Edward Edwards, nearly 20 years a resident of the village of Newaygo, was born July 28, 1839, at St. Neot, a village well known to fame in the county of Cornwall, England, St Neot, of legendary fame, being a brother of King Arthur, immortalized by Tennyson in his "Idylls of the King." His grandfather, Edward Edwards, of an old Cornish family, having sold his paternal acres at Silverwell, combined the pursuit of mining with mercantile business in his new home. His father, Edward, senior, one of many sons in a direct line inheriting with the family name the family patrimony, was a young and rising man when he left the old homestead and sought to lay the foundations of his family fortunes in a new soil. As a keen debater he leveled swords with the late Sir John Lawrence, "Lord Mayor of London," and being an enthusiastic follower of John Wesley, he was recommended to the British Wesleyan Conference for admittance to its itinerant ranks. But he was of too radical a temper and too independent of control to put his destiny in the hands of any one less than his Creator, and declined the proffered honor. The same spirit of independence in a later day caused his severance from the church communion of his youth and early manhood. A Liberal of Liberals, yet conservative of the last inch of personal right, he was always in opposition to aristocratic Toryism; and, at a time when sympathy with Republicanism meant something, was an outspoken disbeliever in the "divine right of king" and superiority of blue blood.
He married as his first wife, at Silverwell, Elizabeth Roberts, and a worthy and congenial companion, who soon left him a widower with one daughter, since dead. Phillippa Doney, in the rural coterie noted for her beauty and early development with the grace of womanhood, took pity on the lonely widower, and the village belle linked her fortunes with the stranger whose early misfortunes bespoke her pity. The mother descended from the line of Doneys whose history was co-equal with that of the parish, and the Gummones of St. Minver, who as yeomen of worth and stamina had paralleled the records of the county and were as true to the old Anglican Church as deference to aristocracy and full faith in Toryism could desire. The marriage of a daughter of the church, and at the date of her marriage a member of the Rector's family, with the enthusiastic Methodist, was never relished by her family; but she was too devoted and he too independent to sue for pardon, and they set out to make the journey of life on their own hook.
Edward, the subject of this sketch, was the seventh child born to them, of whom only two others survive: Timothy, whose sketch will be found in another part of this book; and Charles, of local notoriety as a breeder of Short-horn and Ayrshire cattle in the neighborhood of Ingersoll, Canada, with whom the widowed mother makes her home, Charles and his father having jointly bought the farm on which he lives. As a child Edward was delicate, and the rough manners and tyrannical rule of the parochial school, when he received his first lessons into his infant brain, came very near to calling for the requiem couplet, --
"Since I am so early done for,
I wonder what I was begun for!"
As a boy he was taken out of school and put to run on errands, attend store, etc., till he had reached to age of 15 and a fair degree of growth and vigor. At the time he was sent to an academy for young gentlemen, Rev. Mr. Geake, Head Master, at Dubwalls, and took his seven miles walk every day, rain or shine; but, manifesting a decided talent for mechanics and penchant for music, he was, in consideration of the payment of $250 by his father and the rendering of his own personal service seven years without pay, apprenticed to the trade of harness maker and saddler. But not the blandishments of a smiling boss, nor the pleasantness of an open parlor, nor a seat at the family table with all the freedom of home, could blind him to the treatment bestowed upon the senior apprentices in the establishment who had signed and sealed the establishment who had signed and sealed the instruments with their own hands that bound them to seven years of unpaid servitude. So he refused to put his signature to the indenture for over two years. He worked on till he acquired a good knowledge of the business, and was advanced to the position of cutter for the shop. This close and unremitting attention to business was too much for his constitution, and a fit of typhus fever relegated him to the realm of out-of-door workers. His Uncle Richard was conducting at St. Agnes a large joint farming and butcher's business on the old family homestead, and there Edward was sent to gain health and become a man. A regime of roast beef and plum pudding in two years developed him into a strong, healthy young man, and to "Uncle Richard" he is indebted for much of example and instruction that through life has been his helper.
The ship "Gipsy Queen," commanded by his maternal cousin, brought the family to Quebec in 1858, and soon a Canadian farm life demanded the labor of mind and muscle. The family settled near Ingersoll, and there the future of his life beamed upon him in the smiling eyes of one Miss Eunice Laurena Minkler, on her mother's side of Hyde of the Green Mountain State, and older still of the suite of William of Orange, when Protestantism removed the last of the weakly and tyrannical Stuarts from the English throne. They were married at her father's home on the 4th day of January 1865, and in a few days thereafter, bidding adieu to friends and home, they started for the wilds of Michigan, and in the home of Timothy, his brother, found their first resting-place in Newaygo.
Here he started the first harness shop; was burnt out and went to work at carpentry, for which his natural bent was very decided. He obtained means to start another harness shop, and finding it disagreed with his health, sold out and entered into partnership with Wellington Persons, Newaygo's veteran Register of Deeds, prepared with him the first set of abstracts of title of Newaygo County, which partnership still continues. He has filled the office of Deputy Register of Deeds for several years, Deputy Clerk of the County for one term, and Deputy Treasurer under M. S. Angell, and is now Deputy Treasurer under the administration of T. S. Fry. He is a Republican in politics, and (with his estimable wife) may be considered of inheritance a part and parcel of the Methodist Church, having filled nearly all offices (successfully) but that of "preacher-in-charge." He was twice elected Assessor of his village, twice elected a lay delegate to the Annual Conference of his communion, and for years the chorister and often organist of his church. Scarcely any one would be more missed than he out of Newaygo Methodism. From childhood a total abstainer, for years a prominent Mason, filing with acceptability the offices in the gift of his brethren, Edward Edwards has had no mean place in the upbuilding of all that is good in Newaygo, and with is estimable wife and three child, --Mary, a successful young teacher; Stanly Warden, a boy of eight years, and Emma, a girl of four years, -- may they long live to enjoy happiness under their own vine and fig tree.
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