N. Decker, Peter S. Decker, John D. Decker
and Rev. Robert H. Watson to
Mecosta Co, MI
Transcribed by Sylvia Hasenkopf
Portrait and Biographical Album
Mecosta County, Mich.
Portraits and Biographical Sketches
James N. Decker, farmer, sec. 10, Hinton Tp., is one of the pioneer settlers of Mecosta County, and was born in Greene Co., NY Sept. 8, 1819. He is the eldest son of Gilbert D. and Mary (Stanley) Decker, both natives of New York, who moved to Canada in the fall of 1833, where the mother died. The father came to Michigan to pass the closing years of his life with his children, and died at the home of his son, Edward S., in Millbrook, Sept. 20, 1869.
Mr. Decker passed his youth in the care of his parents, and while in Canada was engaged in farming. In the summer of 1865 he came to Michigan, and bought 160 acres of land, principally in an uncultivated state, paying therefore $750.Its value and appearance have been so enhanced by cultivation and improvements, that it is held now to be worth $10,000. The convenient and suitable buildings lately erected are a great ornament to the place. After the purchase of the land he returned to Canada, and passed the winter of 1865-66; and in the following spring he came back with his son, built a log house, and made such improvements as were possible, clearing about seven acres of land, which was sown with wheat. He brought his family in the fall of the same year, and before winter, was finally settled in the Peninsular State. Mr. Decker relates graphically his pioneer experiences, and the clearness of his remembrance, with the interesting character of the numberless incidents, entirely divest the recital of uniformity and tameness, though the tale is one oft repeated.
Mr. Decker shipped the first wheat from Mecosta County over the G.R. & I. Railroad, and in 1873, harvested the heaviest crop ever raised in the county – 500 bushels from 10 acres. He has been Township Clerk two years, Highway Commissioner three years, Justice of the Peace 11 years, Township Treasurer one year, and was elected Drain Commissioner in the spring of 1883, to serve two years. In politics he is a Republican.
Our subject was married in the township of Hope, Canada, Nov. 4, 1840, to Catherine, daughter of James and Mary (Walker) Flanagan, born July 20, 1818, in Canada. Her parents were of Irish nativity, and settled in Canada in its pioneer period, and died there many years ago.
Mr. and Mrs. Decker have buried three of eight children: Nelson, born Sept. 26, 1841, died Oct. 23, 1870; Elisabeth, born Sept. 2, 1843, died Nov. 20, 1870; Catherine, born Nov. 23, 1851, died Nov. 12, 1881. The loss of their children has had telling effect upon the parents. All had reached mature years, and their lives were full of promise. The living children are: Eliza, born June 2, 1845; Hester A., June 23, 1847; Matilda, April 12, 1849; Mary J., Jan. 25, 1854; Amelia R., July 9, 1858. Mr. Decker’s father has about 112 living descendants, principally in this country.
Peter S. Decker, farmer, sec. 12, Millbrook, Tp., was born in New York, July 30, 1830, and is a son of Gilbert and Mary (Stanley) Decker.
He left home at 20 years of age, and for the two years thereafter was variously occupied, and the year following was employed in a mill. His next occupation was in a machine shop at Newcastle, Canada, Canada, where he remained four years. In the spring of 1858 he went to Illinois and settled in Kane County, where he worked a farm on shares nearly three years. In the fall of 1860 he bought 80 acres of land in Millbrook Tp., on which he has since resided. He afterward bought 180 acres additional, sold 80 acres, and deeded 50 acres to his son. His farm now comprises 170 acres of land, with 100 acres under the best class of improvements. The humble, unpretentious log house built by Mr. Decker on his farm in the first year of his occupancy, gave place a few years ago to as fine a residence as can be found in the township.
He was married in Clark, Canada, May 27, 1852, to Caroline, third daughter of Lorenzo and Fanny (Fisher) Aldrich. Her parents were natives of New Hampshire and Massachusetts, who settled in Canada. Mrs. Decker was born in the Dominion, Dec. 21, 1835. Of her marriage Mr. Decker nine children have been born, as follows: Lourena J., May 24, 1853; Lorenzo D., April 21, 1855; Gilbert A., July 16, 1858 (see sketch); Rosetta A., Jan. 24, 1861 (first female child born in the township); Richard S., Sept. 11, 1864; Hazen A., April 13, 1867; Mary E., June 2, 1869; Charlotte E., April 25, 1871, and Mabel E., June 24, 1879.
