which he is also a native son. In addition to his
success as a farmer he has great ability as an inventor, and the Smith
Interlocking Cement Stave Silo is a mechanical device which he is not putting
on the market and which promises to make him very well-known. He
is also engaged in the manufacture of a number of other mechanical inventions.
His ninety acres of good land are located in section 21, of Waverly township.
Mr. Smith was born in Arlington township,
Van Buren county, Michigan, November 13, 1864, and is the son of John P.
and Helen M. (Goodeve) Smith. The father was born in Germany, February
21, 1836, and came to America at the age of four years with his parents,
John M. and Catherine Smith. The mother was a native of New York
city and a daughter of John B. Goodeve, of London, England. John B. Goodeve
came with his family to Allegan county, Michigan, when the subject's mother
was but one year old, and there they resided until their summons to the
better land. The subject's parents were married in this county and
to them were born four children, namely: Hiram A. Smith; William A. Smith;
Mabel, wife of C. H. Miller, of North Dakota; and Albert, who is unmarried
and resides in Stevens county, Washington.
Hiram A. Smith was reared on his father's
farm in Van Buren county and received his education in the public schools,
finishing with the eighth grade. Following that he received a commercial
education and at an early age his natural mechanical ability became apparent.
He is a manufacturer as well as agriculturist, his stock tank having proved
a particularly salable commodity. He remained beneath the parental
roof-tree until the attainment of his majority and in 1892 he was united
in marriage to Ada E. Horton, also a native of this county. they
share their pleasant home with four children: Homer I. now at home, was
a student in the high school and is eighteen years of age; Warren H. is
fifteen years old, and attends the high school at Paw Paw; Hiram A., Jr.,
is eleven; and Helen A. is seven.
Fraternally Mr. Smith is a member of Glendale Lodge,
Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and the Modern Woodmen of America, and
his wife is affiliated with the Royal Neighbors. Both of them carry
insurance. In politics the subject is independent, giving his support
to the man and the measure he deems most likely to be conducive to the
general benefit, although he has Democratic inclinations, at present he
is a Republican insurgent. He has been twice elected township treasurer
on the Democratic ticket. He is, in short, a good citizen and widely
ranks with the energetic and up-to-date young farmers
of Arlington township, Van Buren county, Michigan. He has charge
of the farm on which his father settled fifty years ago, and while he carries
on general farming he is making a specialty of raising peaches and apples.
He was born on the farm on which he now lives,
March 22, 1884, that Bert Lee was born, son of C. W. and Minnie (Mead)
Lee, the former a native of Indiana and the latter of Michigan. C.
W. Lee came to Michigan in 1862. His first land purchase was one
hundred and fifty acres, to which he added by subsequent purchase until
at the time of his death he was the owner of two hundred and twenty-three
acres, in section 3, Arlington township. Corn and hogs were his specialties.
Each year he fattened and marketed a large number of hogs. His wife
died January 25, 1893, and his death occurred February 7, 1908. They
were the parents of eleven children. The first born died in infancy,
and the others in order of birth are as follows: Frank, of Bangor; Judson,
of Arlington; Clarence, of Jackson; Arthur, of Columbia township, Van Buren
county; Helen E., wife of Ora Hosier, of Arlington; Isaac, of Arlington;
Ina Belle, wife of Charles Hosier, of Washington; Bert, who name introduces
this sketch; Floyd, of Arlington, --all of Michigan--and Earl, of the United
Up to the time he was fifteen years of age
Bert Lee attended the district school near his home. Then he went
to Jackson, where he took up the study of engineering and spent two years
in preparation for this work, after which he accepted a position as second
engineer in the Detroit White Lead Works, at Detroit, and worked there
nine months. Next we find him at Herington, Kansas, where he engaged
in railroading, which he followed five years. The farm, however,
had its demands and attractions, and he came back to Michigan, to the old
home, and took up farming and threshing. He is now conducting farming
operations at the old homestead, forty acres of which he owns, and on which
he is making a specialty of fruit, giving preference to peaches and apples.
On January 29, 1909, Bert Lee and Miss Ethel
Fisher were united in marriage, and their home has been blessed in the
birth of a daughter, Leone, born September 12, 1911. Mrs. Lee is
the only child of William and Mary (Grills) Fisher, both natives of Indiana.
Mr. and Mrs. Fisher have been residents of Michigan since 1864, and now
make their home with Mr. and Mrs. Lee.
Mr. Lee has always voted the Republican ticket.
He is well posted in public affairs, and is recognized as one of the representative
young men of the community in which he lives. Fraternally he is identified
with the Free and Accepted Masons.
.- Reared as a
farmer and following that occupation until he was nearly forty years of
age, then turning his attention to merchandising with as much deftness
and capacity as if the had long been trained to the business, Charles Duncombe,
of Keeler, has shown his adaptability to circumstances to be of an extent
and character that would win him success and credit in almost any line
of endeavor that he might choose to turn his hand to. Hid is rather
an unusual case, as farmers are not generally well adapted to general merchandising,
their usual pursuit not involving the fine points of this line of trade
and unfitting them for its more graceful requirements. But Mr. Duncombe
is as much at home behind the counter as he ever was behind the plow, and
he can turn a mercantile transaction as neatly and as cleverly as he ever
did a furrow. This shows his versatile and readiness for any station
or duty, and he has given many proofs of them in his mercantile career
in other ways.
Of the six children born to his parents Charles
Duncombe was the fourth in order of birth. He is a son of Charles
and Frances S. (Knight) Duncombe, the story of whose lives is given at
some length in the sketch of Albert O. Duncombe, which will be found in
this volume. Like his brother Albert O., Charles was born in Van Buren
county, Michigan, and reared and largely educated on his native heath.
He attended the district school near his home until he completed its courses,
then engaged in farming on shares for this father. This he continued
until the death of the father, when he inherited one hundred and sixty
acres of fine land in Hamilton township, and began cultivating it entirely
on his own account. He remained on this farm and devoted himself
wholly to its development and improvement until 1907. And he has
ever since superintended it cultivation and kept it up to the standard
of excellence to which he raised it. It is devoted to general farming.
In 1907 Mr. Duncombe entered the employ of
his older brother Albert as a clerk and assistant manager of the large
department store the brother owns and carries on in Keeler. He has
been a potent factor in helping to win wide popularity the emporium enjoys
and build it up to the high place it has in the confidence and regard of
the business world and the general public. He is what the old Romans
called the suaviter in modo, fortiter in re-- genial and courteous in manner
but strong or resolute in deed--and the two qualifications for business
combined in him have given him great influence with the purchasing public,
and pronounced success as a business man in the department of trade with
which he is connected.
Mr. Duncombe was married in April 2, 1891,
in Keeler township, to Miss Maria McMillan, who was born in this county
on February 14, 1873, the first of the five children, all daughters, of
John and Salome (Reece) McMillan, all of whom are living. The others
are: Ada, who is the wife of A. W. Gustine, formerly a merchant in Keeler,
now a farmer in the same township; Buna, who is the wife of H. A. Whelcher,
also a Keeler township farmer; Nellie, who is the wife of D. F. Gregory,
a scion of the old Gregory family so long prominent in this locality, and,
like her sisters, a resident of Keeler township; and Zora, who is the wife
of M. J. Teed, a butcher living and doing business in Benton Harbor.
Mr. and Mrs. Gustine have three children. Mr. and Mrs. Welcher have
two sons, and Mr. and Mrs. Gregory have one daughter.
Four children, three sons and one daughter,
have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Duncombe, but only one of them is living,
their son Charles McMillan. From the age at which entered school
until the present time his eduction has been carefully looked after.
He completed the eighth grade of the elementary and grammar school at Hamilton,
passed one year at the high school in Decatur, and was graduated from the
Hartford high school in the class of 1910. At this time (1911) he
is a student in the school of Professor Ferris in Big Rapids, which is
considered one of the best of the kind in the state, and there he is pursuing
a course in the commercial and business department to fit himself to follow
in the footsteps of his father, his uncle and his grandfather as a merchant.
John McMillan, the father of Mrs. Duncombe,
is a native of the state of New York, and in earlier life was a blacksmith.
He was a soldier in defense of the Union during the Civil war, and made
an excellent record in the army. He has served as treasurer of Keeler
township and is now township clerk. His political faith is pledged
and his political services are given to the Republican party, and he is
ardently devoted to its principles. Fraternally he is a Freemason
and belongs to the lodge of the order in Keeler, where he and his wife
are living. The latter was born in New York state, and she, too,
takes an earnest interest in the fraternal life of the community as a member
of the Order of the Eastern Star. No citizens of Van Buren county
are more highly or more generally esteemed.
Mr. Duncombe is a Republican of the most devoted
loyalty to his party. He cast his first presidential vote for President
Benjamin Harrison, and has kept himself steadfastly under the Republican
banner ever since. He served several years as school director while
living in Hamilton township and is now township treasurer of Keeler township.
He is deeply and intelligently interested in the cause of public education,
regarding it as a bulwark of American liberty, a valuable means of preparation
for the duties of citizenship and a great force in democratizing our people
and helping to make them homogeneous in their social and political activities.
Mrs. Duncombe is a true partner of her husband's
joys, sorrows and ambitions. She shares in all his aspirations, takes
part in all his work for the good of the community, and aids in making
their home one of the choice domestic shrines of the township, and one
of the most popular and agreeable centers of social culture, beneficent
energy and genuine hospitality. Van Buren county has no better or
more useful citizens than Mr. and Mrs. Duncombe, no better representative
of what is best in its citizenship, no more zealous promoters of its welfare
in every way, and, to its credit be it said, no heads of a household within
its borders who are more highly esteemed or more thoroughly appreciated.
Albert O. Duncombe
.- Although all
the years of his manhood have been devoted to one pursuit, and that an
occupation which is so exacting it its claims and so personal in its bearing
that it narrows the views of so many men engaged in it to their own interests
and makes them abnormally acute in that limit, Albert O. Duncombe, one
of the leading merchants of Van Buren county, Michigan, with a large department
store at Keeler, has never become a man of one idea, and his vision has
always been broad enough in its sweep to take in the interests of the whole
county in which he lives, and keep him keenly alive to the welfare, comfort
and progress of its residents. Since the dawn of his manhood no enterprise
undertaken, in which their lasting good has been involved, has gone without
his earnest and effective support, or been without the benefit of his wise
and judicious counsel.
Mr. Duncombe was born in this county in September
16, 1863, the third in a family of six children (three sons and three daughters)
born to Charles and Frances S. (Knights) Duncombe, four of whom are living.
