stevenpiziks: (Default)
Today I visited the Ypsilanti Historical Library for the Work in Progress.  I needed to verify a few facts.  To do so, I needed to check the history of the First Presbyterian Church of Ypsilanti, which was founded in the early 1800s.  They first met in a frame house, then built a brick church with one spire, then rebuilt the church so it had two spires.  I've been trying to find out exactly when the two spires version was done.  I have three different dates, and can't seem to verify any of them.

Anyway, the Historical Library archives has a file on the FSCoY, and the archivist cheerfully handed it over to me for perusal.  It's a hanging file about four inches thick, stuffed with a pile of papers, transcripts, orders of service, century-old pamphlets, and other memorabilia.  One object in the file is a heavy, punch-bound book of transcripts.  I paged through it and realized someone had typed up all the hand-written notes from weekly church meetings from 1832 until 1875.  This had to be a monumental task--the original pages were included in the file, and the handwriting old-fashioned, spidery stuff done with a dip pen, barely legible.  This historian had meticulously read and typed up hundreds of pages, and for this I was grateful.

The church meetings were mostly records of who had joined the church (lots of people moved to Ypsilanti from other areas, and they seem to have brought with them letters of recommendation from their previous ministers, which helped matters), who had been baptized, and who had left the church, either by moving away or dying.

There were several references, incidentally, to the church calling various members up in front of the council to defend themselves for drinking, either beer or hard liquor.  (Temperance was a hot social topic in Michigan during this time period, and apparently the First Presbies landed on the "alcohol is evil" side.)  One member confessed to the drinking, but said it was "for his health."  The council rejected this argument and banned him from attending church until he could prove he had made proper penance (which wasn't specified).  This sort of thing seemed to happen fairly often, and you would think the church would give it up as a lost cause, but the council showed continued enthusiasm for alcohol's punishment and penance.

The last page truly caught my eye.  It seemed to be random notes. It said:

Mr. Hammond's Testimony - that Mrs. G. admitted he got in a passion - was sorry that it had happened - cross examined - Mrs. Hammond - Talking hard of her Mother Octavia - could live in this way -
Mrs. Hyde - choked - threw potatoes -
  -   - pushing his wife
  -   - pushing his Motherinlaw [sic] - ordering her out the door -
William Glover -

What the heck?  "Got in a passion"?  Was this anger?  Sex?  Who threw potatoes?

I paged through more of the book.  In entries dated April, 1835, my eye flitted across another reference to Samuel Glover.  There were several references to him and to Mrs. Hyde over several weeks.  Eagerly, I paged over them, flipping backward until I found the earliest one--and the beginning of the story.

From what I could gather from Church Clerk Ezra Carpenter's cryptic notes, Samuel Glover was married to Virena Glover, and they had a son William.  Virena's mother Lucy Hyde lived with them, and she and Samuel did NOT get along.

According to Virena, the two of them fought quite often, mostly because Samuel beat Virena.  One day, Virena was carrying in a heavy basket of potatoes, and she asked Samuel to help her.  He refused, and she became upset with him.  He shouted and cursed at her and threw several potatoes at her head, until Lucy intervened and told him to stop.  This didn't make Samuel very happy.

Another time, Samuel was arguing with Virena and shouting at her in the front yard.  A neighbor saw Lucy trying to get him to stop.

Another tidbit says Samuel called a neighbor a "God damned Frenchman."  Someone else testified to him shouting "J___ C____" in public.  (Ezra Carpenter refused to put "Jesus Christ" into a transcript as a curse, though he readily put the word "god" down as one.)  Someone else testified to hearing Samuel use the word "devilish" to describe his children, and also calling them "little devils."

Another time, Lucy Hyde testified that Samuel whirled an ox whip over Virena's head and swore he would beat Virena "by J____ C____."  She also said she saw Samuel choke Virena and push her to the floor more than once.

Then Samuel got really mad at Lucy and one day literally shoved her out the door, ordering her to never "darken his doorstep" again and "if I rotted above ground he would never bury me."  She went to a friend's house, and the next day various people persuaded her to return.  Samuel allowed that she could as long as she was nice to him.  Lucy reluctantly returned.

The pastor asked if Samuel was nice to Lucy after that, but (according to Mr. Carpenter's terse prose), Lucy wouldn't answer directly, which speaks volumes.

Samuel claimed he had witnesses who would speak to his good character, but none of them showed up at any of the hearings, which also speaks volumes.

