The Farmer Takes a Wife, Children, and to the Fields in Monroe and Monroe County

Farm family, Wikimedia Commons

Farmers have imprinted their fingers, hoes, and plows on Monroe and Monroe County soil since the glaciers that covered North America gouged out the Great Lakes and the warming climate melted enough water to fill them and toss waves to shape shorelines and inland contours. Archaeologists and historians estimate that bands of Paleo-Indians numbering about 20-40 people likely crisscrossed Monroe hunting caribou and gathering plants, although they couldn’t definitively identify individual tribes until after French explorer Rene Robert Cavalier Sieur de LaSalle explored the area for New France in 1679. Sailing east to west on the Griffon, the first sailing ship on the Great Lakes, LaSalle’s explorations identified the lands that today include most of Eastern Canada, Michigan, and territory extending south to Louisiana. His reports of abundant game and souls to be saved encouraged French missionaries and fur trappers to venture into the newly discovered lands.

Native American Farmers

Wyandot Village – Fran Maedel

Taking advantage of the plentiful food and easy water transportation along the shores of Lake Erie and the banks of the River Raisin, Paleo-Indians probably used the area as a crossroads, camp site, or village centuries before LaSalle and other Europeans discovered the Great Lakes. The City of Monroe unearthed more recent proof of Native American imprints between 1999 and 2003, when it commissioned several excavations at the northwest corner of North Dixie Highway and East Elm Avenue. Archaeologists discovered artifacts that reveal that Native Americans were there between 1550-1650.

In the Eighteenth Century, Pottawatomi, Wyandot, Ottawa, and other Native American tribes survived in villages along rivers including the Detroit River and the River Raisin. The women farmed, growing corn, beans, squash, tobacco, and sunflowers for seeds and the men hunted wild game such as rabbit, deer, and wild turkeys as well as catching the abundant fish in the rivers and lakes. A Memoir on the Indians between Lake Erie and the Mississippi. Memoir on the Indians of Canada as far as the River Mississippi, with remarks on their manners and trade. 1718 described Wyandot Indian farming practices along the Detroit River and Lake Erie.

“The Hurons are also near; perhaps the eighth of a league from the French fort. This is the most industrious nation that can be seen. They scarcely ever dance, and are always at work; raise a very large amount of Indian corn, peas, beans; some grow wheat. They construct their huts entirely of bark, very strong and solid; very lofty and very long, and arched like arbors. Their fort is strongly encircled with pickets and bastions, well redoubled, and has strong gates. They are the most faithful Nation to the French, and the most expert hunters that we have. Their cabins are divided into sleeping compartments, which contain their Misirague, and are very clean.

They are the bravest of all the Nations, and possess considerable talent. They are well clad; some of them wear close overcoats (jusle au corps de capot)- The men are always hunting, summer and winter, and the women work. The soil is very fertile; Indian corn grows there to the height of ten @twelve feet; their fields are very clean, and very extensive; not the smallest weed is to be seen in them.” [1]

French Ribbon Farms

The first French settlers establishing claims along the River Raisin were direct descendants of the old French pioneers of Detroit and their French Ribbon farms and in turn, most of the old French pioneers of Detroit had left France for Canada, bringing their French traditions and customs with them. The British outlawed private grants between French settlers and Native Americans with almost no exceptions. Between 1763 and 1801, hundreds of young French habitants left Detroit and settled on the River Raisin with the goal of establishing new farms and families, negotiating with Native Americans-mainly the Potawatomi, Wyandot, Ottawa, and Chippewa tribes of the Western Lake Erie area – for deeds to tracts of land.

Dividing riverfront and lakeshore land into narrow ribbon farms provided important advantages to the farmer. Each farmer had water access and water was the main transportation. The layout placed each farmhouse at a minimum distance from one another, ensuring easy communication of news, and Indian alarms. Quick access to neighbors made dances, sledding parties, and other social gatherings easy to arrange and attend.


Monroe County Historical Society Map

Because water transportation was essential in these early times of dirt trails and dense forests, every farmer wanted to own land rights on a river or lake and under the French-Canadian system, the plots, called ribbon farms, were long and narrow.

Most of the French ribbon farms measured from one to five arpents (an arpent was 192 ½ feet) wide and extended inland from the river for one and one half to three miles. A dirt road with a ditch alongside ran between each settler’s house and a road usually stretched between the farmhouse and the shore. The ribbon farms extended into the dense forests surrounding Frenchtown, but farmers didn’t cultivate the rear parts of their lots.

French ribbon farmers grew Indian corn, wheat, and oats and farmers and their wives tended vegetable gardens, raised livestock and tended grapes for wine. Orchards with pear, apple, and cherry trees either in front of or behind the farmhouse decorated the old French farms.

 French Pear Trees

John McClelland Bulkley

In his History of Monroe County, John McClelland Bulkley traced some legend and fact surrounding the graceful old French pear trees. He recorded one of the legends handed down about the old pear trees, noting that the Jesuit fathers who were the first arrivals in the Monroe County region of New France, planted orchards of apples and pears along the rich and fruitful lands. Along the River Raisin they planted the trees in groups of twelve, symbolizing the twelve apostles of Jesus. As they planted the pear trees, the Jesuits set one tree out of each dozen apart from the others so that the betrayer, Judas, might be forever separated from the faithful. Bulkley wonders if succeeding generations of French farmers planted their orchard pear trees in the same formation to preserve and pass down the Jesuit message. As the years went by, time and circumstances thinned the rows of apostle trees, and at times, the Judas tree grew closely enough to join the others.