These include Albert's sister Fannie S., the oldest of the living children,
who is the wife of Seth Felt, a prominent farmer of Keeler township; his
other sister, Harriet, who is the wife of N. F. Simpson, warden of the
Michigan state's prison in Jackson; and his brother Charles, a sketch of
whom will be found in this volume, giving a brief account of his life.
Mrs. Simpson is a High School graduate and she and her husband are the
parents of two children, their daughter Frances Fae and their son Nathan
D. Frances is a High School graduate in the class of 1905, and is
now the wife of Ralph Z. Hopkins, a resident of Detroit, where he is connected
with a contracting establishment as a draughtsman. Nathan is a student
at the Michigan Agricultural College, and will graduate in the regular
course in 1913, if nothing happens to prevent his doing so.
Charles Duncombe, the father of Albert O., was a
native of Canada, of Scotch parentage, and born on May 1, 1822. He
died in Van Buren county, Michigan, on January 1, 1900. He was educated
in the public schools, and after leaving them became on succession and
all together a merchant, a banker, a real estate dealer and a farmer.
Although he attended the public schools when he had opportunity, his benefits
derived from them in the way of scholastic attainments were very limited,
because his opportunities of seeking those benefits were limited and often
interrupted. He was practically a self-educated and self-made man,
and one of much more than ordinary business capacity and extent and comprehensiveness
of information. This is one of Nature's ways of dealing with us.
She often deprives her most promising offspring of extraneous advantages,
then offers them compensation in the way of chances to develop their inherent
faculties, and it is not her fault if they fail to accept and use the chance.
Mr. Duncombe, the elder, accepted her terms, and
made the most of his openings in life by his own efforts. He began
operations with very little capital and at one period of his life owned
more than two thousand acres of land. He was a young man when he
came with his parents to Michigan, and not many years afterward he yielded
to the excitement that filled the world over the discovery of gold in California
and became one of the bold and resolute "Forty-niners," that great band
of hardy adventurers which crossed the plains in 1849 to the new Eldorado
on the Pacific slope. These modern argonauts used ox teams as their
means of transporting their goods, and made the long and wearying journey
themselves for the most part on foot. The bones of many of them whitened
on the trackless llanos of the wilderness, as it was then, but Mr. Duncombe
reached his destination in safety. He made Sacramento the seat of
his operations and was successful in his venture. When he had accumulated
a considerable sum of the virgin treasure of which he went in search of,
he returned to civilization, traveling down the Pacific, across the Isthmus
of Panama and up the Atlantic to New York, and thence across the continent
to his former Michigan home. He invested his money in land, and kept
adding to his holdings by subsequent purchases until, as has been noted,
he owned two thousand acres and over.
In his political faith Mr. Duncombe was first
a Whig and after the birth of the Republican party a member of that organization.
He adhered to this political party to the end of his days, and found his
heroes of state craft among the leaders its critical times developed.
Its first candidate for the presidency, General John C. Fremont, received
his ardent support, and to his last hour of life he was a warm admirer
of Lincoln and Blaine. On the large field of political activity he
was a member of the state constitutional convention, and locally he served
for a number of years as supervisor of his township. Fraternally
he was connected for many years with the Masonic order, and became a charter
member of the lodge at Keeler when it was organized. He died in Keeler
township, and in his passing away the township lost one of its best and
most useful citizens.
His wife was a native of Saratoga county, New York.
She was born there in 1830, and died in Keeler township, this county, in
1882. She was reared and educated in her native county. During
the greater part of her life she was an active working member of the Baptist
church, and for some years was president of the local organization of the
Women's Christian Temperance Union. Her remains and those of her
husband were interred in the cemetery in Keeler, and beautiful and suggestive
memorial stones mark the place of their long sleep in the narrow house
to which all must go.
Albert O. Duncombe grew to manhood in this
county and obtained the greater part of his education in its schools.
He began his scholastic instruction in the lower grades of the common schools,
continued it at high school in Decatur, and completed it at the Northern
Indiana State University. His whole life since leaving school has
been passed in merchandising. In 1884 he and his father began business
in this line in Keeler with a stock of goods valued at about two thousand,
five hundred dollars, and since 1900 he has carried on the business alone.
In conducting it he has been very successful, both in increasing his trade
to great magnitude and in winning and holding the confidence and esteem
of the people throughout a very large extent of the surrounding country.
Mr. Duncombe's department store is the largest
of the kind in Van Buren county, and carries a stock of merchandise sufficiently
comprehensive and varied to meet every requirement of the community in
which it operates, including agricultural implements. Its trade averages
sixty-five thousand dollars per annum, and its well satisfied patrons number
many hundred of the most intelligent and cultivated people residing in
the region tributary to its traffic, as well as thousands of others.
Mr. Duncombe is assisted in carrying on the business by his brother Charles
and two saleswomen, with additional help on holiday and other rushing times.
The force mentioned would not be sufficient if all its members were not
persons of superior qualifications for the work in which they are engaged,
and it were not governed by perfect system, which prevents all waste on
time and energy.
Mr. Duncombe was married to Miss Alice G. Peters,
who was born in this county on June 3, 1869, and is a daughter of James
A. and Harriet (McMillan) Peters, and the first born of their three children,
the other two being her brother Stephen, who is a resident of Indiana,
and her other brother, Tracey E., who is a salesman with headquarters in
The father of these children was born in the state
of New York on June 17, 1847, and died in Van Buren county, Michigan, in
January 1908. He was long engaged in mercantile pursuits as a salesman
after leaving the Decatur High School, where he completed his education.
He was of German ancestry, a Republican in politics and a member of the
Odd Fellows Lodge at Hartford, Michigan, fraternally. His wife was
also a native of the state of New York, born in Sing Sing on December 20,
1850. She also died in this county. Her education was secured
in the public schools of her native county, and her life was devoted to
good works under the guidance of the church of which she was a faithful
and zealous member during the greater part of her life, and a consistent
exemplar of its teachings all the time.
Mr. and Mrs. Duncombe have one child, their
daughter Frances P. They also had one son who died in infancy.
The daughter is a graduate of St. Mary's convent at Monroe, Michigan, class
of 1907, and of the Kalamazoo State Normal School, from which she received
her degree in 1909, her special course in that institution being that of
music and art. She taught music in the public school at Belleview,
this state, one year, then her parents sent her to the Cosmopolitan School
of Music in Chicago of the further development and cultivation of her talents,
which are a high order and show great promise. In that institution
she is pursuing the study of voice culture under the instruction of Professor
L. A. Torrens, and that of dramatic art under the instructors who are also
Miss Duncombe is unusually richly endowed
for hr art work, to which she intends to devote her life, and in all other
respects she is a great credit to her family, her friends and the locality
of her home. Appreciating fully the advantages she is enjoying through
the liberality of her parents, she will undoubtedly make the most of them,
and Van Buren county is delighted over the prospect of giving the world
a new star in the lofty firmament of intellectual radiance and power from
which Miss Duncombe is destined to shine. The whole community unites
with her parents in their just pride in her natural gifts and the use she
contemplates making of them, and rejoices in the fact that she is well
deserving, in her high character, devotion to duty and social accomplishments,
of the universal esteem bestowed upon her wherever she is known.
has given his adherence to the Republican party in political affairs from
the dawn of his manhood. His first presidential vote was cast for
James G. Blaine, and his devotion to the party has been unwavering ever
since. He has served as a delegate to its county and state conventions
a number of times, and was one of the Republican national convention which
met in Chicago in 1904. He has always been a devoted friend of the
public schools, and given them the benefit of his services for many years
in some official capacity, regarding the cause of public education as one
of the greatest claims on the attention of the people, and one of the strongest
means for the preservation of liberty, intelligence and morality among
Fraternally he is a member of the Odd Fellows
Lodge at Keeler and of Benton Harbor Lodge, No. 544, Benevolent and Protective
Order of Elks, in each of which he takes an earnest interest, showing commendable
fervor in his zeal for the welfare of both Fraternities as he does with
reference to every other good agency at work among the people for their
betterment in morals, intellectual development, in social relations and
as contributors to the general enjoyment of the community.
Mr. and Mrs. Duncombe reside in a beautiful
modern dwelling in Keeler. The house is conveniently arranged, richly
and tastefully furnished, and provided with every appliance required for
its comfort and the enjoyment of its inmates. The home is a social
center of great popularity, a radiating point of high culture and genial
good fellowship, wherein gracious hospitality is dispensed and the best
attributes of American domestic life are enthroned, in accordance with
the sunny and elevated nature of its occupants, whose hearts are rich in
kindly feelings for all mankind.
Josephus S. Hover
, whose post office
address is Bangor, Michigan R. F. D. No.4, and who has a fine farm of one
hundred acres in extent in section 4, Arlington township, Van Buren county,
figures as one of the representative citizens of this community.
Mr. Hover is a native of Indiana. He
was born in Laporte county, that state, February 28, 1859, a son of Isaiah
and Jemima (Harbaugh) Hover, both natives of Ohio. Isaiah Hover has
been a farmer all his life. He and his wife moved to Indiana from
Ohio, and in the "Hoosier State" made their home for a number of years.
During the Civil war he enlisted in the Union army and went to the front
as a member of an Indiana regiment, the fortunes of which he shared for
three years. At the expiration of his term of enlistment he was honorably
discharged, after which he re-enlisted and served about thirty days longer,
until the war ended. During his army life he was captured by the
enemy and for a time was incarcerated in Andersonville prison. He
is now a resident of Wisconsin, but previous to going there made his home
for two years in Michigan. He and his wife are the parents of five
children, namely: Josephus S.; Hiram J., of Wisconsin; Howard, also of
Wisconsin; Frank, of Niles, Michigan; and Homer, of Wisconsin.
J. S. Hover attended public school and worked
on the home farm until he was eighteen years of age, when he began work
at the carpenter's trade, which he has followed off and on ever since,
in connection with which he has done considerable contracting. Meanwhile
he has invested in land, buying a little at a time until he now has one
hundred acres in Arlington township, Van Buren county, where he resides
with his family.
Mr. Hover married, February 26, 1882, Miss
Phoebe Jane Holloway, daughter of Levi and Harriet (Magher) Holloway, and
to them have been given ten children, whose names in order of birth
are as follows: Clarence, general superintendent of a building and construction
company of Phoenix, Arizona; Florence, wife of Linn Hutchins, of Arlington
township; Claude, also of this township; Jay, bookkeeper for the Michigan
Central Railroad Company, at Kalamazoo, and Carl, Alice, Bernice, Opal
and Muriel, all at home. The ninth child, Manfred, died at the age
of two years.