In the end, the council rendered its unanimous, terrifying verdict: Samuel was guilty of violating the church's covenant in multiple ways.

His sentence?

No church for three months.

That's it.  And there were no more references to Samuel Glover or Lucy Hyde in the rest of the book.

I doubt Samuel stopped abusing Virena and Lucy.  I suspect he just got better at hiding it--or of terrifying them into silence.  Lucy was already uncertain about testifying this time.  I hope they eventually left him, or threw him out, but I doubt it.  The church couldn't even bring itself to censure Samuel for more than 90 days, let alone grant a divorce.

And you'll notice that despite several people testifying that Samuel was guilty of assault many times over, there was no mention of legal involvement.  None.  Virena and Lucy went to the church for help, and barely got any.  (The testimony took place over several weeks.)

Domestic abuse.  It ain't a new idea.

Incidentally, I did find the date of the spire, but it was from a secondary source, and it's still unconfirmed for me.  Sigh.


A little digging turned up a bit more information elsewhere.  Samuel and Virena (whose name may have been Vinera--records disagree) had a total of twelve children.  The last two were twins, born on February 14, 1847 in Osceola, Michigan, which means the Glovers moved.  The twins died two weeks later.  Virena died the following March at age 44.  So Virena stayed with Samuel another 11 years and died, worn out from giving birth over and over, and from the beatings he gave her.  (Another Glover child, Sarah, died two years later, by the way, at age 24.)

And Samuel?  He left Ypsilanti and slunk back to New York, where his parents originally came from.  By 1850, he was married to a woman named Maria, who had five children of her own.  Only TWO of Samuel and Virena's children came with him--Alanson and Daniel.  What happened to the others?

Three--Sarah and the twins--had died.

Four were adults by 1850 and didn't need to live with their families.  None were living in Ypsilanti.  It's telling that they moved away from their father.

Samuel Glover, Jr. (age 15) went to live with a merchant named John Cody and his family.

Vinera Josephine Glover (age 10) is unaccounted for.  She is not with her father or any of her adult brothers or sisters.  Where did she go?  She marries William P. Paine in 1857 in Ionia County, Michigan.  She would have been about 17 then, though the question is, how did she get all the way up to Ionia and meet him?

George W. Glover (age 8) vanishes entirely. No records of what happened to him exist.

The 1860 censucs shows Maria Glover (Samuel's second wife) Census living in Webster, New York as a widow, but Samuel is still alive at this time and living a little ways away in Rochester, New York.  He died in 1870.  Did Maria divorce him and lie about her marital status?  What happened there?

Having a blended family that's a hot mess isn't anything new!

stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
On one of the main roads in Wherever is a little park with an historic marker out front.  Darwin and I have passed it any number of times and we always say, "We need to stop and see what that is," but we never get around to it.  We were on the way to the drug store on a beautiful, sun-drenched, bird-songy day and we were passing the marker yet again.

"Let's stop right now," Darwin said.

So I dodged into the wee parking area and we got out to have a look.  The marker, it turned out, told the story of the Wherever Roller Mill, which was built by three men, two of whom were brothers, in the 1840s and was the center of commerce for the area.  It ground grain and sawed lumber.  The village was built around it and the stagecoach stop, which was part of a two-day journey between Milford and Pontiac, a trip you can make in half an hour today.  In the late 20s, the mill went out of business--larger mills could grind more cheaper elsewhere--and in the late 30s, the abandoned building accidentally burned down.  In 1984, the area was designated an historic park.

Darwin and I wandered into the park to have a look and found the stone foundation ruins.  This was great fun for amateur historians like us.  We tried to figure out where the mill wheels had been and finally decided that Spot A had held the grinding wheels and Spot B had been for the saw.  It was clear from the graffiti and trash at the bottom of the ruins that the place was a teen hideaway that included a fair amount of pot smoking.

Someone had built a pagoda-style covered bridge over the creek.  You could still see where water had once flowed around the mill--it looked like a dry castle moat.  The creek was loud and FAST, and after a moment's examination, we saw why--the remains of two stone walls artifically narrowed the creek bed to speed up the flow of water.

"The main mill wheel hung there," I said.  "The walls sped the flow, giving the creek enough power to turn the wheel.  A system of gears and levers turned the grindstones over there and the saw over there.  Free power!"  Darwin agreed with this. It was cool to see it and understand how it must have worked.