When the people of Monroe first saw the pear trees on the farm of Robert Navarre, there were ten of them standing in a stalwart row. Eventually storms of weather and life thinned their ranks to five. Time again intervened and the farm of Robert Navarre merged into the growing city of Monroe. Now one dignified tree stood on a city lot in the third ward between the tracks of the Michigan Central Railway and the Detroit and Toledo Shore Line – Grand Trunk- Railroad. Historian Bulkley credited George W. Bruckner, an old resident, with providing him with the illustration of the French pear trees growing in 1796.[2]

French Ribbon Farmers

A majority of the Frenchtown settlers were farmers and many others were fur traders, dealing with Native Americans in Ohio and Indiana. Traders themselves lived in the Indian villages over the winter and in the early spring exchanged goods for furs and skins that were eventually shipped to Detroit and Montreal. Others supported traders and Indians with blacksmithing and silverwork and others worked transporting trade goods, and furs and skins by boat and pack horse.

In 1802, a Frenchtown tax list numbered 152 heads-of-family owning property in the River Raisin region, with a population estimated at about 628 people with a majority having French names. About nine percent of families were Scots-Irish, Welsh, German, or British or other non-French nationalities.

French ribbon farmers lived on their ribbon farms and cultivated the soil. A few of them could be called large farmers, but usually they cultivated less ground than their American counterparts and were less interested in accumulating wealth. In his History of Monroe County, Michigan, Talcott Wing writes that until around 1830, the French farmers had no markets to sell their surplus crops, so for many years they grew only enough to feed their families. They didn’t see the wisdom of owning land or farming to be wealthy. Most were devout Catholics, close to their church, and kind people, good neighbors and faithful friends. Few of them had book education, but there were many intelligent, strong thinkers among them. They were men of sound judgment who lived up to their reputations for integrity and upright living.[3]

Settling a distance from the British in Detroit enabled the French habitants to preserve their culture, religion, and traditions despite British control. British soldiers and civilians didn’t settle in places without British forts, and as long as the French habitants kept the Native Americans, content they could survive culturally intact.

Several French ribbon farmers led the way in the founding of Monroe and Monroe County. Jean Baptiste Romain dit Sanscrainte was the first to secure land in the River Raisin area. In 1780, Joseph Porlier Benalque or Benac established a claim. In 1784, Francois-Marie Navarre dit Heutreau and his brother Robert Navarre dit Tonton secured land and in 1785, Francois-Marie Navarre dit Tchigoy, commonly considered Monroe’s founding father, secured a claim.

Jean Baptiste Romain dit Sanscrainte

During the Eighteenth Century and Nineteenth Centuries, French settlers carved out about 442 new farms along the rivers, streams, and shore of Lake Erie from Lake St. Clair, north of Detroit, south to Otter Creek, ten miles south of the River Raisin. In 1779, Jean Baptiste Romain dit Sanscrainte led the way in securing land in the River Raisin area. According to his descendant Michael E. Van Wasshnova , a member of the Monroe County Historical Society, John Baptiste Romain dit Sanscrainte III (dit means also known as in English) accompanied his father to New France on a trip seeking favorable places to establish missions. His father, Jean Baptiste II, had Jesuit connections and helped found mission at Black Rock, Fort Meigs, Maumee, Huron – now Windsor- and St. Lawrence which is present day Toledo. As a young man on an adventurous trip, John Baptiste met many Native Americans from different tribes and built the foundation to be an Indian interpreter and trader, learning and appreciating the customs of different tribes.

On October 13, 1778, John Baptiste married Margaret Solo-Soleau and in 1779 he negotiated an agreement with several Detroit River region tribes to purchase thousands of acres of land along the River Raisin, now part of the City of Monroe.

John Baptiste II participated in important historical events that shaped the Detroit River region and America as well. He and at least four other French-Canadians from the Detroit and River Raisin region fought for the British and their Indian allies in the Battle of Fallen Timbers in August 1794. General Anthony Wayne’s Northwestern Army defeated the British and their allies, and their victory ended the Indian desire to fight for the British because they felt the British had not helped them at all.

In an ironic about face, after the Battle, General Wayne recruited Jean Baptiste and several other French Canadians to gather chief from several tribes to sign the Treaty of Greenville. By signing the Treaty of Greenville, the leaders of Native American tribes including Wyandot Chiefs Tarhe, Leatherlips, and Roundhead and chiefs from the Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, Miami, Wea, Kickapoo, and Kaskaskia  bands ceded lands that make up most of modern Ohio, the future site of Downtown Chicago, and the Fort Detroit, Maumee Ohio and Lower Sandusky Ohio areas. The Native Americans exchanged these lands for goods such as blankets, utensils and livestock at an accumulated value of about $20,000

According to Michael E. Van Wasshnova, other records indicate that Jean Baptiste and his family were involved in the Battle of the River Raisin, with some sources saying that he fought on the British side and others that he fought with the Americans. At least three of his four sons fought with the Kentuckians and lost property.