Mr. Hover votes the Republican ticket, and
has served his township as school director. He is fraternally identified
with both the Odd Fellows and the Maccabees order.
.- Van Buren county
is fortunate in the possession of the Skinner family, estimable members
of society and representatives of the agricultural industry, an industry
which is at once the oldest and, according to Daniel Webster, the most
important labor of man. Edward Skinner, who now farms and raises
fruit on his fine tract of land in section 28 of Hartford township, Van
Buren county, was born n Kendall county, Illinois, on the 6th of November
1870. He is the son of Stephen and Eva (Brodie) Skinner, both of
whom were natives of England, where they were married. They immigrated
to this country in 1854 and located in Kendall county, Illinois.
They made the journey across the ocean in a sail boat, and it consumed
three months' time, and interesting fact in the light of modern steamship
navigation. Stephen Skinner passed to his eternal reward on May 1,
1882, and was followed by his wife on the 29th of May 1896. They
made their home on a rented farm, and were the parents of seven children,
five of whom are living at this date, 1911. George resides in the
state of Illinois. Anna is now the wife of Richard Phillip. Mary
is deceased. Libbie is now Mrs. Mike Lochran and resides in Montana.
Meline is the wife of George Brockway. Kate is deceased.
Edward Skinner was reared amid the healthful surroundings
of the home farm, there learning the lessons of integrity and industry
that have made his later success possible. He continued to work on
the farm during the summer seasons and to attend the district school during
the winters until he was eighteen years old. His father died when
he was eleven years old, and he remained with his mother until she, too,
passed away, after which his sister kept house for them until he was thirty
years old. Part of that time he spent at Lisbon, Illinois, where
for three years he was engaged in business. After selling out there
Mr. Skinner came to Hartford township and bought the John Heins farm of
one hundred and twenty acres, located in section 28, and he has made his
home there since 1903.
In February 1902, was solemnized the marriage
of Mr. Skinner to Mrs. Mettie Sleezer, who was Miss Mettie Ostrom, born
January 15, 1863, in Kendall county. She was educated in the Newark
school, and later attended a seminary. To her first marriage were
born two daughters. Miss Clara Sleezer was a graduate of the Newark
high school and was a teacher in the public schools prior to her marriage
to William Phillips and is now a resident on the home farm. Nina
Sleezer was also a teacher prior to marriage. She is now Mrs. Loveland
Munson, and makes her home in Deerfield, Illinois. Mrs. Skinner is
a member of the Methodist Episcopal church in Hartford. Her husband
is a member of the Modern Woodmen of America.
Politically Mr. Skinner is a loyal member of the
Republican party, and an active worker for its men and measures.
.- The story of
the life of John Oppenheim is the story of industry, courage and a determined
ambition, for the came to this country forty years ago on borrowed money
and has attained his present successful position through his own splendid
efforts. He is now vice president of the Olney National Bank of Hartford,
Michigan, and one of the town's highly respected citizens.
Jacob Oppenheim was born in Russia, in July,
1854, the son of Bernard and Minne (Demboskey) Oppenheim, neither of whom
ever immigrated to this country. Mr. Oppenheim was reared in the
village of Vistiten, and attended the little school of the place until
his sixteenth year. When he was sixteen he made up his mind to essay
his fortunes in the newer territory of the United States and accordingly
immigrated to this country, locating first at Goshen, Indiana. He
soon came to Hartford, however, on this peddling expedition. He carried
his pack for almost a year before obtaining a horse. He later obtained
a team, and in seven years earned enough to start a store in a small way.
His brother, Mark Oppenheim, had furnished him the money with which to
buy his passage to this country, and it was the same brother who let him
have his first stock of goods on credit. Both kindnesses Jacob was
able to pay back in later years. The little store that Mr. Oppenheim
started so many years ago has grown into a prosperous business, besides
which he has accumulated other financial interests, including the stock
he holds in the Olney National Bank.
In 1885 Mr. Oppenheim was united in the bonds
of holy matrimony to Miss Anna Mittenthal, of Detroit, Michigan.
She was born in Utica, New York state. She and her husband have since
become the parents of three children. The eldest, M. O. Oppenheim,
is now the owner of the clothing store, while Beatrice, aged fourteen,
and Aubry, aged ten, are still school children.
Mr. Oppenheim is a member of Florada Lodge,
No. 309, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. He is a stanch Republican,
but up to Cleveland's administration was a supporter of the Democratic
party. He has held various offices of civic trust in the village
of Hartford, and always shown himself an efficient public servant.
It is interesting to note that Mr. Oppenheim has just returned from his
first visit to his native land, a trip, it may be added, which has convinced
him more than ever of the advantages of a republican government over Russian
.- The late David Conklin
was one of the prominent farmers of Van Buren county, and in his death
the county may feel a personal loss, for with his demise it was robbed
of an upright and progressive citizen who was always willing to lend his
strength to whatever good works were being put forward for the general
David Conklin was a native of New York state,
having been born in Philadelphia township, Jefferson county, that state,
on April 10, 1845, the son of Richard and Lucy (Gotham) Conklin.
Richard Conklin was born in Rutland county, New York, and his wife was
born at Cranes Corners, Westchester county, New York, now a suburb of New
York city. Their son David was reared on the home farm and educated in
the public schools until he was sixteen. At that age, in 1861, together
with five of his brothers, he enlisted in Company E, Ninety-fourth New
York Volunteer Infantry of the Union army. The six brothers, though
they followed the flag through many desperate engagements, all returned
without a scratch at the close of the struggle.
In the spring of 1865 David Conklin left New York
and came to Hartford, Michigan. He was without means, but he at once
set about to "make good," and obtained employment in the timber business.
On the 5th of June, 1869, was solemnized the
marriage of David Conklin to Miss Mary E. Olds. She was born in Hartford
township, May 29, 1849, a daughter of Hiram and Marian A. (Stratton) Olds.
Hiram B. Olds was a son of John Olds, who came to Michigan form New York
state as a pioneer settler in this part of the country. He located
in Hartford township, and there cleared a farm in the timber region and
lived on the clearing for the remainder of his life. Hiram Olds,
his son, was reared in New York, where he grew to manhood and married Marian
A. Stratton. Shortly after the wedding the young husband came on
to Michigan, returning a year later for his wife. He had no "start"
in life and accumulated his fortune by his own industrious efforts.
He became the owner of one hundred and forty acres of land and made his
own furniture. He was a shrewd business man as well as a hard worker
and a man of unquestioned honor. He passed away a the very outset
of his career, a the age of thirty-five years, leaving a wife and three
children,- Mary E., Ira V. and Stephen A.
Mr. and Mrs. Conklin became the parents of
nine children, seven of whom now survive, in 1911: Melvin J. Conklin, who
married Miss Ethel Parmeter and has become the father of three children;
Milton D, unmarried and now makes his home with his widowed mother; Marian
G., now Mrs. Hiram G. Hinkley; Lillie M., who was united in marriage to
Sheldon P. Straub, and is the mother of one daughter; Walter A., unmarried
and living at the paternal home; Nora E. now Mrs. Gorham Blair; Charles
H., who married Miss Fern Hummell.
Mrs. Conklin, while not the member of any
church, has been the supporter of the good works of all and has lived a
truly upright life of kindly helpfulness. Her husband was a Mason
and a member of the Knights of Pythias. Politically he was an ardent
Democrat. Both he and his wife were members of the Patricians, and
at the time of Mr. Conklin's death each carried a thousand dollars insurance
in that order.
Mrs. Conklin is the owner of forty acres in
Hartford township; forty-nine acres across the road in Keeler township;
twenty-seven acres west of the forty-nine; and forty acres to the east
of the same tract. In all her holdings amount to one hundred and
fifty-seven acres, part of which is managed as a fruit farm and grapes
and peaches of a high quality are raised.
.- To recount the main
events of the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Shepard is to speak of people
who need no introduction to the residents of Keeler township. The
many years they have passed in that region have made them known to all
its citizens and have brought them a gift of a high place in the affections
of the entire community. For almost half a century their names have
been linked with the history of the county and they have borne their full
share of the labors which have produced its greatness and prosperity.
Mr. Shepard is of English descent and is a native of Wayne county, New
York, where he was born in 1841, on March 21st. He is the fourth
in a family of five children; three sons and two daughters, born to Mark
and Sarah Class Shepard. Only two of that family are not living,
Henry of this review, and Dorliske, the widow of Robert Rupel, a resident
of Wexford county, Michigan. Mark Shepard was a native of the state
of Maine and was born in 1796, three years before the first president of
our republic died. At the age of sixteen he moved to New York state
and began life on his own account. His education was but meagre,
as the advantages were poor. He married in New York state and purchased
sixty-three acres in Wayne county near the town of Marion.
In 1862 the family came to Michigan, Henry
Shepard, making the trip to Van Buren county with a team. They purchased
ninety acres of unimproved land in Hartford township and here the father
lived until his death in 1867. His grandfather had come to Canada
form England and thence to Maine. It was his fate to be tomahawked
by the Indians while going out to bury a kettle containing valuable papers
of the Shepard estate, and if these lost documents could be found a large
inheritance would fall to the present generation of that family.
Mark Shepard belonged to the old Whig party and later joined the ranks
of the new Republican faction. He voted for the first nominee of
that party and was a warm admirer of Lincoln. His wife was a native
of New Jersey. She was born in 1803 and died April 22, 1874.
New Jersey was her home until she was ten years of age and then she moved
to New York state. Circumstances deprived her of any means of livelihood
except her own efforts, but adversity detracted nothing form her qualities
as a true mother and her lofty character commanded the admiration of all
who met her. In her widowhood she made her home with her son Henry,
and it was here that she passed to her rest at the age of three score and
Henry Shepard was twenty-two when he left
his native state. He had received the benefits of such educational
opportunities as the time and locality afforded. It was not in the
traditional log school house that he pursued the study of the three R's
but in a stone building. However the difference in architecture did
not extend to the interior furnishings. The seats were the usual
wooden benches and the heat was supplied by a square box stove, which illustrated
all the zones form the torrid to the frigid. The teacher was hired
by subscription and while we might consider the instruction rudimentary,
it was probably far more in proportion than we secure for a like expenditure.
Mrs. Shepard, too, was an attendant at this sort of school.
Jefferson county, New York, was the home of
Mrs. Shepard's family and her maiden name was Vandervoort, one well known
in the annals of New Amsterdam Dan borne by many a good burgher.