Millbrook township was organized in 1865, and Mr. Decker was elected the first Supervisor at the meeting of organization, an office he has held six years. He has been Justice of the Peace six years, and District Assessor nine years. He is a Republican in political sentiment. He and his wife are members of the denomination known as the “Church of God.”
John D. Decker, farmer, sec. 14, Millbrook Tp., was born in the State of New York, March 11, 1828. He is a son of Gilbert and Mary (Stanley) Decker, and was reared under the care of his parents, living at home until he was 22 years old, and occupied chiefly with farming. His father removed with his family to Canada when Mr. Decker was about six years old, who remained there until he reached the age of 24 years, going thence to Illinois. After residing there seven years, engaged meanwhile in farming, he came in the autumn of 1866 to Mecosta County, and bought 80 acres of wild land in Millbrook Tp. He has since bought 49 acres more, and of the aggregate 120 acres has 40 acres under cultivation.
He was married in Canada, Feb. 10, 1851, to Harriet R., daughter of David and Lena (Mirkley) Welch, the former a native of New England, the latter of Canada. She was born in Upper Canada, Nov. 30, 1829. Mr. and Mrs. Decker have had nine children, of whom eight survive: Louisa H., born Jan. 25, 1852; Eva J., Oct. 25, 1856; Howard E., Feb. 25, 1859; Adella M., Jan. 21, 1862; William A., April 16, 1864; James E.C., March 12, 1868; Mary L., Dec. 29, 1871; Alberta E., Feb. 9, 1875; Edward H., born Feb. 7, 1854, died Jan. 17, 1856.
Rev. Robert H. Watson, a retired minister of the United Brethren Church, and a farmer on sec. 2, Grant Tp., was born in New Baltimore, Greene Co, NY, June 4, 1841. His father, John Watson, was born in New York, in 1801, and died Nov. 15, 1864. His mother, Mahala Watson, was born in the Empire State in 1802, and died Aug. 15, 1853.
Mr. Watson was but 12 years old when he lost his mother, and from that period practically made his way in the world unaided. He was in his 20th year when the nation was called to arms by the revolt of the South, and May 13, 1861, Mr. Watson enrolled himself as a defender of the4 unity of the United States. He enlisted in Co. F, 33d N.Y. Vol. Inf., at Nunda, NY. His regiment was attached to the Army of the Potomac, under McClellan, and was in Washington at the date of the Bull Run disaster to the Northern forces. Pressing on toward the front, the disorganized hosts of soldiers and citizens, infantry and cavalry, met them in all the discomfiture and confusion of that defeat and panic. Mr. Watson’s introduction to the heat and frenzy of battle and to the smell of rebel powder, was on May 5, 1862, at Williamstown. His next regular battles were at Yorktown, Mechanicsville, seven miles from Richmond, Peach Orchard, Savage Station, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, Turkey Bend, Antietam, Fredericksburg (1st and 2nd) and Mary’s Heights, where the conflict raged for two days. Mr. Watson received a wound in the right arm from a minie ball, and another shot entered the right breast, passing out below the armpit. From the latter he has never recovered. His term of enlistment expired while he was in the hospital, and he received his discharge June 2, 1863.
He was occupied as a clerk in a store about a year, subsequent to his return from the army, and the year following rented a farm and gave his attention to agriculture. He was married June 20, 1863, to Julia A., daughter of Timothy W. and Jane Buckland, of Eagle, Wyoming Co., NY. Mrs. Watson was born Oct. 26, 1844. Her father was born in Wyoming Co. NY, Aug. 19, 1821. He enlisted in March 1964, in the Union army, was taken prisoner and sent to Salisbury, NC, where he died in the prison pen, Nov. 10, 1864. Her mother was born in Boston, Mass., May 14, 1824, and is yet living.
The children of Mr. and Mrs. Watson were born as follows: Franklin E., Oct.14, 1864; Timothy W., April 4, 1866; Phebe H., April 9, 1868; Henrietta E., April 6, 1875; John J., May 23, 1878 (died April 6, 1879); Minnie M., March 28, 1880.
In 1867 Mr. Watson came to Grant Tp., and under the provisions of the homestead law, located on the farm he now occupies, which contains 80 acres of good land, and is well fitted with a comfortable house and good farm buildings. He is a Republican, and is active in all reformatory measures, especially in temperature work. He has served his township one year as Supervisor, one year as Township Clerk, and three years as Road Commissioner.
In 1873 he entered the ministry, laboring in the interests of the society of United Brethren, to which himself and wife belong. He was a traveling minister for a time and in 1879 was ordained Elder. In 1880 he was elected Presiding Elder, re-elected the next year, and compelled to locate in 1882, on account of difficulty of the throat.