Character Studies


William Amos JohnsonI’ve mentioned bits and pieces of William Amos Johnson’s life as it pertained to his parents and his wife Lena but never totally focused on him. And it’s seems a natural progression to move from Eugene Baker to his son-in-law (and my 2nd Great Grandfather)—especially since today is the 112th anniversary of William and Lena’s wedding.

William Amos Johnson was born 15 December 1877 the youngest child of William Suffling and Mary E. (Gordon) Johnson. William grew up in Cannon Township where the family had settled in 1873. By 1900 the Johnsons owned a successful farm noted for its large orchards and William remained at home to help with its management. He married Lena Baker 22 April 1902 at the home of her parents and the couple removed to a home on Moffitt Hill. Their first child Robert Eugene was born in March of 1905.

At the time of the 1910 Census the couple and Robert were enumerated with Eugene Baker’s household in Cannon Township where William was listed as attending college—something I’d like to know more about. In 1918 the only other child, Betty Lou Johnson was born.

As early as 1918 through 1922 the family lived in Traverse City, Michigan where William worked first as a pipefitter for Traverse City Gas Co, a tinner (would those be the same?) and then as a plumber for Arms & Cole. Around 1923 the family returned to Rockford, Michigan where William continued to work as a plumber. In September of 1928 Lena Johnson died after a six month illness. Betty Lou was sent to live with her Aunt Clara Harnack in Ypsilanti, Michigan for the school years and would come home for the summers. But three years later she died after a long illness at the age of 12.

In 1930 William was still living and working as a plumber in Rockford. I have yet to find him in the 1940 Census but at the time of the 1942 draft he reported his residence as Rockford, Michigan.

William died in August 1958 well remembered by his grandchildren and my Grandmother who remembers him going to play euchre with the boys back when the Corner Bar was Stag.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Eugene Baker, Death Certificate 1920Some of these character studies remind me that I have a remarkable small amount of information on some of my direct lines. Eugene is one of those—which always strikes me as weird because I know so much about his grandparents (Smith & Katherine nee Gilbert Lapham) and Great Grandmother (Hannah nee Johnson Gilbert DuBois). I’m missing the anecdotal notes which I hope exist in the local happenings of the Rockford Register. I’ll have to look into that soon.

Eugene Smith Baker was my 3rd Great Grandfather. He was born 15 Oct 1850, to Isaac and Harriett (Lapham) Baker in Rockford, Michigan. He loved most of his life within the community with the exception of a stint working in a hotel in Crystal Lake, Benzie County, and a brief time in Illinois around the time of his marriage to Amelia Grove 26 Oct 1873 in Joliet, Will County. The couple had seven children: Katherine (born in Joliet), Willis George, Frank E., Clara, Lena Grove (my 2nd Great Grandfather), Hollis Lapham, and Ethan Rex. Upon returning to Kent County Eugene settled to farming in Cannon Township and later relocated to Algoma Township. He was a staunch Republican like his grandfather (who served in the Michigan Senate) and involved in his community. He died after a 3 month illness on 15 Apr 1920 and was buried in the Rockford Cemetery. Sadly his wife never recovered following him quickly in June.

Happy hunting,

Jess

I’m falling behind in the challenge but I will make it through. However,  I won’t likely gain ground this week… and I say this in the hopes of proving it wrong.

MasseyDPD-14aSunday marked the 181st anniversary of the birth of my 3rd Great Grand Uncle, John Orpin Massy. I’m quick to tell people that in the years bashing at the brickwall of my Massy family, John was the closest person I could find matching the rumors my Great Aunt and Grandmother offered me to begin my search. They said their Great Grandfather was a Irish policeman in Detroit named Henry. Instead, in the 1870 Census the only relevant household I could  I could find was John and his wife and he was an Irish cop in Detroit.

Years later, in the process of just trying to find out what it meant to be a policeman during this time period, I found a transcription of the Detroit Metropolitan Police Force’s applications with entries for John and his brother (and my 3rd Great Grandfather) Henry. If Henry was the black sheep of the family then John comes off as one of the good sons.

John was born on 6 April 1833 and baptized at Rathronan, Co. Limerick, Ireland in 1834. He was the fourth child and first son of Lieutenant Hugh Massy, then late of the 33rd (First Yorkshire West Riding) Regiment, and his wife Jane Alison Massy. The family appears to have followed Jane’s parents to North America in the 1850s though I have been unable to figure out if they went to Canada or instead settled directly in the United States.

The earliest appearance in the U. S. that I’ve found for John is his enlistment in company G of the Fifth Infantry, of the Union Army in 1861 where he served as a Sergeant briefly during the Civil War. After the war John was naturalized in August 1865 and he was working as a druggist at the time he applied to join the Detroit Police Force in September of 1865 where he served honorably. The Detroit city directories show John O. living in the same residence as his brother, Henry Massy in 1867 and with his mother in 1868 and 1869–though he probably lived with her pre-1867.