Her father was by trade a fuller of cloth. He was born in New York
state, in 1815, and lived there until 1851, when he and his family moved
to Michigan. They purchased a farm in Hartford township of eight
acres and here their family grew up. The father enlisted in the war
and was present at the battle of the Wilderness. Shortly afterwards
he contracted typhoid fever and died at Nashville, Tennessee, in the service
of his country. He was a charter member of the Lawrence Masonic Lodge.
His wife was born in the same county as was he, on January 4, 1819.
She was a strict member of the Presbyterian church and an earnest worker
in the Sunday-school. Her devotions to the rearing of her children
made her a model mother and bore fruit in the useful lives of the sons
and daughters. Mrs. Shepard is the eldest of five children.
The two sons are both dead, but the daughters are all now presiding over
homes of their own. Augusta is Mrs. Fred Fish and resides on a farm
in Lawrence township. Martha is the wife of a real estate dealer
in Oklahoma City, Mr. C. R. Heminway, one of the city's most successful
men. One son has been born to this couple. The mother of the
family lived to the age of eighty and died March 8, 1899.
Mrs. Shepard was born in Watertown, New York,
in 1845, on April 24. She has spent most of her life in this county
and can remember when Hartford had just one house. As the population
of the town is now one thousand two hundred, she has witnessed a vast development
of the country. The marriage of Adelaide Vandervoort and Henry Shepard
was solemnized on February 21, 1862, at Decatur, Michigan. The young
couple began life with small capital, purchasing a farm of forty acres,
partly on credit. Their first house was an unplastered frame structure.
This has given place to a comfortable residence, and the farm of eighty
acres has been made one of the best improved in the section int he matter
of buildings and general equipment. The latch string is always out at the
I. X. L. Farm for the friends and neighbors, as well as for the children
The three daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Shepard
are all married, Alice Josephine is Mrs. Frank Hall. Her husband
is a telegrapher, employed in New York city, but residing in Salamanca.
There are four children in this home: Florence M., Elsie J., Francis H.
and Oliver C. Mrs. Hall was educated in the Decatur schools and graduated
from the high school. Mr. Hall is chairman of the Order of Railroad
Telegraphers. He is also a member of the Elks. He and his wife
belong to the Methodist church and he is a Republican in his political
convictions. Lydia Shepard was educated in the common schools of
the county and was later one of its successful teachers. She is now
the wife of one of Hamilton township's prosperous farmers, Mr. Fred Harris.
Minnie is the wife of John Clair McAlpine. Mr. and Mrs. Shepard gave
their children a good education and also the care and sympathy which are
such powerful factors in the making of happy and loyal citizens.
It was Mr. Shepard's privilege to cast his
first presidential vote for Abraham Lincoln and he has always been a loyal
supporter of the Republican party. He has been for a number of years
deputy treasurer of the schools and served two years as road commissioner.
Mr. Shepard is a member of the Methodist church at Keeler and both she
and her husband are always ready to aid in all movements for the betterment
of the community where they have been so long and so honorably known.
Henry M. Kingsley
.- Eminently worthy
of mention in a work of this character is Henry M. Kingsley, of Kendall,
Van Buren county, is a man of sterling integrity and upright principles,
who in all of his business transactions has ever acted with strict regard
to veracity and honor, and has full established himself in the esteem and
confidence of his associates and neighbors. A native of Michigan,
he was born May 27, 1845, in Kalamazoo county, a son of Moses and Clarissa
(Beckley) Kingsley, of whom a brief account may found elsewhere in this
volume, in connection with the sketch of Herbert Lincoln Root.
Laying a substantial foundation for his future
education in the public schools, Mr. Kingsley completed his early studies
at the Kalamazoo College, in Kalamazoo, and when nineteen years old taught
school one term. Locating on the parental farm at the time of his
marriage, he managed it successfully until 1878. Coming to Van Buren
county, Mr. Kingsley bought land in sections twenty-six and thirty-five,
in Pine Grove township, and was there actively engaged in agricultural
pursuits for nearly three decades. Going from there to Oregon in
1907, he lived at Hood River two years, and on returning to Michigan settled
in Kendall, which has since been his home.
Mr. Kingsley married, in 1872, Carrie Beckley, who
was born in Bergen, New York, a daughter of Ward and Eliza (Trumble) Beckley,
and a lineal descendant of Sergeant Richard Beckley, the line of descent
being thus traced: Richard, Joseph, Joseph, Joseph, David, Ward and Mrs.
Kingsley. Richard Beckley, who was born in Hampshire, England, was living
in 1638, in New Haven, Connecticut, where he was prominent in church and
civic affairs, and was sergeant in a company of militia. Moving to
Connecticut about 1661, he bought land of an Indian chief, and there resided
until his death. Ward Beckley, Mrs. Kingsley's father, lived in Genesee
and Orleans counties in New York state. In 1871 he located in Michigan,
and he died in Mendon in 1880. His wife survived him, passing away
Mr. and Mrs. Kingsley have three children,
Mabel Clara, who married Le Vern Waber, and has two sons, Henry and Clarence;
Henry Ray, who married Mabel M. Downey has two children, Barnard and Margaret;
and M. Leland, who married Nellie Tate. Religiously Mr. and Mrs.
Kingsley are members of the Congregational church, and they have reared
their children in the same faith
.- Mr. Gould has been
a resident of the county for over half century and for that entire
period has engaged in the pursuit of agriculture. Much has been said
and written about farming as an occupation and of its value in producing
a crop which is even more important than the food supply-that of character.
One cannot hope to say anything new on this matter, but neither is it a
subject that is ever old, inasmuch as it is one of the eternal verities.
The farmer is busy with a task that is always worth while, since upon him
all else depends. It is a work which requires that a man be able
to spend time in his own society and not be dependent upon distractions,
whose chief end is to prevent him from thinking. He must be a person of
resource and of a philosophic mind. Small wonder that the farm-bred
youth outstrips all competitors. No greater service to the land can
be performed than that of causing the earth to yield of her fulness and
those who devote themselves to this have ever been the strength and the
flower of our civilization.
Mr. Gould is a native of Litchfield, Ohio,
born May 23, 1836. There were six sons and six daughters in the household
and Mr. Gould is the sixth in point of age. Only three of the offspring
of Ira and Nancy Strickland Gould are now living; Mr. Gould and two sisters,
Mrs. Esther Suits of Silver Creek township, and Mrs. Milton Shafer, of
Lawrence township. The Gould family is of English origin. Three brothers
came form England and settled in America early in the history of the country.
the Jay Gould family, famed for its wealth, is a branch of the same stock.
Ira Gould was born in Broome county, New York, in 1799, the year of Washington's
death. Until his death in 1880, he followed the occupation of agriculture,
first in New York state, where he lived until after his marriage, and later
in St. Lucas county, Ohio, then in Branch county, Michigan, near Coldwater,
where he went in 1837 and lastly in Van Buren county. He has traded
his forty acres in Branch for a tract of twice that extent in Van Buren
county. Until recently this farm was in the possession of Mr. Gilbert
Gould. At the time when his father bought his land the country was
entirely uncultivated, a vast expanse of virgin field and forest.
The father was a Jeffersonian Democrat and ardent in his advocating of
the principles of that party. For eight years the people of Keeler
township kept him in their service as township treasurer. His strict
adherence to his principles won him the respect even of those who disagreed
with him. He took an active interest in public education and recognized
its importance in a democratic government. At his death the funeral
was conducted by the Odd Fellows, of which lodge he was a prominent member.
The wife of Ira Gould was born in Connecticut,
in 1808. Before her marriage she was a teacher in Broome county,
New York, and the qualities which made her successful in that great profession
made her also successful in the greater calling of a wife and mother.
She was a devout Christian, whose sweet, everyday life was an irrefutable
argument of the divinity of her doctrine. She passed from this life
in 1892, and is buried in Keeler cemetery.
Gilbert Gould was still a child when he came
to Van Buren county. His early schooling was received in a log school
house whose seats were great slabs with holes bored in them, into which
the wooden pins were set to hold up the benches. An old-fashioned
fireplace heated the room, or a part of it at least, and the pupils sometimes
wrote with goose quill pens. Cobb's Spelling Book was the chief text
book on literature, though it was later superseded by a more pretentious
volume with definitions, written by Towne. The teacher was paid by
subscription and boarded around in the homes of this pupils. The
change from this primitive equipment to the school of the twentieth century
is great indeed and only those who have seen the two regimes of our education
can realize the improvement. Mr. Gould has been privileged to witness
this and other great changes. When he was a boy the deer were to
be seen all around in droves and the Indians still in their aboriginal
Until his marriage Mr. Gould remained with
his parents. In 1862 he established his own home with his wife, Mary
Garrett Gould. They were the parents of two sons and four daughters.
Five of the family are still living. Jennie, the eldest, was educated
in the public schools and in Benton Harbor College. For three years
she was one of the successful teachers of Van Buren county and then she
became the wife of Charles Allerton, of Keeler. Will is a practical
farmer whose residence is near that of his father. He and his wife,
Kate Kent Gould, have two children, Mildred and George. Edna B. is
a young lady of literary tastes, who is unusually fond of good books.
She maker her home with her parents and relieves them of much of the responsibility
of the home. Mrs. Gould was born on March 15, 1842, in Montgomery
county, Ohio. She was the seventh in a family of ten children, three
sons and seven daughters. Three of the family of John and Dora Pettigrew
Garrett still survive. Anne is the widow of John Kennedy, of Benton
Harbor. William is a farmer of Cass county, Michigan, and is married.
Father Garrett was born in Ireland in 1799 and came to America at the age
of twenty-one. It took six months for the sailing vessel in which
he embarked to make the voyage-time enough to get used to water for a habitation.
After working for a time in New York Mr. Garrett went to Ohio and there
he was married. He bought a farm of forty acres in Ohio and later
disposed of it and came to Michigan. He went first to Cass county
and thence to Van Buren in about 1853. Keeler township was his home
for the remaining eight years of his life and he was a successful agriculturist.
In politics he was originally a Whig, but afterwards became a Democrat.
His wife was born in Ohio in 1807 and died in Michigan in 1878.
Since the age of seven Mrs. Gould has lived
in Van Buren county and for forty-nine years she and her husband have labored
together and watched the progress of the county, contributing with a right
good will their share toward its advancement. Their farm is called
Oak Grove Farm and comprises a hundred acres of good land near Michigan
lake. They have been able to equip this with the best appliances
and the fine buildings, including a handsome modern residence.
Like his father, Mr. Gould is a Democrat.
