Pioneer Society Reports 

1883 Obituaries & Deaths

Pioneer Society of Michigan
from addresses at the pioneer picnic at Galesburg, Kalamazoo Co
September 27, 1883


Table Of Contents
8 Deaths Mentioned by Eli R. Miller
Pettifoggers of the pioneer period -- William Harrison & Horace Comstock
Anecdotes -- Willard Lovell, William Harrison
John Gilkey of Richland
Rev. Mason Knappen of Richland
Mrs. Maria Mills Upjohn




Excerpts from address by Eli R. Miller, president

There are now enrolled three hundred and eighteen members of the society yet living -- eight members having been removed by death since our last annual gathering, to wit:

Oliver C. Hill, born in Windham county, Vt., 1803; removed to Oshtemo in 1835, and died February 11, aged 80, for forty years a pioneer.

Col. Frederick W. Curtenius, born in Now York city, Sept., 1806; removed to Kalamazoo, 1835; died June last, aged 77; a pioneer of the county for 49 years. Col. Curtenius was one of the fifteen who attached their names to the call for the meeting, which organized this society.

Euphemia E.--wife of Neil Hines - born in New Jersey, Dec. 6, 1806; removed to Oshtemo in 1836; died July last, aged 77; for 46 years a pioneer.

John Baker, born in Hampshire county, Mass., 1814, removed to Oshtemo in 1837; died August last, aged 69, a pioneer for 44 years.

David Sargent, born in Monroe county, N. Y., 1819; date of removal to Kalamazoo not recorded; died early in this month, aged 64.

Benjamin Drake, born in Sussex county, N. J., 1787; removed to Oshtemo in 1830; died in September, aged 96, for 53 years a pioneer of this county,

Amos Knorr, born 1813; removed to Kalamazoo in 1836; died in September, aged 70, for 47 years a pioneer.

Mrs. Cynthia, wife of Alfred Nevins, born in Haverhill, New Hampshire, in 1802; removed to Richland in 1842; died March last, aged 81, a pioneer 41 years.

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Excerpt from a paper by A. D. P. Van Buren on The Pettifoggers of the Pioneer Period:

William Harrison, of Climax, son of the late Judge Bazil Harrison, was a member of the old bar. His practice was before Squires Pierce and Holden of Climax. He came here in 1830, and is yet living on the old farm where he settled 53 years ago. Willard Lovell, father of Hons. E. T. and L. W. Lovell, and brother of Hon. Cyrus Lovell, of Ionia, was another member of the old Climax bar. He came here in 1832, died some time in the "forties." He was a mail of 'vigorous intellect, and had the making of an able lawyer in him, but was content to remain a farmer. Isaac Pierce of Climax, so long known as "Squire Pierce," was, in his best days, one of the ablest justices who ever served his township. He was also a member of the Climax bar. He came here in 1838, and died a few years ago. The contests he has had with Major Lovell in the old justice court are well remembered by the early settlers.

Gen. Horace H. Comstock who came here in 1832, and died many years ago in New York, was a distinguished member of this legal fraternity, and pleaded in the courts at Comstock and Galesburg. His old opponent, Goo. L. Gale, I think, came bore a lawyer. Alpha Tubbs of Charleston, brother of Lyman Tubbs, came here in the thirties and died a few years ago at South Haven. He occasionally "pettifogged a case" in the early courts in this vicinity. Dr. James Harris, one of the early and prominent pioneers to Charleston, and a man of varied attainments outside of his profession, was one of the old pettifoggers. The doctor had a fluent tongue and ready words, and, 'tis said that he had much tact, in managing a jury, and in handling a witness. But of all the members of this old court, none have been longer in practice than Conrad Eberstein of Brady. He came from Germany in 1833, settling with his father's family on Goguac prairie, Calhoun Co. Many years ago he removed to Brady, where he yet lives. " Coonrod," as he is familiarly called, has practiced in most of the justice courts in this part of the State. His good memory, native wit, and tact have aided him much in managing a case. He has often been deputed to attend to suits in the country, for the leading lawyers of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo, and may properly be called the " attorney general " of the old primary court. His brother George, of Scotts, has been a pettifogger of late years. Orra Bush, of Charleston, another old pettifogger, practiced before Justices Geo. Davis and S. Howland from 1840 to 1864, in Charleston and Ross. He has been counsel in some one hundred suits in this old court. He now lives in Kalamazoo. E. W. Hewitt, formerly of Hickory Corners, now of Augusta, began here as a pettifogger, and is well known throughout this region. He is a man of extensive reading, and there Is material in him for an able lawyer, had he chosen to develop it. Orrin Page, years later, was another of this tribe. He and Marsh Giddins, have had "many a bout" in the justice court at Galesburg. B. F. Traverse, of Augusta, was another of the late pettifoggers in this vicinity. R. G. Smith, though not of the old class of pettifoggers, yet his name deserves mention for his long practice here in our justice courts. He is now a full-fledged attorney. at-law.