On the other side of the river, a trail disappeared into the woods.  We followed it for a while, and discovered it went a considerable distance.  I called up our location on GPS and saw the park was at the border of the much-larger local nature preserve, which meant the trail went on for miles.  We hiked it a while and enjoyed it very much.
stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
Another pair of graves in Kalamazoo caught my and Darwin's attention.  Two stones that had fallen flat on their reported that Guy Chandler and Chas Denison had died in 1859.  DROWNED, the stones reported in big letters.  Chas's stone included that he was 11 years old.

This we found heart-wrenchingly sad.  Darwin and I envisioned two best friends going down to the river for a swim. One of them gets into trouble, and the other tries unsuccessfully to save him.  They both drown together.

A cursory search on my phone turned up nothing on the the names, and we moved on to other graves.  The story woudln't leave Darwin alone, however, and later that evening back at the bed and breakfast, Darwin revved up his laptop for some serious research.  He turned up a great deal of information, including an article that appeared in the newspaper just after the sad events happened.  The reality was rather different than we imagined it.  Here's what he pieced together:

Charles "Chas" Denison lived in Dowagiac, Michigan, a ways southwest of Kalamazoo.  A spiffy new railroad ran along what is now I-94, a short distance from Dowagiac.  Chas's parents apparently decided to let the boy spend the summer at his maternal grandparents' home in Kalamazoo.  They probably drove him by buggy up to the train station and saw him off not long after school got out in the summer of 1859.  It would be the last time they ever saw him.

Chas's grandparents, Horace Penfield and Katherine Chandler Penfield, met Chas's train in Kalamazoo and he embarked on a summer of fun at Grandma and Grandpa's.  Or maybe Grandma and Grandpa needed some help around the house and Chas was it.  Or maybe it was a combination of both.

If you have sharp eyes, you will have noticed Katherine's maiden name was Chandler.  According to census records, Grandma Katherine's brother Guy Chandler, who was 51 and a confirmed bachelor, was living with his sister and his brother-in-law Horace.  This meant Guy was Chas's great-uncle.

One Thursday, Chas and Guy went down to the Kalamazoo river for some swimming.  Perhaps Chas wanted to go but Grandma and Grandpa said he couldn't go by himself and they were too busy to take him, and Great-Uncle Guy offered.  Or perhaps Great-Uncle Guy thought some swimming might make for some fine uncle-nephew bonding time.  Or perhaps the two of them had been doing some hard work and decided a bit of swimming was the perfect way to cool off.  (The awful part of my brain creates other, more sinister, motives for Uncle Guy wanting to spend some alone time in a bathing suit or skinny dipping with his pre-pubescent nephew, but Occam's Razor tells me to keep it simple.)  They went down to the river together--

--and never came back.

Here we have supposition again.  We know the river was running a little high.  Most likely Chas got caught in a bad current and Guy jumped in to save him, only to be caught himself.  Or perhaps it was the other way around.  (Or, the sinister part of my brain says, Chas was fighting his uncle off in the river, lost his footing, and both of them were swept away.)  We don't know.  There were no witnesses.

Horace and Katherine must have eventually noticed that Guy and Chas had been gone for an awfully long time.  Worried, they no doubt ran down to the river to check on them and found their things on the riverbank.  Now terrified, Horace searched the river while Katherine ran back to town to shout for help.  The town mobilized, searching riverbank and water, shouting their names, rowing in boats, perhaps even floating bread with dabs of mercury on it in a desperate folkloric attempt to find something, anything.

Telegraph lines had already appeared in Michigan by 1859.  Horace and Katherine must have discussed whether or not they should send to Chas's parents, living in blissful ignorance down in Dowagiac.  Did they do it, or did they wait until they had confirmation?

We do know that young Chas's body washed ashore on Friday.  Great-Uncle Guy's body showed up on Saturday.

We can only imagine what it must have been like for Chas's parents to get the news, either by telegram ("Come to Kalamazoo. Stop. Chas drowned. Stop. Funeral tomorrow. Stop.") or in person.  The self-recrimination ("If we hadn't let him go to Kalamazoo, he'd still be alive!") and blame ("How could you let him go swimming in the river?") and gut-punch sorrow.