He cast his first vote for the "Little Giant of the West" and he has never
wavered in his support of the principles of that party. Fraternally
he is connected with the Masonic lodge of Dowagiac, Michigan. The
years he and his wife have spent in this county have been busy and beneficent
ones. Theirs are honored names in the history of the region which
is proud to claim them as her citizens.
the age of two Mr. Fitzsimmons has been a resident of Van Buren county,
and as he was fifty-six years old on June 10, 1911, he has seen a variety
of changes from a wild country to a populous and thriving district.
He has always been a farmer and his father, too, followed that pursuit,
so he has been especially interested in the changes which have taken place
in the methods of farming. He has cut many an acres with the old
fashioned foot cradle and has swung the scythe all day long with the mowers.
He has seen and used the flail, so he is prepared to speak with authority
on the wonders of modern farming.
Both the father and the mother of Michael
Fitzsimmons were born in Ireland. Kildare was his mother's native
place, Dublin his father's. William Fitzsimmons sailed from Dublin
at about the age of twenty-one and made the trip in seven weeks and three
days. He settled in Clyde, Wayne county, New York, where he worked
for wages, as his capital when he reached his new home amounted to only
five shillings. Here he met and married Katherine O'Conner, and in
1857 the family moved to Michigan. The father has saved two hundred
and fifty dollars, intending to invest in a farm and accordingly he bought
a tract of forty acres, the present home of Michael Fitzsimmons.
At that time Hartford was only a handful of people and roads had not been
made to sufficient extent to render driving feasible. Most people
walked or rode horseback from the railroad. Van Buren county was
the home of the Fitzsimmons family continuously after 1857. The father
lived to be almost a hundred years old. He and his wife were devout
members of the Catholic church, in whose faith they lived and died, being
laid to rest in St. Mary's Parish cemetery at Silver Creek. There
were two sons and one daughter in their family. Michael Fitzsimmons
brother, William, is a painter in South Bend, Indiana. The sister
is no longer living.
Michael Fitzsimmons grew up on his father's
farm and attended such schools as were to be attended. The first
educational institution of which he enjoyed the advantages was a small
subscription school which was conducted in the home of a Mr. Kelly.
Later he was a pupil in the first school built by the district and taught
by Marion Woodman. Although Mr. Fitzsimmons has not yet come to the
age when he can be called an old man, yet he is one of the oldest residents
of the county and is entitled to speak of the "good old times" when deer
were plentiful and time hadn't been hurried on by all the modern devices
for saving it, which oblige us to get as much done in a day as our forefathers
did in a week. He knows something about getting work done, for he
has been doing it all his life. With no capital to start on, he has
acquired a quarter section of fine land, eighty acres in Keeler township
and the other half in Watervliet. The tract in the former section
is one of the best in the county and his home is situated on that.
Besides general farming he is an extensive fruit grower and highly successful
in that branch of agriculture.
In the prosperity and position he has attained
Mr. Fitzsimmons has been ably assisted by his wife, who is a woman of unusual
tact and intelligence. She is the daughter of William H. and Bridget
(Carmody) Watson, christened Mary E. and born December 4, 1855, twenty
miles west of Detroit. There were three sons and two daughters in
their home circle. The boys are all dead, but the sister Sarah is
the wife of Thomas Hawley, a farmer of Hartford township, to whom she has
borne eight children, seven of whom are living. Mrs. Fitzsimmons'
father was a native of Kent county, England, born October 10, 1833.
His opportunities for getting and education were mostly of his own making
and he was truly a self-educated man. At the age of eighteen he came
to America and settled at Clyde, New York. Here he worked as a wage
earner for fourteen years, and then on December 14, 1864, he came to Berrien
county, Michigan. From here he moved to Van Buren county, where he
resided for the rest of his life. His wife, Bridget Carmody, came
to America from Limerick, Ireland, when she was a young lady, in 1850.
Both of them were communicants of the Catholic
church and devout attendants upon its services. The father died in
1900 and is buried beside his wife in St. Mary's Parish cemetery.
The union of Mr. Fitzsimmons and Miss Watson
took place January 10, 1893, and of the two daughters who have come into
the home then begun one has been taken away by death. Florence, the
other, is now in the eighth grade and is studying music. It is her
parents' intention to give her an education which shall fit her for any
vocation she may desire to follow. Her mother was for five years
a successful teacher in the schools of Berrien and Van Buren counties,
and so is able to direct her daughter's education with more than ordinary
William Fitzsimmons was a strong advocate
of the principles of the Democratic party and his son Michael follows in
this footsteps in this respect. The family are members of St. Joseph's
Catholic church at Watervliet and Florence was confirmed by Bishop Kelly.
All the benevolent undertakings of their denomination are generously supported
by Mr. and Mrs. Fitzsimmons. Mr. Fitzsimmons holds membership in
the order of the Knights of the Tented Maccabees of Watervliet, his tent
being No. 821.
The proprietors of Maple Avenue Farm are universally
accorded a place among the leading citizens of the county. Their
labors have brought them material prosperity and their many attractive
personal qualities have won them the friendship and admiration of a wide
circle of the county's representative men and women.
R. C. Nyman
, ex-treasurer of Bangor
township and one of the leading and influential men of his community, is
proprietor of a flour, grist, saw and woolen mill at Bangor, which was
erected by his father more than fifty-five years ago and has remained in
the family ever since. Mr. Nyman is a survivor of the Civil war,
in which he made an excellent record, and he has proven himself a good
a citizen in times of peace as he was a soldier during the dark days of
the war of the rebellion. Mr. Nyman is a native of Niles, Michigan,
and was born November 16, 1844, a son of J. H. and Julia M. (Youngs) Nyman,
the former a native of Ohio and the latter of New York.
The Nyman family first came to Michigan during the
early 'forties, and in 1856 J. H. Nyman brought his family to Bangor, where
he established himself in business as the proprietor of a flour, grist,
saw and woolen mill, which he conducted successfully during the remainder
of his life. His death occurred in 1886, his wife having passed away
three years before, and they were the parents of five children, as follows:
A. J., who is deceased; R. C.; Emily, who is deceased; Etta, the wife of
Andrew Charles, of Denver, Colorado; and Oro, who lives near Bangor.
R. C. Nyman was reared in his native village,
and there was given a good education in the common schools. When
he was only seventeen years of age, in September 1861, he ran away form
home and enlisted in Company C, Third Michigan Cavalry, under Captain Hudson,
and on January 18, 1864, received his honorable discharge at La Grange,
Tennessee. On the following day he re-enlisted in the same company,
and he continued to serve with that organization until he received his
final discharge at San Antonio, Texas, February 12, 1866. Mr. Nyman's
war record was that of a brave, faithful and valorous soldier. During
the long, heart-breaking marches he was cheerful and patient, under fire
he was always cool and in full command of his faculties, and in the thickest
of the hard-fought battles he displayed a bravery and lack of fear that
won him respect of his comrades and words of praise from his officers.
On his return to his home in Bangor he at once took up the duties of civil
life, and ably assisted his father until the latter's death, when the milling
property was left to his children, R. C. receiving his share. After
a short time he bought out the other heirs, and he now is the sole owner
of the enterprise, which he has been engaged in operating ever since.
Mr. Nyman is a good business man, and he knows how to conduct his industry
so that it will give him the best results. He has an unblemished
record as a business man, and he is held in high esteem by his fellow townsmen
in Bangor, who have elected him village president and councilman.
He is a popular member of the Masons and the Grand Army of the Republic,
and in politics takes an independent stand.
In 1868 Mr. Nyman married Miss Lucy Martindale,
daughter of Bennett Martindale, and she died in 1896, having been the mother
of two children: Harry, who is engaged in the business with his father;
and Audie, who is deceased.
Timothy E. Blashfield
in the lumber interests of Van Buren county, and as citizens who can be
relied upon to foster whatever is advanced for the general welfare, are
Timothy E. Blashfield and his son, William H. Blashfield, both of Hartford,
Michigan. Timothy Blashfield was born in Claredon, Calhoun county,
Michigan, on January 5, 1846, the son of William and Alvira (Keep) Blashfield,
both of whom were natives of Homer, New York state. William Blashfield
was a son of Iddo Blashfield, like his son, a native of Homer, New York.
Both the Blashfield and Keep families removed to Calhoun county, Michigan,
about the year 1836. It was there that the young people were married
and lived upon the fertile acres of their farms. They became the
parents of four children, of whom Timothy is the only one surviving to
this date. The others were William, George and Adelia Blashfield.
Timothy E. was reared amid the pleasant and healthful surroundings of the
home farm located in Calhoun county. Until he was eighteen he spent
the summers helping his father in the fields and his winters attending
the district schools of the vicinity. When he was eighteen he entered
Albion College, where he spent a year preparing himself for public school
teaching, and for nine winters thereafter he taught school, devoting his
summer interests to the farm.
In 1873 Mr. Blashfield was united in marriage
to Miss Mary E. Smith, the daughter of Abida Smith, and they were the parents
of three children, two of whom died in infancy. William H., and the
only surviving one, is his father's business partner. William H.,
was born June 7, 1875, and was educated in the Hartford public schools.
At the age of eighteen he began to learn the jeweler's trade, at which
he worked until 1911, owning a half interest in his business, while his
mother owned the rest. He married Miss Edith Montague, of Alpena
county, Michigan. They have no children. He is a member of
Florada Lodge, No. 309, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and both he and
his father carry insurance in the order of the Maccabees. His mother
passed to her eternal reward in 1897. Timothy Blashfield later remarried,
being united to Mrs. Emily Taylor in December, 1899. She died in
Politically Timothy Blashfield is found in the ranks
of the Democratic party. His election to the office of treasurer
of Hartford township was upon the nomination of that party. His son
also gives his allegiance to the party of Jefferson, Jackson and Cleveland.
The prosperous business of the Blashfields
is made up of dealing in lumber, wire fence, cement, lime and brick.
George E. Brooks
the influential and well known residents of Van Buren county is George
E. Brooks, whose home and farm is in its township of Almena. His
ancestry is Scotch Irish, and he is a grandson of Michael Brooks, a native
son of the land of "hills and heather," and on the maternal side a grandson
of George Brown, who was born in the north of Ireland. The latter,
however, left his native land in his youth and came to America, establishing
his home in the east. His daughter Margaret became the wife of George
F. Brooks, the son of Michael Brooks.
Paterson, New Jersey, was the birthplace of
George E. Brooks, and he began his existence on the 16th of March, 1840.
When he was ten years of age he accompanied his father to Brooklyn, New
York, and from there they went to St. Louis, Missouri, but subsequently
returned to the East, to New York city. Later they returned to Paterson,
New Jersey, the birthplace of George E., and, again migrating, they went
to Susquehanna, Pennsylvania, where the father died. In the year
1862 George E. Brooks entered the employ of the government and spent two
years in its service. But before entering that work he had lived
on a farm in Pennsylvania, and when he retired from the government service
he returned to that farm.