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Willard Lovell, or, as lie was usually called, Major Lovell, often had "Squire PIERCE" as a competitor in a legal content. The "Squire" in his younger days, had a penchant for learned words. He was one "Who on scraps of learnhig dote, And think they grow immortal as they quote."

In a suit they were trying before Squire John HOLDEN, he used many learned words, and they came in rather faulty grammatical order. To quote the old expression, "he gave the court and jury the raw material and let them ‘grammarize' it to suit themselves." After lie had been speaking to the jury some time, Major Lovell thus addressed the court: "Your Honor, I object to my opponent's murdering the King's English at this rate. I have yet to make my plea, and unless lie stops soon, as I cannot speak in any other tongue, there will be no language for me to talk to this jury in."

At one time William Harrison, or "Uncle Billy," as he is commonly called, was pleading his own case against his old neighbor, Seth Fletcher, before Squire Pierce. In the trial Fletcher claimed an off-set for the amount of one load of lumber. Uncle Billy demanded proof that the lumber was ever delivered to him. Hale, Fletcher's son-in-law, was the counsel on the other side. After Hale bad finished on his part, Billy, stepping forward, said: "Stand aside and let Lawyer Harrison make his plea." This he did in plain, direct words, and so effectually that he gained his case.

The next day Uncle Billy called on Squire Pierce and asked to see his docket, Turning to his case he requested the Squire to give "old Fletch" credit for twenty-five dollars, the price of a load of lumber. "But," says the Squire, "you did not receive the lumber." "Yes I did," says Billy., "but he did not prove that he delivered it." "Then why didn’t you acknowledge its delivery ,at the trial yesterday?" " Ah." says Uncle Billy, "I was in for the fight then, and it wouldn't do to let up while I had ‘old Fletch’ down, for I wanted to whale the old cuss; so endorse twenty-five dollars as paid; that's fair. He delivered the lumber if lie didn't prove it. Give him credit, that's right."

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Excerpt from a paper by E.R. Miller

What a pioneer was John F. Gilkey! He came from Chester, Vermont, to Richland, Michigan, in the strength of his manhood, being then 33 years of age. The family, consisting of his father and mother, sister, brother Charles, came the year following, while the brother next to John F., William Young's, came the succeeding year, the entire family presenting an array of muscle, grit, energy, and enterprise seldom equaled in these or any other days. John F., who was the operator for the family, with great care selected and entered of the government, some 1,300 acres of choice prairie and opening land on the north side of Gull Prairie, as a home farm, and immediately commenced clearing, plowing, fencing, and building; in the meantime exploring and entering desirable government lands in Ross, Climax, Comstock, and Cooper, in this county, as well as large tracts in other counties, amounting to over 7,000 acres choice lands. Finding it difficult to procure lumber for building, he erected a saw-mill at the outlet of Gull lake in 1833, and subsequently purchased the flouring mill built by Tillotson Barnes on the same water power. To facilitate the growth of the settlement he purchased and drove in from adjoining States, herds of horses, cattle, sheep, and swine, from year to year, as the demands of settlement or his own convenience required (the writer having made one horseback trip with him, in quest of cattle and horses, of over 1,700 miles, extending to New Madrid, in Missouri). In the selection of stock -- which in an early date were only the native breeds --Mr. Gilkey possessed rare good judgment, so that his cattle (which came to be known as the Gilkey breed) were for size and muscle inferior to none. A story is told of Win. Y.: In breaking in a huge four-year-old steer, he lassoed him, and with the strength of Hercules, had got him by the nose and horn, when the steer managed to give his tormenter a savage blow with his heels. Youngs seized Mr. Steer's nose with his teeth, and as the blood started, and the steer bellowed, lie earnestly inquired, "well, who begun it?"

Although not a religious man, Mr. Gilkey was behind none in contributing to build churches and school-houses, and not a few barrels of flour were rolled out of the old mill at Yorkville to families who were in want. Indeed, sympathy with those in trouble was in him characteristic. And many a man in the county north, now living in comfort and affluence, could testify to the "helping hand" of John F. Gilkey, when the wolf was at the door.

He was a successful man in most business enterprises in which he engaged, because he brought to his add a cool head, and indomitable energy, and industry. A story is told illustrating his pluck: One winter in an early day, provisions. were very low at Grand Rapids, and Mr. Gilkey started a drove of hogs for that market. News of his approach had preceded him, and on his arrival, by preconcert of the dealers, no one would buy except at very low figures. Mr. Gilkey quietly circulated around in the evening, and bought up all the salt in the village, and next hired men and began to butcher, and pack his pork. This brought the speculators to terms and his pork sold at good prices.

