William A. Dryer (March 9, 1813
from Portrait and Biographical Album Ingham & Livingston Counties Michigan Page 345
WILLIAM A. DRYER. When one investigates the beginnings of history, considerable research is necessary in order to make clear the first settlements and the earl y records. It is believed that the first settlement in Ingham County was made by Mr. Rodgers upon section 36, Stockbridge Township, in 1835, but the gentleman whose name appears at the head of this sketch is the oldest settler now living within the bounds of the county. He is well known all over the county, and especially in Lansing and vicinity, where he has been prominent in the township as Supervisor and the other positions of trust. He is a most delightful and entertaining talker, as he knows all the stories of the early pioneer life. At the time of his first settlement here he had to procure work in the more settled portions of the State, and he more than once walked a distance of thirty-five miles to get work. At one time he obtained work at Dexter, laboring seven and one-half days in haying and harvesting to procure one hundred pounds of flour, and then he walked home again the twenty-five miles distance and returned with his ox-team to haul it back, making in all eleven and one-half days of work for one hundred pounds of flour. He is a man of remarkable mind, keenly alive to all the issues of the day, and with a rich fund of experience.
Mr. Dryer had his birth in Cazenovia, Madison County, N.Y., March 9, 1813, his father, Allen Dryer, and his grandfather, who bore the same name, both being natives of the old Bay State. The name was formerly Dwyer, and the original ancestor was a Hollander, but when he was in England he was conscripted and to escape the draft he migrated to America, where he located in Massachusetts and changed the name to Dryer. The grandfather came from Massachusetts and became an early settler of Madison County, N.Y., where he carried on a farm. His father also bore the name of Allen.
The parents of our subject removed from Massachusetts to New York after their marriage, and his father became Postmaster and Justice of the Peace in Cazenovia, and having reached the age of seventy years, died there in 1842. He had a brother who lived to the remarkable age of one hundred years and nine days. He was a Whig in his political attachments. His wife, Esther Bullock, was a daughter of Benjamin Bullock, a Massachusetts farmer, and she died at the age of sixty-six years, in the same year which saw her husband's demise. They were earnest and active members of the Presbyterian Church, and had the remarkable and blessed experience of seeing all of their thirteen children grow to years of maturity. There was not a death in the family until after the youngest son had reached the age of twenty-three years, during which year the father and mother and four of the sons were carried to the grave in three months by a fever.
The children of this family were of follows: Barzilla, who died in 1842; Adelia is now ninety-four years old, and has her home in Bath Township, Clinton County; Esther died at Battle Creek; Lucy passed away at Fenner, N.Y.; Almira died in Clinton County, Mich.; Rufus died in New York; David resides in Bath, Clinton County; Margaret is with our subject; Mary died in Lansing in 1888; William A., our subject; James died in 1842; Matilda's death occurred in Canada; and Benjamin died in 1842.
William Dryer was educated in the district schools of Cazenovia. and at the age of sixteen was apprenticed to the carriage builders' trade, at which he served for four years, and then worked at the business until he reached the age of twenty-three. In 1836 he came to Michigan, reaching this point in June. He traveled by boat to Buffalo, by the "Old Michigan" to Detroit, and then came prospecting on foot, and finally decided to locate in Michigan, although he had intended to make Illinois his home, When he left Ypsilanti he was taken very sick, and as his partner had gone to Illinois, he was in quite a desolate condition; however, he entered eighty acres of land in White Oak Township, on section 21, which was a dense forest. He went on foot back to Detroit, and in the fall brought his wife and one child, and building a log house, began to climb the ladder of life on the very bottom round. His residence was a log shanty with a roof made of split red oak shakes, and the floor of split basswood, evened by an adz. He proceeded to clear the farm, and found his nearest market at Ann Arbor, and his most numerous neighbors Indians, with whom he learned to talk in their dialect.