On the 14th of September, 1861, he was united
in marriage to Anna E. Slater, a daughter of Isaiah Slater and his wife,
Amy Mix Slater, both natives of the state of New York. Following
their marriage the young couple lived in Susquehanna county until 1882,
when they moved to Pullman, Illinois, and for twelve years that city continued
their home. The following eight years they spent in Roseland, Illinois,
and in 1899 Mr. Brooks bought a farm in Van Buren county, Michigan, the
place being then known as the old Wilson farm. In 1902 they came
to this state to reside and within its borders have since made their home.
Until recently he owned a farm of one hundred and twenty-eight acres in
Almena township and was one of the progressive and successful agriculturist
of the county, but a present his son-in-law, Mr. K. E. Crouse, is the owner
of the farm.
There were five children born of the union
of Mr. and Mrs. Brooks, and four of the number are now living: Flora, the
wife of George Backus and residing in Almena township; Edwin H., who died
in infancy; Margaret, whose husband, Kenneth E. Crouse, has bought the
farm her father formerly owned; George W., a resident of Kalamazoo, Michigan;
and Daisy, the wife of Walter Brown, supervisor of Almena township.
It is Mr. Brooks' good fortune to have seen not only his children grow
to useful manhood and womanhood, but his grandchildren as well. His
eldest daughter, Flora, has three children: William C., a bookkeeper for
a factory in Bay City; Geraldine, the wife of L. O. Dustin, of Kalamazoo;
and Laura, the wife of Roy Barringer, of Grand Rapids. Mrs. Margaret
Brooks Crouse has had two children, Edgar and Margaret, but both are now
deceased. George W. Brooks has four children living: Geraldine, Laura,
Loyd and Marguerite. Roy, the first born, was accidentally killed
at the age of thirteen. The union of Mr. and Mrs. Brown has been
Mr. Brooks is a member of the Masonic fraternity,
affiliated with the lodge at Mattawan, No. 268. His daughters belong
to the Eastern Star, and all but one have held office in the order.
Mr. Brooks is also affiliated with the Knights of Pythias. The family
are Methodists and have always been influential and active in the work
of the church. Mr. and Mrs. Brooks' membership is in the church at
Almena, and that of the daughters in other churches of the denomination
in the towns in which they have previously resided. Mr. Brooks has
always been a stanch supporter of the policies of the Republican party,
and was at one time road commissioner in Almena township. As a citizen
he has achieved the respect of the entire community, and, although he has
not lived in the county a great many years, he has so identified himself
with its interests that he is universally regarded as one of the representative
men of the district.
Chester P. Baggerly
and Mrs. Baggerly belong to families who have helped to make the history
of our country. While, in America, each man may stand upon his own
acheivements, regardless of what this ancestors have done, still the inheritance
from a long line of men and women whose ideals and purposes were of the
highest, is an advantage which any one may well covet and the pride in
belonging to a race which gave soldiers to the Revolution and loyal citizens
to every generation is a credit to him who possesses it.
The Baggerlys settled in New York state before
the Revolution and the great-grandfather of Chester Baggerly fought in
the Continental army. His father, Charles A. Baggerly, was born in
Ontario county, New York, in 1820. He grew up in that county and
received his education there. During his long life he was remarkable
for the tenacity with which he held to what he conceived to be his duty.
He was at first an old line Whig and later an active Republican.
When the first nominee of that party, General Freemont, was selected, Mr.
Baggerly was one who cast his vote for the representative of the new party.
He was a staunch supporter of Lincoln and all his life was influential
in the politics of his district. He died in 1909, being almost ninety
years old. The wife of Charles A. Baggerly was also a New Yorker,
her birthplace being Yates county. Her maiden name was Mary A. Putney and
she was a granddaughter of Adams, a Revolutionary soldier, and a cousin
of the second president of the United States. She was a devout member
of the Congregational church. She died in 1903, in Ontario county,
New York. Chester Baggerly, of this sketch, is the eldest of a family of
four children and also the only son. The three daughters are all
married and reside in New York state. Kate is Mrs. B. C. Hobart,
of Stanley, New York. Previous to her marriage she was a successful teacher.
Her husband is a farmer. Both of the other sisters were teachers
too. Nettie is the wife of M. S. Lonsbury, a farmer and dealer in
general merchandise of Potter, New York. Mrs. Arnold Palmer, of Caledonia,
New York, was formerly Elenor Baggerly. Mr. Palmer is a retired farmer.
Until ten years ago Mr. Baggerly lived in
the county where he was born in 1855, on September 19. Since 1901
he has been one of the prosperous farmers of this county, who gives especial
attention to raising fine horses. The farm of the Baggerly family
is an estate of eighty acres known as the Maple Avenue Farm. The
land is some of the best in the region and the residence both tasteful
Mr. Baggerly has been twice married.
His first wife was a Miss Flora Van Auken, who died leaving one son, Hershel.
The boy was educated at Clifton Springs, New York, where he graduated from
the high school. He is now a farmer and resides on the old Baggerly
estate with his wife, Lena Francis Baggerly. Both he and his father
were born on this farm. The union of Mr. Chester Baggerly and Miss
Ida B. Peters took place on February 7, 1901. Mrs. Baggerly was born
in Yates county on February 4, 1855. She is the second in a family
of four children, three of whom are now living. The brother Philip
is a prosperous hardware merchant at Benton Harbor. He is married
to Miss Ida Baker. Myrtle Peters became Mrs. F. F. Warren, of Hartford,
Michigan, where her husband conducts one of the leading mercantile establishments.
Mr. Peters was born in Yates county, New York,
on December 15, 1824. His ancestry is of Pennsylvania German stock.
Until 1861 he lived in his native country but at that time the family sold
their old home and came west to Van Buren county. Here Mr. Peters
bought a quarter section of the Arnour homestead and Mrs. Baggerly now
resides on the place her father bought half a century ago, half a mile
north of Keeler. Mrs. Peters was born in the same county as her husband
three years after the date of his birth. She died in 1903, at Hartford,
where she and her husband had retired from their farm several years before.
Mrs. Baggerly was a child of seven when she
came to Van Buren county. Every year she and her husband revisit
their native state and so to keep in touch with the old home and with the
new as well. Mrs. Baggerly is a member of the Congregational church
of Hartford and for five years taught a class in the Sunday-school.
Mr. Baggerly follows his father's political preference. He is a member
of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and of the Modern Woodmen of Keeler.
Mrs. Baggerly is a valued member of the Thursday Club of Keeler, and organization
of literary nature. The families of Mr. and Mrs. Baggerly are people
of prominence in their native state and their position in Van Buren county
is not less dignified. They are types of the best product of our
American civilization and well merit the esteem in which they are held
by all who know them.
George W. Merriman
.- Banker, lawyer,
farmer, fruit-grower and public official of a high rank, George W. Merriman,
of Hartford, is justly considered one of the leading and most useful citizen
of Van Buren county. He has been a resident of the county for twenty-nine
years. And in that time has been tried in several lines of useful endeavor
and never been found wanting in integrity, ability or fidelity to duty
in any. He has risen to consequence and influence among the people,
and has always used his influence and his opportunities for their welfare,
the progress and improvement of the county and the betterment of the whole
state, in every way open to him.
Mr. Merriman was born in Savannah, Wayne county,
New York, on February 4, 1851, and is a scion of a family, on his father's
side, that has been resident in this country for more than three hundred
years. He is a son of Elijah and Maria (Winegar) Merriman, also natives
of the state of New York. Elijah Merriman was a son of Elisha; Elisha,
a son of Charles; Charles, a son of Joel. And so the lineage runs
back in unbroken succession to very early in the seventeenth century, when
Captain Nathaniel Merriman of England came to this country and settled
in Rhode Island. From that time to the present the name has been
prominent in the history of New England and many other parts of the country,
and members of the family have dignified and adorned every worthy and commendable
walk of life.
George W. Merriman was reared on his father's
farm in Wayne county, New York, and educated in a district school.
After completing his education he became a teacher, and was principle of
the Union school at South Butler in his native county when he was only
twenty years of age. At the age of twenty-one he came to Michigan
and located in Plainwell, Allegan county, where he served as cashier of
the Exchange Bank for eight years. He then left the bank for the
purpose of pursuing a course in the study of law in the University of Michigan.
He was graduated from the law department of this institution in 1882, with
the degree of LL. B.
Immediately after his graduation he came to
Hartford as the head of the Exchange Bank in that town, and he has been
conducting this with expanding business and steadily increasing popularity
ever since. Mr. Merriman is also interested extensively in farming
and fruit-growing, and he does some business in the line of his profession
as a lawyer. But his other duties are too numerous and exacting to
allow him to devote himself to this exclusively or to any considerable
On June 25, 1882, he was joined in marriage
with Miss Jennie Sherman, a school teacher at Plainwell, Michigan.
The fruit of this union was one child, Harry J. Merriman, who was born
at Hartford, this county, on July 25, 1883, and who is now associated with
his father in carrying on the bank. His mother died in 1888, and
in 1894, the father was married a second time, being united on this occasion
with Mrs. Jennie (Smiley) Phelps, a native, like himself, of the state
of New York.
Mr. Merriman, the elder, is a Freemason of
the thirty-second degree. In Blue Lodge Masonry he belongs to Florada
Lodge, No. 309, at Hartford, and to Lawrence Royal Arch Chapter at Lawrence.
His membership in the Scottish rite and A. A. O. N. M. S. (Saladin Temple)
is held in Grand Rapids. He also belongs to the Order of Odd Fellows
and the Knights of the Maccabees, and has been the worshipful master of
Florada lodge and held prominent positions in the other fraternities of
which he is a member.
In political faith and action he has for many
years been one of the most influential and valued members of the Republican
party, and his wise counsel and efficient work in its behalf have been
highly appreciated by both its leaders and its rank and file, locally and
throughout the state. He was one of the delegates from Michigan to
the national Republican convention of 1892. From 1895 to 1899 he
was a member of the state senate. He served six years as a member
of the state prison board, two of them as its president, and for twelve
years has been a member of the state central committee of his party.
His services to his party and to the people in the several public offices
he has held have been conspicuous in their usefulness and extent, and his
record in this connection is highly creditable to him, and also to the
people who have known how to estimate him properly.
In the matter fo public improvements for the
township and county in which he lives Mr. Merriman has also been of great
service to the people. He judges of every project with intelligence,
supports those he favors with great zeal and energy, and aids in guiding
all the progressive tendencies of his locality along lines of wholesome
development, enduring good and on behalf of the best interests of the people.