On 30 January 1868 he married Julia Saventia Madison at St. Peter’s Church in Detroit witnessed by Julia’s sister and brother-in-law Mariah and Augustus Reohm. In the 1870 Census the couple was enumerated as part of the Roehm household along with George Roehm (Augustus’s partner in A. F. & C. G. Roehm Butcher shop) and Julia’s brother, blacksmith Winfield Madison.

John O. Massy died 26 May 1872 after a short illness. His probate record includes several notes about his illness lifted from the local paper which included note of his membership in the Zion Lodge of Masons.

Happy hunting,

Jess

 

My great grandfather Philip Henry was born around October of 1870, the third child of Sandy and Agnes York. I believe Philip was born in Arkansas and I know the family was in Bradley County by 1871 when Sandy sold $62.50 worth of cotton to E. B. Turner. But I have yet to find the household in the 1870 Census. By the 1880 Census Philip was 11 and listed as working on his father’s farm.

York-Wilfong Marriage License, 1894On Christmas Day 1894 Philip married his first wife Mary H. Wilfong (the daughter of Monroe and Ellen Wilfong) and in fairly rapid succession they had 4 children: Calvin in the following September, Sandy Napoleon in November of 1896, Aunt Rachel in April of 1898, and Frederick Philip in August of 1899. The family is enumerated in the 1900 Census and Philip is listed as renting land and farming as well as being able to read and write (unlike his parents). He is counted immediately following his father’s household and before his younger brother Edward. I’ve also found a note indicating in 1905 Philip had paid his poll tax to be eligible for voting.

York-Philips Marriage License, 1903While I have been unable to find a death certificate or notice, family stories indicate that Mary died young and in December of 1903 Philip married, Mattie C. Philips (the daughter of Shade and Camelia (Howell) Philips). Mattie added five children to the line: Preston Garett, Ossie B., Mary, Walter, and Mamie. When the family was enumerated in the 1910 Census Philip owned (with a mortgage) and worked his farm with the added labor of Calvin and Sandy Napoleon.

York-Wheeler Marriage  License, 1913Again, family stories indicate that Mattie died young and in October of 1913 Philip married his third wife (and my Great-Grandmother) Sallie Wheeler, the daughter of Moses and Candes (Thompson) Wheeler.  Unlike his other wives, Sally brought a small parcel of children born out of wedlock with her into the family—Ressie and Willie B. Wheeler and James Avery. The couple then added Anna, Arverse, Herman Lee, Oscar Shelly, Ernest Philip and finally my Grandmother, Elnora in 1926.

By the 1920 Census the large family was farming on rented land with a few of the older sons working the home farm. This was also after the death of Philip’s father and his mother and older brother, Albert, were also counted in the household. The 1930 Census offered a surprise in the form of a previously unmentioned sibling credited to Philip and Sallie, a daughter named Katheline born in 1928. This is probably actually Katherine York, their granddaughter and the daughter of Mamie York and Willie B. Hampton.

Less than a year later, in March of 1931, Philip died and the following November Sallie followed, leaving the younger children scattered among older siblings and cousins. Grandma remembered time spent in the household of Uncle Sandy and his wife though in 1940 she is listed (as a cousin) in the household of her half-sister Ossie B. and James Rogers.

There’s so many important bits and pieces I’m missing in this family… death dates, information on how the children were parceled out after Sallie’s death, the location of the York families in 1870, just to name a few. Dad’s family is full of roadblocks I’ve yet to skirt but I’ll keep working on it.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Cornelius Packer

Tomorrow marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of my 2nd Great Grandfather Cornelius Packer. He was born 19 March 1864 in Milton, Kent, England to Joseph and Harriet (Vaughn) Packer, the sixth of seven children. At the age of six his family immigrated to Canada and stories persist of his parents’ fear of his energy onboard ship and his ability to climb the railings.

By the time of the 1871 Canadian Census the family had settled in Hamilton, Ontario where Joseph worked as a laborer. By 1881 they had relocated to Woodstock, Oxford, Ontario. The family was deeply involved in the Salvation Army—even playing in their Brass Band.

On 6 May 1885 he married Flora Jane Massey (a ward of his sister-in-law’s, Mary (Garbutt) Packer’s, family). The couple began their family quickly with the birth of Evelyn Maud in April 1896 but tragedy struck early with Eva dying at 9 months. Ethel Augusta was born the following November. December of 1889 saw the birth of Pearl Elizabeth. The family remained in Woodstock through their enumeration in the 1891 Census then immigrated to Grand Rapids shortly after where Cornelius took up work as a machine hand in the booming furniture industry.