The last great enterprise which engaged head, heart, and hand was in the construction of the Coldwater & Lake Michigan railway. A considerable part of the portion running through Richland was built by himself, and this when he was over 70 years of age. How much we all regret he did not live to see this work completed and enjoy a ride upon their first passage through the town. He died at the age of 84, having been a pioneer for 47 years.

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Excerpt from address by Rev. Milton Bradley:

Rev. Mason Knappen and family came to Richland in 1833, from. Hinesburg, Vermont. Half a century before, the Knappen family emigrated from Washington, Ct. He bad been pastor of two or three churches in Vermont, covering a period of 30 years -- a leading Congregational minister after the pattern of Edwards and Dwight, granite from. the Lord's quarries, with the finish of the master workman upon it. He was a part of the Hinsdale colony, having been associated with the Hinsdales at the east. He was found equal to the burdens and work of a new country, which called out all the earnestness and energy of his nature. When he left his church in Hinesburg he did not expect to be able to devote himself entirely to the work of the ministry, but to take it up as lie should have health and opportunity, in tile territory of Michigan. Consequently lie gave himself largely to outdoor pursuits, preached and organized churches, and constantly manifested his interest in the old work. Some of his addresses in religious meetings were of a superior order, and I have often listened to him with great interest when his religious nature was deeply moved and he told us the old story in his earnest, vigorous manner.

We remember him as genial and considerate with his friends, and ready to aid the unfortunate. No wayfarer ever went away hungry from his door, and he was known for his ready and generous hospitality.

A tradition has come down to us, somewhat mythical it may be, that he loved the horse -- a good horse, for driving or for the saddle. I find in an old record of those times the following statement: In November, 1843, he was invited to preach in Battle Creek, at the dedication of the first church erected in that town. He made the trip on horseback, in company with a friend, and the cheer of the ride through the wilderness was like an inspiration for the church service before him. All the land -- the forest and the strearm, the settlers' cabins, and the pioneer families, of that morning ride, came into that dedication service; then home and rest. At another time with a son and this same friend, he drove from Battle Creek to Hastings. Each man drove his own team. The road was new and rougb. Knowing his readiness for any enjoyment which might be found in the ride, his companions were somehow willing to take advantage of such methods of driving as might tax his skill and forbearance. Unfortunately for him, in collision with some rock, or stump, or slough, a wheel carne off and he came to grief; making his entrance into Hastings riding a fence rail. The story was told that he was a careless driver and had been worsted by the young men. This was put on record for any future emergency, when his judgment of the horse or his skill in horsemanship should be on trial.

It is rumored that his sons and grandson's have a like fellowship with the horse, and that the old type of driving has never quite died out.

But neither with him nor with them has this fellowship with the noble beast degenerated into the strife and gambling of the race-course. The nobleness of his character was never stained by any such contaminations. These were only the genial recreations of his active life.

While he did not claim to excel in general scholarship, he was familiar with the current history of the times, and kept up his reading to the last. He was thoroughly familiar with all questions relating to the condition of this country and the nations. He understood the work and growth of the church, and was deeply interested in its extension into every part of the earth, especially the home department. He took an advanced position on all questions of mission work and reform, and was known by his friends to believe and declare, in any presence, that all men of every race are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that while instruction, renovation, and righteousness should be secured at any cost for our own citizens, the same work should encircle the earth. He loved the discussions which grew out of those questions, and his antagonists found occasion to look well to the logic of their facts. His practical New England theology compelled him. to these plans and work. His Pauline, Knox, and Calvin companionship led him to those earnest convictions, study and defense of the mission truths, which he had been studying for 50 years. He was wont to say that the sovereignty of nations rested on the being and sovereignty of God, and was went to glory in the thought that the same Infinite Father cared for him and the sparrow. Impulsive, generous, fearless, he went forward in duties, embarrassments, and burdens. Those who know him best, and were admitted without reserve to the fellowship of his home, and inner life, especially young men, learned to respect and love him, and to know that the old truths be bad taught were moulding his spiritual nature, that the love of Christ more than all else, did constrain him and lead him forward to the Father's house.

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The following is by A. D. P. Van Buren.