All his business enterprises, also, contribute to the general weal and
help to increase the material wealth and commercial importance of the county.
Harry J. Merriman, the son and only child
of George W., and his assistant in the bank, is a young man of ability
and promise. He married Miss Nora Spaulding, of Hartford. They
have two children, their daughters Ruth and Catherine. The young
man is a worthy follower in the footsteps of his distinguished father,
and shows by his daily walk and conversation that the fine example of citizenship
which is always before him has made its due impression on him. He,
also, stands high in the regard of the people and fully deserves their
confidence and esteem.
The Foster Sisters
.- What there
may be of high emprise and noble achievement in subsequent years, since
the foundations of the county were laid either in carrying on to successful
fulfillment projects already started or originating new ones nothing can
rob the pioneers of Van Buren county of the full measure of credit that
is due them for what they accomplished in their day and generation for
the baptism into the domain of civilized life of this portion of the state
and the start they gave it on the highway toward its present condition
of advanced development, rapid progress and fruitfulness in all the concomitants
of civilized life and aspirations toward higher development. They
were men and women of heroic mold, fashioned by their time for sturdy work-fit
progenitors of the followers they begot. No toil deterred, no danger
daunted, no hardship dismayed them. With unyielding will they pressed
their way over every obstacle, often challenging Fate herself into the
lists and meeting her on almost equal terms.
To this class belonged Ira Foster, who boldly
strode into the almost unbroken and savage wilderness of this region in
1837 and bought one hundred and sixty acres of land, which was the nucleus
of the present Foster homestead, located three-quarters of a mile north
of Keeler, and now owned and occupied by Misses Josephine and Ida Foster,
the interesting subjects of this brief memoir. The father afterward
added to his domain forty acres of school land, and the first dwelling
he erected on it was a little log house, in which he sheltered his family
and built the altar of his hopes.
The region had not then surrendered to the
commanding might of mind which was to dominate it in the future, and in
the main it was still given up to the dominion of the wild denizens of
the forest and plain. The Red Man roamed at will through its pathless
depths, beasts of prey made night hideous with their revels, bear and wolves
levied their tribute on other forms of life, and wild-eyed deer, gazing
with wonder on the savage propensity of man and beast, took their chances
for continued existence between wild men and wild animals on the one side
and the forerunners of civilization on the other. The Indians in
the neighborhood belonged to the Potawatami tribe, and while they were
in the main friendly, they sometimes showed the other side of their nature.
Mr. and Mrs. Foster of that day, however, courageously
met the requirements of their situation and dealt with it according to
its needs. They came to the wilderness with the settled purpose of
redeeming at least a small portion of it from the waste, and resolutely
and persistently they devoted themselves to the task they had laid our
as their portion. They were devout members of the Methodist Episcopal
church, and the first services held in the township of their home, under
the auspices of this sect, were conducted in their residence. They
were also potential factors in the erection of the first church edifice
of their faith at Keeler, and at all times ready and responsive supporters
of all benevolence in the locality worthy of their consideration.
The father was an unwavering Whig until the organization
to which he belonged went to pieces and the Republican party was organized
on its ruins. He then joined the new party, and cast his vote for
its first presidential candidate, General John C. Freemont. Following
that expression of his faith, he was, until the end of his life, a great
admirer of Abraham Lincoln and James G. Blaine. The principles which
they advocated, and the aspirations to which they devoted themselves for
the good of the country, according to his view, he adhered to the end of
his life, and at all times gave them his unwavering and energetic support.
The mother was born in Madison county, New York, on October 11, 1812, and
died in Van Buren county, Michigan, on January 15, 1889. She grew
to womanhood in her native county and obtained her education in its district
schools. After leaving school she was a teacher for some years, devoting
her energies to that occupation until her marriage. Some of her forefathers
were soldiers in the Revolutionary war, and throughout her own life she
exhibited traits of character that would have made her a heroine in any
sufficient crisis. As it was, her early years in this state were
passed in heroic endurance of privations and hardships, and in the constant
presence of danger. She was a woman of high character, of a stern
and unrelenting sense of duty, and of great amiability of disposition,
devoted to her family and constant in her zeal for the welfare of its members.
Those of her children who survive her cherish her memory with the reverence
that is due that of a faithful wife and mother and a noble pioneer matron.
Her remains and those of the father rest in Keeler cemetery, and their
graves are marked with imposing and suggestive memorial stones.
The offspring of this interesting couple numbered
eight, four sons and four daughters, seven of whom are living.
Morris is married and successfully engaged
in farming at Hector, Minnesota. He is a graduate of the University of
Michigan and was a high school teacher at Bay City and Benton Harbor for
a number of years. He married with Miss Katherine Folwell, whose
brother, Dr. Folwell, was president of the University of Minnesota from
the beginning of its history to 1884. In politics Morris Foster is
Josephine was educated in the common schools
and the high schools at Dowagiac and Decatur. She was a successful
teacher in the public schools of this county for a number of years.
Riley is a prosperous and progressive farmer
at Hubbard, Minnesota. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan and
passed several years of his useful life as a teacher in the public schools.
He is a Democrat in politics and takes an earnest interest in the public
affairs of the county in which he lives. His wife was Miss Alice
Flanders before her marriage, and she and her husband are esteemed as among
the best citizens of the great and progressive state in which they have
Olive is the wife of Isaac P. Newton
and their home is in Muskegon county, Michigan. Mr. Newton was prominently
connected with the lumber trade of this state as an enterprising and progressive
merchant for a number of years. He is now living retired from business
and devoting himself in a quiet and unostentatious way to the progress
and improvement of his home county and the state of Michigan in general.
Ida occupies the old family homestead in company
with her sister Josephine. She received a high school education in
Decatur, and the whole of her life since leaving school has been devoted
to the service of the public in lines of usefulness which are highly appreciated,
although they attract no noisy for special attention. She has been
a successful teacher in the public schools of Van Buren and Kalkaska counties.
Miss Josephine and Miss Ida, "The Foster Sisters,"
as they are called in the respectful and appreciative language of the whole
community in which they live, are active members of the Keeler Thursday
Literary Club, which is one of the great promoters of social enjoyment
and literary culture in the town. Miss Josephine is a leading member
of the program committee of this club. She is a devout member of
the Episcopal church and one of its most efficient workers in behalf of
the people of the town and township. She has traveled extensively
in many parts of the United States, going where natural beauties or interesting
works of man have led her, and having her love of the country intensified
by both. They have a fine library of hundreds of volumes of choice
literature, and are ladies of extensive information and high culture.
Dwight is one of the prosperous and progressive
young farmers of Keeler township, and one of the young men of influence
in connection with its public affairs. He is a zealous member of
the Democratic party, and his wisdom in counsel and energy and effectiveness
in action in behalf of his party are highly appreciated by its leaders
in the county and also by its rank and file. He married Miss Lillian Buck,
and they have three children.
Dean Foster, the youngest of the living members
of the family, is a resident of Alaska, where he is vigorously engaged
in prospecting for a portion of the seemingly inexhaustible mineral wealth
of that wonderful country. He began his education in the common schools
of Van Buren county and completed it at the high school in Kalamazoo.
There were many opportunities open to him in his native state, but being
of an adventurous disposition he determined to seek his fortune in a far
away region, and while his success in his venture has not been phenomenal
or spectacular, it has been steady and substantial and given promise of
much and greater results in time to come if he continues his operations
in our hyperborean territory.
The Foster Sisters are representatives of
the forces in human character, human endeavor and human worth that have
made Van Buren county what it is, and in their record, their activities
and their aspirations they show impressively the high development to which
it is tending and the ultimate lofty standard of living its people will
attain to. Each human life, and every human life, however unnoted,
embodies some substantial indication of the general trend and tendency
of all human life, and the serviceable diligence of the Foster Sisters
in all lines of usefulness open to them, unconscious as they may be of
the fact, is contributing essentially and inevitably to the high destiny
and prowess of Van Buren county in working out the full measure of Michigan's
part in the general elevation of the human race toward its imperial position
in God's empire.
M. F. Russell
, the enterprising and
progressive publisher and proprietor of the Bangor Advance, at Bangor,
Michigan, is purely a Bangor man, being born and brought up in the town,
and has the distinction of being one of the very few business men who has
made a success in the town where he was raised, it being generally conceded
that a young man's chances for success are far better under different surroundings.
Mr. Russell has been in the printing and newspaper
business all his life, and conducts his paper along lines that are somewhat
original and considerably different from the ordinary country paper, and
on these lines and principles he has built up a large and constantly increasing
circulation and a business not exceeded by its kind in any town of the
size of Bangor in the state of Michigan. He is an enthusiastic booster
of his town, county and state, and firmly believes that Van Buren county,
Michigan is, all things considered, the peer of any county in the north.
The Bangor Advance is always attractive in
appearance and is welcomed weekly to nearly every home in a radius of many
miles around Bangor. The proprietor of the Advance believes in progress
and his printing office equipment is an exceptionally good one. At
the time there were three papers published in Bangor, but the principle
of "the survival of the fittest" applies in the case of the Advance, and
today it is the only one published here.
Mr. Russell was born in Bangor, January 30, 1868,
eldest son of Lyman S.and Laura (Overton) Russell, natives of Jefferson
county, New York. L. S. Russell first entered the newspaper field
in Bangor in 1882, when he became publisher of the The West Michigan Advance,
conducting it until he turned it over to his son, M. F. Russell in January
1891, who changed its title to its present style. In 1893 L. S. Russell
went to Lansing, Michigan, where he became chief clerk in the state department
known as the Bureau of Labor and Industrial Statistics, which position
he filled for fifteen consecutive years, or until his death, which occurred
April 4, 1908. His widow, who survives, now resides at Lansing.
They had a family of five children, as follows: Maude E., who is the wife
of John C. Frye, of Lansing; M. F., the subject of this sketch; Allan M.,
residing at Washington, D. C.; Merton C., who died at the age of three
years; and Mella O., the wife of S. T. McCallum, of Detroit, Michigan.
M. F. Russell received his education in the
Bangor schools, but was obliged to quit before finishing the High School
course, and associated himself with his father in the printing office.
He learned the printer's trade and has never had occasion to regret it.
While at the present time he does little in the mechanical department of
his business, he still does sufficient to keep in the front rank of the
printing profession, and is a critical judge of job printing and advertising.