In 1838, Jean Baptiste II died at age 84 while he was out hunting for horses and he was buried at Detroit on March 19, 1793.[4]

Joseph Porlier Benalque or Benac.

In 1780, Joseph Porlier Benalque or Benac established a claim by the River Raisin. He was born on February 9, 1730 in Montreal, Quebec Canada, the son of Claude Porlier Benalque and Angelique  Cuillerier Beaubein Benalque.  Joseph married Louise Michelle Gamelin. He was buried on November 21, 1810 in St. Antoine Cemetery in Monroe County.

Francois Marie Navarre dit Tchigoy or Francois “Franci” Navarre

Talcott Wing

In 1784, Francois-Marie Navarre dit Heutreau and his brother Robert Navarre dit Tonton secured land and in 1785, Francois-Marie Navarre dit Tchigoy, who is considered Monroe’s founding father, secured a claim.[5]

Born on October 12, 1763 in Assumption Parish in Sandwich, Ontario, Francois “Francis” Navarre was the son of Robert and Marie Louis Marsac Navarre. On November 9, 1790, he married Mary Suzor, daughter of Louis Francis Suzor and Mary Joseph LeBeau in Detroit. They had fourteen children.

Francois bought land on the River Raisin, arriving about 1780 and founding the Frenchtown settlement. Historians credit him with being the first permanent white settler on the River Raisin, and he is often called “the Father of Monroe. Nearly 100 settlers soon followed him there, building log cabins and living peacefully with the Indians for many years. He established a civil government and a court system in Frenchtown.

As another war with Great Britain loomed, the Army appointed Francois a captain and then a colonel of the militia of the River Raisin. The British captured him twice and he escaped twice in the War of 1812. When he returned to Frenchtown after the end of his service, he discovered that the settlement had been decimated during the War and he worked to help rebuild it.

Francois Navarre is buried in the Old Burial Ground in Monroe.


Settlers of all nationalities continued to buy land in Frenchtown and gradually the French population and their French Ribbon farms were replaced by new farmers and farming methods.

Monroe Lands and Farms B.T. – Before Tractors

In the early 1800s, Joseph Loranger bought several acres of land in what later would become Monroe. He bought his farm, located on the east side of Monroe Street, from Judge Augustus B. Woodward, who in turn  had bought it to fulfill a Michigan Territory requirement requiring a judge to own at least 500 acres of land. He called the farm Euphemia, until he platted his land into village lots in 1817 and the new land owners named their village Monroe.Samuel Mulhollen and Jared Egnew purchased the adjoining farm on the west of Joseph Loranger’s for six dollars an acre and Samuel built a log house on his land

Land and farm ownership in Monroe and Monroe County sometimes could be as tangled as the roots of a century old oak tree in a farm yard. On March 3, 1807, the United States Congress passed an act that restricted the rights to grants of lands occupied and partially improved before July 1, 1796. The settlements extended along both sides of the River Raisin almost continuously for eight or nine miles, and a few isolated tracts went further up and along both sides of otter Creek from near Lake Erie to  four miles into the interior and along Stony Creek. These early settlers had settled very near each other along the River Raisin and the Creek, and cleared only a small portion of the land in front along the stream. The Act of Congress restricted each claimant to the lands in front of those he improved and allowed him any amount up to 160 acres, requiring him to pay the government surveyor for surveying his tract.

The results of this Congressional Act shaped future land transactions. The first consequence of the Act was that each landowner would have to take a narrow tract to get any substantial amount of land, making up the amount by extending a larger or smaller distance back from the river of stream. This made each tract a narrow, ribbon like piece of land fronting on the stream. The second consequence was the fact that the claimant had to pay the government surveyor for surveying his claim. This reality meant that since most of the settlers saw no reason to extend their tracts further back from the front than would be convenient to work as a farm and include enough woodland in the rear for firewood and timber, most of them refused to pay the extra cost of surveying out the large tract of 160 acres that each claimant was entitled to possess. In most cases, the acreage would have been extended from three to five miles to make up the quantity, and not more than one in ten of them of people making claims would agree to make their tracts longer than about two miles.  Many of the tracts of land were only one mile. Occasionally, a person making a claim would extend his claim four or more miles deep to include nearly 160 of the acres that the law allowed, but this usually happened in one out of twenty claims. [6]

Talcott Wing notes in the History of Monroe County that generally people who claimed land next to each other would make claims of the same depth of about two miles so that the rear of their claims would be a straight line. At times another claimant would refuse to expand his claim more than a mile which made the rear of the claims jagged and unequal. Years later when the United States Government surveyed the public lands, they found a large number of claims extending the same distance back and bounded by a straight line, but the Government didn’t notice that some of the claims extended back about half the distance and the land in the rear of the short claims had mistakenly been left unsurveyed and counted as part of the claim in front. The original people making claims knew that the rear lands were not included in their grants, but their descendants did not always realize the lands were not included. Many of them believed that the rear lands were a part of the front claims that they had inherited, and acting on good faith beliefs, they sold, mortgaged, and leased the rear lands as part of the front grants.

