Biography of Caleb Sweetland (1802 to ____)
Daniel H. Weiskotten
7/4/2000
 
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From: Anonymous, 1878, American Biographical History of Eminent and Self-Made Men, Vol. 2, Western Biographical Publishing Co.
 
 

Caleb Sweetland

Merchant, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, was born April 30, 1802, in Cazenovia, Madison County, New York. He lost his parents at the age of thirteen months. At the age of eleven years, he went to live with a brother in Le Roy; but the death of the latter, at the battle of Fort Erie, in 1814, left Mr. Sweetland dependent upon his own exertions. He at once found work, and managed to attend school during the winter months, paying his expenses from his earnings. At first his wages were twenty-five dollars a year, but they were gradually increased. At the age of twenty-two he married, and bought a farm on credit. Unable to pay for it, he emigrated to Michigan, in 1831. The journey was made with  great difficulty; the roads were had, there were no bridges; often it was necessary to wade through swamps, with the luggage suspended from poles; and sometimes the roads were merely Indian trails. He bought a farm at Dry Prairie, enduring all the hardships of a pioneer's life. He made the first grindstone in that part of the country. Often as many as fifty Indians would come to have their knives ground,--paying him in venison and berries. At length, Mr. Sweetland bought a farm, of one hundred and sixty acres, near Kalamazoo, and spent all his money in clearing it, and building a log house. In 1847 he opened a dry-goods and grocery store in Kalamazoo, trading mostly by barter. The death of his partner, Mr. Huston, left him sixteen thousand dollars in debt, to New York merchants. He made a clear statement to his creditors, and offered them all his stock. They replied: "We believe you mean to pay; take what goods you need, and send us money as often as you can." In a few years he was able to cancel all the liabilities of the firm, and was in the possession of twelve hundred dollars. He then entered the lumber business, in which he is still successfully engaged. For the last five years he has had an interest in the marble trade, and has manufactured an artificial stone called "freers." Mr. Sweetland is a Republican. He has held the offices of Sheriff, County Treasurer, Justice of the Peace, and City father. He is a member of the Liberal Unitarian Church, and has contributed largely to the building of the church edifice of that denomination. He has married three times, and is the father of seven children,--four of whom are living. His first wife, Fidelia Hall, and his second, Silvia Page, both died of consumption. In 1848 he married his present wife, who was Miss Cordelia Murphy. He has traveled through most of the States. The winter of 1875 he spent in Florida; and, on his way home, visited the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia. Mr. Sweetland has given the management of his affairs to his son. In the quiet of his latter years, he can look back upon a life of toil and hardship, eventually crowned with a fair measure of success.