The funeral was attended by over 100 children, Chas's classmates who came in from Dowagiac.  Chas and his uncle Guy were buried side-by-side, not in the Chandler family plot, but in a plot of their own.  Perhaps it was that the Denisons didn't live in Kalamazoo, so they didn't have a family plot in the cemetery, and they were angry at Katherine and Horace (who were eventually buried elsewhere in the cemetery), so they didn't want Chas buried near them.  Or perhaps there was no room in the Chandler family plot for Chas, and the family didn't want Chas to be buried alone, so they buried his protector Uncle Guy next to him.  Or perhaps it was something else entirely.

Every grave has a story.
stevenpiziks: (Outdoors)
At the Mount Hope Cemetery, Darwin and I encountered some weirdo oddities.  For example, this marker puzzled us mightily:

I forget what famly plot they were buried in, so I don't have a last name.  Neither of these women were married.  (A married woman would be buried with her husband and have her husband's last name.)  Their deaths were separated by 20 years.  Their births were separated by 11 years.  What was their relationship?  If they were sisters, why did they have such similar names?  They were alive at the same time, and it doesn't seem likely someone would name one daughter Mary and eleven years later, name a second daughter Maria.  (Perhaps Maria was adopted?)  Why do they share a marker?  Mary died in 1847.  Did she not have a marker until Maria's death 20 years later in 1867?  Or was Mary's marker damaged and someone decided to combine their markers?

We couldn't think of a scenario that made sense,  No doubt it's something simple--Occam's Razor--but nothing simple comes to mind!
stevenpiziks: (Ireland)
The B&B in Kalamazoo was directly across the street from Mount Hope Cemetery.  Darwin and I love graveyards, so we decided to wander over and poke around.  Aran and Maksim weren't interested, so they stayed at the inn.

Darwin and I thought we'd wander through the cemetery just a bit and then check out the old houses in the neighborhood.  We should have known better.  See, Darwin and I both get lost in figuring out everything we can from a set of gravestones.  I like to figure out the stories of the people, and Darwin wants the history.  This all takes =time.=

For example, the family plot on the outer corner of the graveyard where we entered was for the Orcutt family. It consisted of a series of graves sprayed around an impressive central spire.  According to the inscription on the spire, the stone was erected by the citizens of Kalamazoo in the name of Benjamin F. Orcutt because they thought he was a fanastic and lovely person.  (I'm paraphrasing slightly.)  Ben Orcutt's grave was a few feet away, and the actual stone said he served in the Mexican-American War and the Civil War, but he didn't die in the latter.  He died two years AFTER the Civil War ended.  His wife was buried next to him, and she died many, many years after he did.  Two more graves, clearly those of his sons, also sat nearby.  They had died as old men, but they had been very small when their father died, and neither of them was buried with a wife or children nearby.  What the heck had happened here?

On a whim, I looked up "Benjamin Orcutt Kalamazoo" on my phone on the off chance there would be something about him on a history site, and voila!  I got this:  The short version is that Ben returned from the Civil War and was elected sheriff of Kalamazoo.  His house was next door the jail, and one night a disturbance woke him. He ran over to the jail and found a bunch of guys trying to break into the jail to free someone.  When Ben tried to stop them, one of the guys shot him several times in the chest.  Ben managed to drag himself home to his shocked wife and frightened children, and it took him nine days to die.

The miscreants fled, and they were never caught.  The inmates at the jail were questioned extensively, but none of them confessed to knowing who tried to break in.  The case was never solved.

This is my and Darwin's supposition: The citizens of Kalamazoo were outraged and upset.  Here was a two-time war hero who returned home to serve his town, only to be murdered in cold blood while his wife and small children looked on.  His two older sons were either told they had to take care of Mother, or they decided this on their own, and they never married as a result.  His third son, who was only a baby at the time, moved away when he grew up and wasn't buried in Kalamazoo.  The spire tells me that someone also took care that the Widow Orcutt had enough money to get buy.  Certainly someone was able to buy her and her unmarried sons grave markers.

See what I mean about the stories?


I did some digging.  My and Darwin's supposition was largely correct.  The citizens of Kalamazoo were upset and outraged and saddened at Ben Orcutt's death.  The funeral was huge.  The courthouse was draped in black bunting, and the county paid for the funeral spire. There was also an attempt to use tax money to give his wife Emily an annuity, but I can't tell if it passed or not. One account says it failed, but a law book from the time period marks the necessary legislation as passed, so I can't quite tell.  There's a detailed story here, including the very thrilling story of Ben Orcutt's attempt to catch the jailbreakers and how he died:


stevenpiziks: (Default)

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