There were several thousand acres of these lands, and some of them were the best lands in the county. Between 1850-1854, honorable Charles Noble was surveyor-general in Michigan and he spearheaded a complete survey of these lands, returning the survey to the general land office in Washington.

The disposition of these lands continued to be confusing and controversial until the Michigan Supreme Court decided the case of Walcott Lawrence and Christopher Bruckner. Walcott Lawrence who later became a judge, bought some land in Raisinville, about nine miles above Monroe on the north side of the River Raisin. The majority of the land turned out to be within the bounds of a prior patent, or claim, which Christopher Bruckner had purchased. After long litigation, in 1847 the Michigan State Supreme Court decided in Bruckner vs. Lawrence, 1 Doug. 19, that “no grant or conveyance of lands, or interest therein, shall be void for the reason that at the time of the execution thereof such lands shall be in the actual possession of another claiming adversely.”[7]

All similar cases were settled or decided on the basis of this decision.

Farm Living – Will Carleton and Reminiscences

In Colonial America, 90 percent of people earned their living from agriculture, most farms were focused on providing subsistence living for their owners, and most towns were created by and served as shipping points for agricultural commodities. The expanding frontier and population opened up vast amounts of new farms and after 1840, industrialization and urbanization opened up profitable domestic markets to match the lucrative domestic and foreign markets for Southern cotton. In 1850, the number of farms in the United States were estimated at 1.4 million. By 1880, the number had grown to 4.0 million, and by 1910, 6.4 million. After 1910, the number of American farms began to decline, dropping to 5.6 million in 1950 and 2.2 million in 2008.[8]

In his poem called Out O’ The Fire, Carleton, Michigan poet and author of Farm Ballads and other farm reminiscences, Will Carleton, described some of the realities and continuity of farm life for Nineteenth Century Michigan farmers in Monroe County and across America.

Up from the East we had traveled, with all of our household wares, Where we had long been workin’ a piece of land on shares; But how a fellow’s to prosper without the rise of the land, For just two-thirds of nothin’, I never could understand.

Up from the East we had traveled, me and my folks alone, And quick we went to workin’ a piece of land of our own ; Small was our backwoods quarters, and things looked mighty cheap; But everything we put in there, we put in there to keep. So, with workin’ and savin’, we managed to get along; Managed to make a livin’, and feel consid’able strong

The poem narrates how a fire destroys the hard work of years, but ends by expressing the joy and relief that her parents feel when they discover that their beloved daughter Katherine has escaped the burning of their homestead by eloping with her boyfriend. Although her father had previously disapproved of Tom, Katherine’s choice of husband, the fire and her survival leaves the family still making “a livin” and feeling “consid’able strong.” The narrator of the poem is telling the story to Katherine and Tom’s child, his grandchild.[9]

Making a “livin’” often was a harsh and unrelenting reality for Monroe and Monroe County farmers and they had to be “consid’able strong.”  In the Nineteenth Century, the possibility of giant agricultural business farms gleamed like distant mountains, and farmers of that era worked to make their farms self-supporting and self-sufficient. At the dawn of the Twentieth Century, almost half of America’s population lived on farms, but by the year 2,000 the figure had dropped to one percent of the population living on farms. Farming was treadmill work, with few machines to lighten the weight of chores and no electricity to scatter the darkness. Most farms were family farms, supporting the family and sometimes providing extra income from the sale of surplus crops.

Farm chores didn’t begin at dawn and they didn’t end after sunset-they were an around the clock reality for the farmer and his family. An unspoken and occasionally spoken gender line divided farm work. Men and boys performed most of the outdoor chores, farming the fields and caring for the livestock. They built the house and barns, constructed and maintained fences, and took care of other maintenance chores. Women worked both indoors and outdoors. They managed dairy and poultry operations, made soap and candles, and produced cloth from cotton and wool for the clothes that the family wore. Outside of the farmhouse, farm wives and daughters usually planted, tended, and harvested the kitchen garden, helped care for livestock, and assisted their husbands with chores.

Almost as soon as children learned to walk, they had chores to do around the farm. Young boys joined their fathers working in the fields and girls worked alongside their mothers doing household chores learning the skills they would use in their own homes. Farmers and their wives often produced large families because children were considered assets that increased the cost efficiency of their farms. Farmers set up their adult children on adjoining farms, allowing them to combine their farming efforts and assure built in caregivers in their old age.

Monroe and Monroe County Farmers Created Life Stories and Crops

Monroe, Monroe County, and farmers across America led lives of rugged individualism, weather watching, practicality, and dreams of money making crops and sunlit futures for their children. Some farmers worked themselves into prosperous farms while others hoe scraped or subsisted.

James F. Cronenwett, farmer, was born on August 29, 1923, in Ash Township. On September 9, 1945, he married Linda Smith at the Carleton Evangelical Church and they had five children. In 191, James and Linda founded the Carleton Farm Supply Implement Company and incorporated their business with their son Keith in 1976. James died on January 31, 2015 and he is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

George Willis Fox. Born November 20, 1920, in Whiteford, Michigan, to Clifford and Gertrude Fox,  George Willis Fox served with the United States Army from 1942-1945. In 1946, he married LaVerne Kinsey. George was a Farm Drainage Contractor for his entire career, retiring in 1985. He served on the Fair Board for years. He is buried in Bedford Memorial Cemetery, Temperance.