Barring three months which he spent in North
Dakota, in 1887, he has resided in Bangor all his life. He edits
his paper energetically, has always been an open champion of what he considered
right and fearlessly attacked what to him looked wrong. The Bangor
Advance and one other paper of the county took aggressive action against
the old convention system of nominations and largely through their influence
succeeded in establishing the primary system of nominating candidates for
office in the county, a system which has proven popular with the masses
and verified the judgment of the promoters.
Mr. Russell takes an active interest in every
charitable movement and is a liberal contributor to charity and the church.
He has a part in every movement for the betterment of his town and is ranked
among its most public-spirited citizens. He is a progressive Republican
in politics, and the Odd Fellows is the only secret society to which he
belongs. The church of Christ denomination is his church home.
On August 26, 1891, Mr. Russell was united
in marriage to Miss Lissie M. DeLong, daughter of Henry and Eliza DeLong,
and to this union were born two children: Zelpha L., born August 14, 1893,
who lived with her parents, enjoying all the advantages possible, was taken
ill and died December 10, 1911, after eleven days sickness, at the age
of eighteen years, three months and twenty six days; and Henry M., born
April 20, 1904, died November 1905.
George H. Barker
is widely known
throughout Van Buren county, where he holds highest standing as a splendid
citizen land successful, up-to-date agriculturist. Like so many of
the county's best stock, he is a native of the Empire state, his birth
having occurred there on August 12, 1832. His parents were Lucian
and Lucindy (Bly) Barker, the father a native of Massachusetts and the
mother of New York. Mr. Barker first took up his residence within
the boundaries of the Wolverine state when he was a small lad, his father
removing to Michigan in 1838 and locating in Washtenaw county. The
elder gentleman took up farming land and he followed this occupation until
his summons to the Great Beyond. He and his wife were the parents
of a family of pioneer proportions, ten boys and girls coming to live beneath
their roof-tree. Concerning them the following brief data is herewith
entered. Mary is the widow of William Bush, of Ann Arbor, Michigan;
Russell, now deceased, was the captain of a company in a Michigan regiment
of infantry at the time of the Civil war; Ellen is deceased; the subject
is fourth in order of birth; Jane is the widow of James Hawkin, of
Detroit; Nancy is the widow of Benjamin Todd, of Flint, Michigan; Philander
D., a young soldier in the Third Michigan Cavalry, gave up his life at
the time of the struggle between the states to the cause of freedom; Frank
resides at Whitmore Lake, Michigan; Sarah is deceased; and Angeline is
a widow of Chester Todd, of Detroit.
Mr. Barker entered upon his career as a farmer
at the age of sixteen years, taking up that occupation in association with
his brother-in-law. At the age of twenty-one years he located on
a quarter section on his father's land, this being situated within Section
22, Covert township. In addition to his general farming he also followed
saw-milling for a time. He then returned to New York, where he remained
for two years, but in 1856 he came back to Michigan. His father had
met with reverses and when his land was sold for taxes Mr. Barker bought
it securing a quarter section at the remarkably low price of one hundred
dollars. Then, in evidence of his generosity, he gave his father
a quit claim deed to the whole property and his father deeded him eighty
acres. At the demise of the elder gentleman Mr. Barker bought out
the rest of the heirs and he has ever since retained this property, which
has steadily increased in value and which now is one of the well-known
homesteads in this part of the county.
In 1861 Mr. Barker went to eastern Michigan,
and there lived for two years. While there he married and when he
returned to Covert in 1864 he brought back with him a wife. The maiden
name of this estimable lady was Sarah D. DeWolf and the date of their union
was January 15, 1862. Her parents, both now deceased, were Jason
and Elizabeth (Near) DeWolf, of New York. Their children were five
in number and as follows: Anne, the wife of Henry Doane, of Livingston
county, Michigan; Hiram J., of Livingston county, Michigan, a soldier in
the Civil war; Mrs. Barker; Mary L., wife of Thomas Winneger, of Howell,
Michigan; and Horace Wesley, deceased. Into the home of Mr. and Mrs.
Barker were born the following five children; Hiram D., deceased; Zilpha
V., wife of Elmer Oliver, of Monroe county, New York; and mother of one
child, Grace Eloise; Grace A., wife of Robert Ballou of Covert; George
Cecil, deceased; and Ernest H. The last-named was married to Lottie
Walters, of Chicago, and their four children, Cecil E., G. Herbert, Katheryn
L. and Walter G., give to the subject and his wife the pleasant distinction
of grandfather and grandmother.
Mr. Barker, throughout his long and useful
life, has been in harmony with the politics and principles of the Republican
party and he has ever done all in his power to support its causes.
His fine principles and staunchness of character have placed him in the
possession of the general confidence and he has been confided with the
keeping of some of the most important offices in the gift of the county.
For nine years he served as supervisor and he has given most efficient
service as treasurer and township clerk. He is one of the most influential
members of the Grange and his church home is the Congregational, to whose
support he has ever contributed generously. Mr. Barker has now retired
from them more strenuous duties of the great basic industry of agriculture
and resides in Covert, where he owns and occupies a fine commodious residence,
and in leisure well-earned enjoys the fruits of his former industry and
.- A native of the state
of New York, but a resident of Michigan from the age of eleven, Andrew
Baker of Porter township, where he has for some years been identified with
the farming industry, may be called a product of this state without impropriety.
For it was here that he grew to manhood, obtained the greater part of his
education and made all his preparations for the battle of life.
Mr. Baker's life began in Wayne county in
the great Empire state on August 14, 1846, and he came to Michigan in 1857
with his parents, Chauncey and Emmeline (Van Dosen) Baker, who were also
natives of New York. For a time after his arrival in Michigan the
family lived in Wayne county, but later moved to Van Buren county.
Here the father bought land and began an enterprise in general farming
and live-stock raising which he carried on until the time of his death,
and which his son is still conducting on a part of the old homestead and
some additional land.
Of the seven children born in the family,
Andrew and his twin brother Andrus, who died some years ago, came second.
Of the other, Frank, the first born, is also deceased; and the seventh
died in infancy. Those living now are Andrew; Hiram, an engineer
on the Michigan Central Railroad; William, a resident of Lawton; and Sarah,
the wife of Eaton Kronk of Antwerp township, this county.
Andrew remained with his father until his
death in 1903. The following year he went to Battle Creek, where
he worked in a machine shop for six years, following which he returned
to his former home, with the intention of devoting the remainder of his
life to farming. Of his father's farm, twenty-six acres fell to him
as his share, to which he added seventy-four acres by purchase, netting
him one hundred acres in all. Since that time he has been occupied
in the tilling of his farm and in a certain amount of stock raising, a
fair measure of success attending his efforts in his agricultural endeavors.
Mr. Baker is a Democrat in his political adherence,
and has always been active in the interests of the party. His first
interest, however, is the welfare of the community, regardless of party
claims, and he has rendered excellent service to his town in the capacity
of school director and treasurer. He is a communicant of the Methodist
Episcopal church, and active in all departments of service with which that
organization is connected.
Mr. Baker has been twice married. First, on
May 30, 1889, to Miss Julia Castener. Three children were born on
their union, of which only the youngest, Myrtle, survives. She is
the wife of Nelson Kynien of Battle Creek, Michigan. On June 12,
1895, the wife and mother passed away, and later the father remarried,
his second wife being Esther Conklin, the widow of Samuel Conklin.
Three children have been born of this marriage. The first died in
infancy; the second, Nile, lives in Battle Creek and the third, Warren
is a home with his parents
.- A striking example
of cheerful self-sacrfice to one's country is found in the career of Edward
George, a well known resident of Lawton, Michigan, who in the full bloom
of young manhood marched away to the defense of the flag of his nation,
and returned home shattered in health and spirit and only a shadow of the
splendid specimen of young American who so readily had answered his country's
call in its time of need. Every veteran of the Civil war is entitled
to our respect and honor, and when it has happened that one has sacrificed
his ambitions, his manhood and all that makes life dear, then is doubly
worthy of our reverence. Mr. George was born August 7, 1848, in Wayne
county, New York, and is a son of Charles G. and Phoebe M. (Hoag) George,
natives of Vermont.
Mr. George's parents came to Michigan in 1843,
locating in Marengo township, Calhoun county, where the elder George carried
on carriage and wagonmaking until 1849, and then sold out and came to Keeler
township, Van Buren county, and purchased one hundred and sixty acres of
farming land, on which he carried on agricultural pursuits until his death,
October 29, 1898. His wife passed away February 17, 1857, having
been the mother of four children: Almira, the wife of Goram O. Abbott,
of Berrien county; Edward; William G., a veteran of the Civil war, and
now a resident of Brunswick, Georgia, with which land he became aquatinted
while a soldier in the army; and Stephen F., who died in infancy.
Edward George received his education in the schools
of his native locality and in Keeler township, and he worked on the farm
until he was twenty-two years of age. At this time, his youthful
patriotism being inflamed by the stories of those who had already been
to the front, he enlisted in Company I, Twentieth Regiment, Michigan Volunteer
Infantry, under Captain C. C. Dodge. Private George was one of the
most popular men in his company, and he was always in the thick of the
fight and fighting bravely in a regiment that was noted for its brave,
hard-fighting men. Faithful in his service, loyal to his company
and proud in keeping up the standard of ability, and cheerful to a degree
on marches that taxed the stamina and temper of the bravest among his companions,
Mr. George was a general favorite with men and officers, and there was
universal sorrow in the ranks of his company when it was learned that he
had been severely wounded in the hip. He was taken to the hospital
at Fredericksburg, from whence he was removed to Patterson Park Hospital,
Baltimore, Maryland, where he was kept until convalescent, when he was
taken to Fort McHenry and there later received his honorable discharge.
Everything that could be done for his injury was resorted to, but he has
been an invalid throughout life, he being paralyzed from the hip down,
and during the last twenty-four years he has been compelled to use a wheel
chair. The same cheerfulness and patience that characterized his
army service and cheered many of his comrades on some soul-trying march
or kept up their spirits while in the thick of the hard fought engagements
that marked the course of the Twentieth Michigan have never deserted Mr.
George, and in spite of his affliction he has been able to accomplish much
and to complain little. Ever since his return from the war he has
lived in Van Buren county, and he now owns a fine home in Lawton, where
he is a popular member of the Grand Army Post. In political matters
he is a life-long Republican.
On March 2, 1864, Mr. George was married to
Miss Mary M. Austin, daughter of Harvey H. and Calista (Barry) Austin,
and she died January 5, 1902. One daughter has been born to this
union: Annette C., born April 4, 1871, a graduate of the Lawton High School,
who has taught in that institution, and is now keeping house for her father.
Mr. George is a member of the Masonic fraternity, and with his daughter
affiliates with the Congregational church.
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