Based on directory listings the family moved regularly in their early years in town living on 5th, Marietta, Myrtle, Ashland, Hickory, and Palmer between 1891 and 1899 until they finally settled in a rental on Shirley Street around 1900. They also met with both fortune and tragedy with the births of Cora Helena (my Great Grandmother) in 1892 and James Arthur in 1897, followed too quickly by a stillbirth in 1899 and the untimely death of 12-year-old Ethel in 1900.

Cornelius was always listed as a turner, machine hand or machinist. Employers were not listed consistently in the directories but in 1895 Cornelius was listed as a Machine hand for the V. C. Rattan Company. From 1902 to as late as 1915 he worked as a Turner and Machine Hand for the Phoenix Furniture Company. And in 1927 he worked as a machinest for Stowe and Davis Furniture Co.

In 1896 Cornelius was naturalized at the Superior Court of Grand Rapids. In the 1900 Census he was enumerated right before his next older brother, Charles and his family in houses on Shirley. At the time of the 1910 Census, Cornelius’s widowed father had moved into the household and brother, Charles, and family had relocated to Detroit, Michigan. In 1912 the family had bought a home on Hovey. And in 1916 the family settled into Cornelius’s last home on Burton. His younger brother, Albert and his family were initially part of the household as well. But by 1920 the household was down to Cornelius, Flora, and their daughters.

Cornelius died at his home 11 June 1929 at the age of 65. His obituary noted that he was survived by his widow and four children, Arthur Packer, Mrs. R. E. Jones [Pearl], Mrs. Robert Shea [Grandma Cora], Mrs. Harold Elliott [Grace]; seven grandchildren, all of Grand Rapids; four brothers Albert of Belmont, Joseph of Hamilton, Ontario, Thomas of Woodstock, Ontario, and Charles of Detroit; and one sister, Mrs. Sarah Chesney of Kinde, Michigan. He was buried 14 June at Fair Plains Cemetery in Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids city directories were an incomparable source in pulling together Cornelius’s story and the detail about his employers, however inconsistent, is sparking the idea for a road trip to Grand Rapids Public Library to research some of the furniture companies my family worked for.

The photograph of Cornelius is one we found tucked into a tiny scrapbook probably belonging to my Great Grandmother, Cora. It’s not a great shot given his movement—but he sure is happy!

Happy hunting,

Jess

From my paternal Johnsons to my maternal Johnson line…

Sarah Suffling JohnsonI’ve spent quite a bit of time on my Michigan Johnsons in the past so now I’m working my way back out of the country. Sarah Suffling was the wife of #5 Richard Johnson and the mother of my 3rd Great Grandfather, William Suffling Johnson. She was the eldest daughter and the second of at least seven children born to William and Elizabeth (Pegg) Suffling. She was born in March of 1801 and christened on March 22nd in Lessingham, Norfolk, England. I have no concrete information about her life up until her marriage but from October of 1827 she built a life with Richard Johnson first in Horsey-Next-the-Sea and then in America.

Sarah was the mother of at least four children starting with my William in 1830. As I mentioned in the post on Richard, he supported the family as a husbandman, laborer and fisherman. William and his next brother, Matthew, immigrated to the United States around 1848 and the rest of the family, as well as a number of Sarah’s siblings, made the journey across the Atlantic. By the time of the 1855 New York Census Richard and Sarah had settled in Carlton, in Orleans County where the family farmed.

After Richard died in 1874 Sarah could be found visiting the households of her children. During the 1880 Federal Census she was living in Kent County, Michigan as part of William’s household.  She died in May of 1889—making this year the 125th Anniversary of her death—in Gaines Township, Orleans County. She is buried beside her husband in Otter Creek Cemetery.

This photo was passed to me by a generous cousin and fellow Johnson researcher.

Happy hunting!

Jess

Harrison Trotter SS AplicationI have mentioned my 2nd Great Grandmother, Josephine Johnson Trotter a few times as Harrison’s mother or Sam Trotter’s first wife but she, like her husband, is a bit of a mystery to me. My first knowledge of her was from family gatherings and reunions. The Trotters gather as the descendants of Sam and Josie Trotter but until I tracked down my grandfather’s Social Security application from 1942 when he named his parents I hadn’t seen her maiden name. I have since been able to track down a transcription of her and my 2nd Great Grandfather’s wedding license in Ashley County, Arkansas records from December of 1880. My one additional find has been a transcript of her testimony at the Coroner’s inquisition at the death of Joe Lawson in 1883. She, like her husband, just seems to have fallen through the cracks. I’m hoping that there is more out there on both of them—though I’m resigned to the fact that I’m probably going to need to head to Arkansas and find it.

Happy hunting!

Jess

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