Charles Kramer. Charles Kramer was born on April 19, 1846, in Germany, the son of Johann Georg Kramer and Agnes Fischer. He immigrated to America in 1854 and he met and married Matilda Rothdow in Ohio about 1870. They had six children together. The Kramers were farmers and they owned a general farm in Ash Township in Monroe. Charles and Matilda is buried in St. Patrick Cemetery #2, Carleton.

William Leibold, Sr. William Leibold was born in Romerz, Germany in 1861, and immigrated to the United States in October 1880, traveling directly to Michigan. A family story goes that William reached Maybe from Germany, he didn’t speak English. As he stopped off the train in front of a hotel, a crowd was raising a pole for presidential candidate James Garfield. The crowd cheered and William believed that people were cheering to welcome him to Maybee!

On January 22, 1884 William married his former schoolmate Amanda Maul at St. Michael’s Catholic Church in Monroe and they had ten children. They moved to a farm that their sons John and Anthony  Leibold later owned.  Anthony was a lifelong farmer.

William Leibold helped to build St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and he was a church member as well as serving as the caretaker of St. Joseph’s cemetery. He prided himself on remembering everyone buried in the cemetery, knowing when they died and where they were buried. William died on May 7, 1946 at age 84 and he  is buried in St. Joseph’s Cemetery, Maybee.

Edwin J. Miller, born in Exeter Township on July 11, 1906, worked as a self-employed farmer in Exeter Township for most of his life. In 1937, he married Viola Masson. He was a member of Monroe County Farm Bureau and a volunteer fireman and he retired in 1972. He died on January 10, 1995, and he is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Maybee.

Diantha Jones Smith. Diantha Jones was one of ten children born to Nathaniel and Diantha Jones on February 4, 1832 in Victory, New York. On January 24, 1852, she married Henry Smith in Victory, New York and they had nine children. They moved to a farm in Monroe County which today is designated as a Centennial Farm, a distinction meaning that the farm has been owned and operated by the same family for 100 years. Henry served in the Civil War, Company H, 18th Regiment, Michigan Infantry. He enrolled in September 1864 when he was 34, and he was discharged honorably in Nashville, Tennessee on June 26, 1865 for disability because of a loss of hearing. Diantha and Henry are buried in Azalia Cemetery, Azalia

Gilbert C. Steinman was born on the Steinman Centennial farm in Maybee on March 23, 1933. He attended St. Joseph Grade School and in 1951 he graduated from Dundee High School. He attended Michigan State College and became an Air Force Reserve member. After he was drafted into the United States Army, and was stationed in El Paso, Texas. He still owned the Steinman Centennial farm in Maybee when he died suddenly at age 80 on January 23, 2014. A lifelong member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Maybee, he is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Maybee.

 Jerome J. “Uncle Jerome” Verhille. The Monroe Evening News highlighted the life of Jerome J. Verhille on December 13, 2010. He was born in LaSalle, Michigan on May 21, 1920, to Maurice and Bertha Verhille. He obtained his education from St. Mary’s Catholic School Hall of the Divine Child in Monroe, and he graduated from Monroe High School in 1938. As a youth, Jerome worked with his father and he was a self-employed farmer and dairy farmer most of his life and farmed the same farm on Geierman Road that his father and brother farmed for approximately 45 years. He retired in 1985. After his retirement, he loved to garden and he shared his produce with family and friends. Many of his friends and family called him “Uncle Jerome”.

Uncle Jerome died at age 90, on December 11, 2010. He was a member of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Maybee and he is buried in St. Joseph Catholic Cemetery, Maybee.

Monroe Farmer’s Wives Worked  Out Lives and Life Stories

Farmer’s wives were as diverse as the weather on their farms.  Some of them thrived on the work and responsibility and necessary partnership with their husbands. Others led subdued and barren existences with no hope of escape from the societal and financial constrictions of their times and lives.

Mary Ann Chapman Burnap

Photo Credit Darrell Brown

The Monroe Record -Commercial reported on October 12, 1911, that Mrs. Mary Ann Burnap , 87, had died in the Carleton home of her son, Dr. Potter. She was born in Vermont, but came to Monroe County with her parents while wolves still howled around the settler’s log houses and it took two weeks to travel by ox teams.

In his memoir of his childhood, Mary Ann’s son Elmer recalled their life on their Monroe homestead farm, recording that they lived on a farm in Ash Township, Section Twenty Five, Monroe County State of Michigan. The farm was located a little over a mile up the stream of Swan Creek from the village of Newport. The creek ran through Royal Potter’s farm and the south bank of the creek lay immediately by the house. They lived four miles from Lake Erie, making for good fishing. Elmer noted that his father Royal L. Potter and his mother Mary Ann, lived “happily and contented, enjoying each other’s companionship” without any dissention but ruled by love and affection. He said his mother was an “earnest, every day practical Christian woman.”