In 1845 Mr. Dryer sold his property in White Oak Township, and bought land in Pinckney, Livingston County, where he kept a shop and worked at his, trade for three years. In 1848 he removed to Lansing, making his home here on the 2d of November, and putting up a shop. He made the first wagon that was ever manufactured in Lansing, and also the first carriage. The axles of this vehicle were made out of iron-wood poles which were taken from an old log house. For two years he carried on the manufacture of wagons and carriages, and then entered the employ of Smith, Turner & Seymour, in building the plank road between Lansing & Howell. In their interests he had charge of the store at Leroy and also of a sawmill, where the planks for the road were manufactured. This work occupied him for two years, and subsequently he entered the mercantile business, into which he was aided by "Zach" Chandler, who helped to establish his credit for the purchase of goods. He carried on this store for four years upon Center Street, North Lansing, and made a success of it, but he then sold out this business and purchased a farm.
The property which Mr. Dryer now bought comprised one hundred and eighty-five acres, all in the woods, situated upon section 7, Lansing Township. He located upon this land and proceeded to improve it, and in 1856 hewed out and built a log house. He was nominated by the Republican party as Representative in the Legislature, but was defeated by the Hon. O. M. Barnes. He continued to reside upon his farm until November 1889, when he retired from active life, and selling that property came to live in Lansing. He was the first citizen of Ingham County to introduce fine sheep here, Merinos being his bobby, and he had over four hundred head in his flock. He also introduced thorough-bred Short-horn cattle, and was one of the originators of the Central Michigan Agricultural Association, of which he was the first President, an office be held for two years. He is still one of its firm friends, and was a Director continuously until his retirement from active duties. At its fairs he has taken many premiums, and was ever active in promoting its interests.
This venerable gentleman was, on the 24th of October, 1834, united in marriage with the wife of his youth, in Hamilton, Madison County, N.Y. This lady was Miss Betsey H. Newell, a native of Morrisville, and she passed from earth in 1861. Her nine children are: Mary, Mrs. J. E. Warner, of Lansing: Dr. Newell enlisted in 1864 in the Seventeenth Michigan Infantry, and served as Assistant Surgeon until the close of the war; Elbridge, a farmer in Lansing Township; Esther was Mrs. G.W. Christopher, and died in 1887; Adelaide and James W. both died in infancy; Helen A. died in 1880 at the age of twenty-four; William F., a farmer in Bath Township; and Betsey K. is Mrs. E. M. Johnson, of Owosso. Newell Dryer enlisted as a private, and his father went to Gov. Crapo and obtained for him (ahead of forty-seven other applications) a commission as Assistant Surgeon. This able physician, who is now practicing in Bath, Clinton County, is a graduate of the Buffalo Medical College.
The second marriage of the gentleman of whom we are writing took place in 1861, and he was then united with Mrs. Sarah Britton, who was born in Steuben County, N.Y., and came to Michigan with her parents in 1879, locating in Wayne County, where they lived upon a farm. Her first marriage took place in Ann Arbor, and she afterward lived in Pinckney, where Mr. Britton died, and subsequent to that event she located in Lansing in 1852. When Mr. Dryer was residing in White Oak Township, he served as Supervisor and Township Clerk as well as School Inspector. He helped to organize the township and the county, and served as County Commissioner, being also Chairman of the Board for two years. In Lansing Township he was Supervisor for fourteen years, and during most of that time was Chairman of the County Board. He helped to build all the schoolhouses, and had a broad acquaintance throughout the county. He is a member of the State Pioneer Association, as well as of the Ingham County Pioneer Association, and was its honored President for many years.
The Methodist Episcopal Church is the religious body with which our subject is in sympathy, and he has been an official member of it for many years, but he also sympathizes warmly with all religious movements, and has aided in the erection of every church in Lansing. In his early days he was a Free-soil Democrat, but when the Fugitive Slave Law came into force, it sent him with many others into the newly formed Republican party in 1854. His first Presidential vote was cast for Martin Van Buren, and his second for John C. Fremont. Since that time he has been a pillar in the Republican party, and until recently he has attended nearly every county and congressional convention, and was a member and Chairman in the Republican Committee of Ingham Comity for years.