Maria Mills Upjohn

Mrs. Maria Mills Upjohn, youngest daughter of the late Deacon Simeon Mills, of Richland, was born in 1822, at Orangeville, Wyoming county, N. Y. Her father's family removed from Orangeville to Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1826, and to Gull Prairie, Kalamazoo county, in 1831, where most of her life in Michigan was spent. She was converted when young, at her home on the prairie, by the preaching of Rev. Luther Humphrey. In the year 1837, she was married in Richland, to Dr. Uriah Upjohn; and died at her home in that place of typhoid pneumonia, on the 17th of February, 1882, in the 60th year of her age. Thus, with the exception of a few years, her life in this state was spent at the family home on Gull Prairie. During the pioneer days -- that ordeal period in which the noblest characters were developed, Mrs. Upjohn was the faithful wife and mother to her large family. Ever hopeful amid severe trials, and fruitful in expedients, she was of great aid and comfort to her husband who was for so many years the only physician in the new settlement. The spirit of perseverance and thrift pervaded her household. It was here, amid the hardships of those early days, that her best qualities were displayed; it was here that her industry brought her family through the hard times; that her fortitude stayed them; that her frugality lengthened out their small stores; that her cheerfulness brightened the dark hours? that her courage brought comfort and hope in sickness and distress.

We have, in Mrs. Upjohn's life, the finest type of the mother, as outlined in that scriptural passage, "She looketh well to the ways of her household," for with her, " looking well to the ways of her household" included the education and training of her children. If there is any parental duty neglected in our American households, it is the training of children. When their physical wants are supplied and they are on the way to school: they are supposed to be cared for, and here paternal duty generally ceases. No thought is given as to who instructs them, or in what or bow much they are instructed, thus neglecting the most essential thing in their education-the importance of ,starting right.

." Children like tender osiers take the bow,
And as they first are fashioned always grow."

A child may be educated and not trained. To train is to direct, mould, fashion and keep in the right way. Mere education does not do this., The scripture does not say educate, but train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.

The plants in your garden demand training at your hands, and if they do not get it, their stunted growth flaunts you with your neglect. And does not the intellectual and moral deformity in your children, by neglect of proper training, point unmistakably to your dereliction of duty?

I know of nothing more beautiful in a household than to see, as the result of paternal duty, the children attaining their full educational, moral and spiritual growth. This Mrs. Upjohn as a mother, strove to accomplish. One who knew her well wrote in the published notice of her death, this characteristic passage: " She devoted her life to her husband and children, instilling into the minds of the latter, ideas of thoughtfulness and self-culture which have made them prominent members of the community in which. they have been called to move." This is literally true. What is so potent in the household as the " true mother in whom the characterizing quality of genius is so like to dwell?" Here is that mystic power that transforms the plastic mind into a likeness of its own. We see this in the marked individuality of her character, which also characterizes her children. From her they learned to think, act and do for themselves, to be self-reliant. Thus each child was trained into fully developed womanhood or manhood. This is the highest and most valuable attainment in home life - the art of knowing how to manage for one's self in the world.

And we would add that Dr. Upjohn was as devoted as his wife to the important task of securing a thorough education for their children.

There were twelve children, eight daughters and four sons, eleven of whom grew to adult years:

Helen Maria, the oldest, graduated from the medical department of the University at Ann Arbor. She is now Mrs. Hugh Kirkland, and practicing in her profession at Kalamazoo.

Mary N. graduated in the Pharmacy class at the University; is now Mrs. William Sidnam, and lives at Hastings, Mich.

Alice, educated at the Seminary on Gull Prairie, and at the Normal School at Ypsilanti, married Rev. Wright Barrett, of the M. E. Church. Rev. Mr. Barrett is a member of the Michigan Methodist Conference, and his work is in different parts of the State.

Henry U. got his diploma of M. D. from the medical department of our University; married Millie, the daughter of Wm. G. Kirby, of Charleston, and is now practicing his profession in Kalamazoo. His wife also is a graduate from the medical department of the University.

Virginia, died in 1870, while the family were living at Galesburg.

Amelia graduated in the pharmacy class of the State University. She and her sister Mary, were the first female graduates from the department of pharmacy in our University. She married Dr. Archibald Campbell, of Fulton, .Ohio, at which place she died.

Sarah, educated at Ann Arbor, married Rev. John Redpath, Presbyterian minister, now located near Petoskey.

Ida was educated at the Union School in Ann Arbor. She married James Hayward, who graduated a civil engineer from the University, and was drowned while in the United States service. His wife died in Kalamazoo.

William E., graduated from the medical department of the University. He married Rachel, daughter of Dr. I. J. Babcock, of Kalamazoo, and is practicing his profession in Hastings.

Frederick L. and James, both educated at the Union School in Kalamazoo, have taken the management of the home farm in Richland, and with them their father resides.


Site Links
History Pages Index Listing of deaths from the 1893 meeting
Pioneer Obit Index Obituaries from the 1893 meeting
Obituaries and deaths mentioned at the 1883 annual meeting A few deaths from the 1876 meeting
Listing of deaths from the 1889 meeting 1876 County History from Pioneer Society Reports
Obituaries from the 1889 meeting  


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