Royal Potter fought in Company F of the 24th Michigan Infantry in the Civil War, was captured and died in Libby Prison in Richmond, Virginia. Mary Ann was left alone with Elmer, and half and adopted sisters to support. Royal left his son Elmer land that had been his father’s and left the rest to Mary Ann which tax records show that Mary Ann managed well.

Mary Ann’s granddaughter Eva Potter Woodward who lived with her from 1907-1911 wrote several poems about her, including this one:

Keen Sight

by Eva Woodward

My Grandma wore her spectacles

And she could always see

When someone had a problem

Or were sad as they could be.

I asked her how she always saw

As she could always do

Those things to help somebody then

To lift their burdens too.

And she replied with a small smile

That it was a way she had

To see thro all her busy life

Which things are good or bad.

And so I’d like some spectacles

So I’ll have a better view

When I can help some other folk

To choose the right way too.[10]

Mary Ann outlived four husbands:  Jeremiah Decker Peters, Royal Laroy Potter, Job Burnap and Richard Gilmore and  she left several children, grandchildren and great grandchildren as well as a legacy of successful farming and surviving the hardships of country life. She is buried in Potter Cemetery, Monroe County.

Lynn and Dorothy Kathryn Myers Albring

Dorothy Kathryn Myers was born on May 25, 1932, in Temperance, Michigan and lived there all of her life. She went to Bedford High School where she met her husband Lynn Albring, graduating in 1951. She and Lynn were married on June 28, 1952 and they owned and operated Albring Farms and Greenhouses in Temperance for 58 years.  She and Lynn are buried in Bedford Memorial Cemetery in Temperance.

 “I am not a practical woman”

An anonymous farm wife wrote a memoir at the turn of the Twentieth Century, graphically describing the life of a farm woman. [11] She begins her story by noting that “everybody knows that the farmer’s wife must of a necessity be a very practical woman, if she would be a successful one. I am not a practical woman and consequently have been accounted a failure by practical friends and especially by my husband, who is wholly practical. This is her account of how she spent a spring day in May:

May Day!

Any bright morning in the latter part of May I am out of bed at four o’clock; next, after I have dressed and combed my hair, I start a fire in the kitchen stove, and while the stove is getting hot I go to my flower garden and gather a choice, half-blown rose and a spray of bride’s wreath, and arrange them in my hair, and sweep the floors and then cook breakfast.While the other members of the family are eating breakfast I strain away the morning’s milk (for my husband milks the cows while I get breakfast), and fill my husband’s dinner pail, for he will go to work on our other farm for the day.

By this time it is half-past five o’clock, my husband is gone to his work, and the stock loudly pleading to be turned into the pastures. The younger cattle, a half-dozen steers, are left in the pasture at night, and I now drive the two cows, a half-quarter mile and turn them in with the others, come back, and then there’s a horse in the barn that be­longs in a field where there is no water, which I take to a spring quite a distance from the barn; bring it back and turn it into a field with the sheep, a dozen in number, which are housed at night. The young calves are then turned out into the warm sunshine, and the stock hogs, which are kept in a pen, are clamoring for feed, and I carry a pailful of swill to them, and hasten to the house and turn out the chickens and put out feed and water for them, and it is, perhaps, 6.30 A..M.

I have not eaten breakfast yet, but that can wait; I make the beds next and straighten things up in the living room, for I dislike to have the early morning caller find my house topsy-turvy. When this is done I go to the kitchen, which also serves as a dining-room, and uncover the table, and take a mouthful of food occasionally as I pass to and fro at my work until my appetite is appeased.

By the time the work is done in the kitchen it is about 7.15 A. M., and the cool morning hours have flown, and no hoeing done in the garden yet, and the children’s toilet has to be attended to and churning has to be done.

Finally the children are washed and churning done, and it is eight o’clock, and the sun getting hot, but no matter, weeds die quickly when cut down in the heat of the day, and I use the hoe to a good advantage until the din­ner hour, which is 11.30 A. M. We come in, and I comb my hair, and put fresh flowers in it, and eat a cold dinner, put out feed and water for the chickens; set a hen, perhaps, sweep the floors again; sit down and rest, and read a few moments, and it is nearly one 0′ clock, and I sweep the door yard while I am waiting for the clock to strike the hour.

Harvesting wheat, I make and sow a flower bed, dig around some shrubbery, and go back to the garden to hoe until time to do the chores at night, but ere long some hogs come up to the back gate, through the wheat field, and when I go to see what is wrong I find that the cows have torn the fence down, and they, too, are in the wheat field.

With much difficulty I get them back into their own domain and repair the fence. I hoe in the garden till four o’clock; then I go into the house and get supper, and prepare some­thing for the dinner pail to-morrow; when supper is all ready it is set aside, and I pull a few hundred plants of tomato, sweet potato or cabbage for transplanting, set them in a cool, moist place where they will not wilt, and I then go after the horse, water him, and put him in the barn; call the sheep and house them, and go after the cows and milk them, feed the hogs, put down hay for three horses, and put oats and corn in their troughs, and set those plants and come in and fasten up the chickens, and it is dark.

By this time it is 8 o’clock P. M.; my husband has come home, and we are eating supper; when we are through eating I make the beds ready, and the children and their father go to bed, and I wash the dishes and get things in shape to get breakfast quickly next morning.It is now about 9 o’clock P. M., and after a short prayer I retire for the night.”[12]

Farm Children of Farmers and their Wives

Farm children had serious life decisions to make as America changed in the late Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Centuries from a mostly rural, agricultural country into an urbanized industrial nation. In 1790, only about one out of every twenty Americans lived in cities, but by 1870 one out of four lived in cities.  By 1920, one out of every two Americans lived in cities and by the 1960s, two  out of every three Americans lived in cities and in the 2000s, four out of every five Americans lived in cities. Many farm children succumbed to the economic and quality of life lure of the cities. Others attempted to combine farm and city life, while others remained on the farm for their livelihoods.

Mary Ann Chapman Burnap’s son Dr. Elmer Jeremy Potter wrote an extensive memoir describing the shifts in the weather and circumstantial winds of farm life. [13]

In the month of March [1899] our house hold goods, a span of fine horses, a lumber wagon, a surrey and five harnesses were loaded in cars, and we left Holgate for our new home on the farm near Newport Mich., my family having gone a few days earlier, making visits among old acquaintances. Then began our new work, starting with nothing, it required quite an outlay for farm stock and machinery. For five years we were farmers in every sense of the term. In the spring of 1904 we left the farm and moved to Carleton, a new and comfortable house was built, which we occupied in July. In Sept. 1904 I again opened a jewelry store.

In the spring of 1905 I took up the study of optics in the South Bend, Ind. College of Optics, passing the required examination, received my diploma as Dr. of Optics. This trade brought a fairly good profit and well compensated for time and money spent on the same. A great many improvements, inventions, and enterprises have been made and erected during my time of recollection. The old horse cars have been relegated to the oblivion of almost forgetfulness to be superseded by the rapid moving electric car. The telephone that is in many country homes is another great convenience.

The automobile, a wonder of the age has taken the place of thousands of horses and carriages both in city and rural districts, and here I would add, my first ride on one was beside of our congressman, Chas. E. Townsend on the 26th day of October 1908. The Flying machine, and wireless telegraphy are almost incredible achievement. The making of the finest of sugar from beets another great enterprise, which furnished labor to thousands. The machinery and appliances in these institutions is a marvelous sight.

I go back in memory to the days of my boyhood home and look over the country where cow paths were, and there are now fine graded and graveled public highways. Fine farm residences have taken the place of the log cabins. The wolves, lynx, fox and deer have left the country. Wild turkey and the chattering squirrel as other wild game is almost unknown by the boys of 1908. Even the farmer has his daily paper, that forty years ago was so expensive that very few if any were bought, and with this it is delivered to his door daily by the rural mail carriers paid by the government.

Dr. Elmer Jeremy Potter,  1851-1911, is buried in Carleton Cemetery

Lightning Strikes Twice – Literally and Figuratively

Statistics say that farming is the third most dangerous occupation in the United States.[14] The lives of Monroe County and Monroe farmers and their families are interwoven with stories of falling tree fatalities, kerosene stove and lamp explosions, and machinery accidents. Farmers had to constantly battle nature in the form of weather and its effect on crops and conditions for growing them. Benjamin H. “Ben” Mack and his family experienced one of nature’s most powerful weather productions– lightning.

William Mack  and his wife Catherine Goodnough Mack owned and operated a farm on the Blue Bush Road in Raisinville.  They had three sons:  Benjamin, Frank, and Edward. As well as the uncertainties of farming, the Macks had to deal with family health problems. In 1913, Catherine fell ill and her son Benjamin endured a serious operation at the Blind Babies Home. He was the last patient in the hospital and shortly after Detroit Doctor Manton and Monroe Dr. Southworth discharged him to complete his recovery at home, his father William became gravely ill. William died in early June, 1914.

His wife Catherine, still recovering from her illness, rallied and resolved to press on with life and the farm.  On Thursday, June 18, 1914, her two oldest sons, Frank, 30,married with a pregnant wife and three children, and her son Benjamin, 21, were holding a fence bee on the homestead farm and several neighboring farmers were helping them. Everyone worked steadily until a thunder storm rumbled over the fields. Frank and Ben Mack and Frank’s ten-year-old son and the dog drove their team of horses under a nearby tree for shelter from the storm, and waited for the storm to end. Two of the Mack’s neighbors sheltered under a nearby tree, not more than ten feet away. They called for Frank’s son to run over and get into their buggy with them and the boy had just left his father and uncle and climbed into the buggy when a lightning bolt flashed over their heads. Frank and Ben, the dog, and the team of horses were killed instantly. Neither the Macks nor the team were scarred and the wagon remained intact. The lightning bolt didn’t strike the tree.

A neighbor, Mr. Weisbecker couldn’t see them, so as soon as the rain slackened, he went to find them. He discovered them in a huddle under the tree.

Funeral services were held at St. Joseph’s Church at Maybee and the young men were buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Maybee. The Monroe Democrat of Friday, June 26, 1914, said that Catherine Mack was grief stricken and prostrated since the lightning strike had “wiped out all the male help of the farm in less than a fortnight and a half.”


[1] Documents Relative to the Colonial History of the State of new York: procured in Holland, England and France. John Romeyn Brodhead, Esq. Albany:  Weed an Company printers,1885. P. 887.

[2] History of Monroe County, Michigan: a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principal interests. John McClelland Bulkley. Chicago:  Lewis Publishing Company, 1913, P 42.

[3] History of Monroe County, Michigan. Talcott Wing. New York:  Munsell & Company, 1890. P. 40.

[4] Michael E. Van Wasshnova is a member of the Monroe County Historical Society. Ypsilant Gleanings, Ypsilanti Historical Society.

[5] Dates and other circumstances indicate that Francois Navarre was one of the founding fathers of Monroe along with Jean Baptiste Romain dit Sanscrainte, and Joseph Porlier Benalque or Benac,

[6] History of Monroe County, Michigan. Talcott Wing. New York:  Munsell & Company, 1890. P. 46.

[7] 10823. Conveyance of Lands Adversely Possessed. Sec. 7. No grant or conveyance of lands, or interest therein, shall be void for the reason that at the time of the execution thereof such lands shall be in the actual possession of another claiming adversely. How. 5657.— C. L. ’97, 8961. 4 Scam. (111.) 67, 21 Wend. 98. Prior to the taking effect of this section, Mar. 2, 1847, an owner might release his claims to, but could not convey lands in the adverse possession of another: Godfroy v. Disbrow, Wal. Ch. 260; Bruckner’s Lessee v. Lawrence, 1 Doug. 19; Hubbard v. Smith, 2 M. 207. But the grantee could sue in the grantor’s name to recover the land: Stockton v. Williams, 1 Doug. 546. See Crane v. Seeder, 21 M. 82.  Howell’s Annotated Statutes of the State of Michigan including the Acts of the Second Extra Session of 1912 with Notes and Digests of the Supreme Court Decisions Relating Thereto by Andrew Howell, Second Edition. Compiled and Annotated by Colin P. Campbell of the Grand Rapids Bar.

[8] US Bureau of the Census, Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2010 (2010) Table 80

[9] Out O’ The Fire, from Farm Ballads by Will Carleton. New York: Harper, 1899.

[10] Mary Ann Chapman Burnap

[11] Her eyewitness account of a typical day in her life appears in Holt, Hamilton, The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans as Told by Themselves (1906).

[12] “Farm Wife, 1900. Eyewitness to History. (2007)

[13] Memoir of Dr. Elmer Jeremy Potter

[14]  “NIOSH- Agriculture”. United States National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Archived from the original on 9 October 2007.

A Few Future Articles and Stories

Centennial Farms

George Lang, the Carleton Map Maker


James Monroe

Elizabeth Monroe

Welcome to Carleton, Michigan


Daniel A. Matthews, Will Carlton, the Flint & Pere Marquette, and the Canada and the Canada Southern Railways played important roles in Carleton history. Since before Daniel Matthews laid out and platted the land around and including Carleton in northern Monroe County about ten miles north of Monroe in 1872, agriculture has been a mainstay occupation of its citizens. After Daniel Matthews platted and laid out the village, it was named Carleton after well-known poet Will Carleton because according to George Lang in Pocket Road Map, Monroe County, Michigan, 1917, Dan Matthews admired Will Carleton’s poetry.

George Lang also wrote in Pocket Road Map that along with Daniel Matthews, Charles A. Kent helped lay out the original plat of the village consisting of 80 acres. Shortly after that Daniel Matthews and William Hickok added 80 more acres, and a few years later three more acres were added to the village. George Lang noted that  Carleton voted to incorporate on December 4, 1911, with a vote of 102 people for the incorporation and 24 against. The incorporation was confirmed at Lansing on  December 12, 1911.

Carleton’s location at the intersecting of the Flint & Pere Marquette Railroad and the Canada and Canada Southern Railways helped the community to grow and become incorporated into a village in 1911. In 1877, five years after Daniel Matthews surveyed and platted land for Carleton settlers, some 300 citizens lived in the community. The 2010 Census showed a population of 2,346 people.  In the 21st Century, Carlton is still an agricultural community and supports several small businesses and restaurants.

Daniel Matthews, Land Developer, Develops Carleton

In 1872, Daniel C. Matthews, a land developer, surveyed and plotted land around Carleton and he bought 80 acres of land. He also served as railroad express agent after the Pere Marquette Railroad came through the village in 1874 and as village postmaster in 1877. Daniel Matthews also helped select the site of Lansing as Michigan’s state capital.[1]

Daniel was born in 1831 in New York, the son of George Washington Matthews and Hannah Maria Soule Matthews. U. S. Census records show that in 1850 Daniel lived in Meridian, Michigan with his parents and brother and sisters. In 1860, Daniel lived in Dearborn with his wife Rachel and nine-month-old son Frederick and in 1870 Daniel, Rachel, and Frederick lived in Ypsilanti. By 1880, Daniel, Rachel, and Frederick lived in Ash, Monroe County, where he worked as a hotel keeper and by 1885 Rachel had died and Daniel re-married Mattie Woodard and they lived in Carleton. In 1900, he and Mattie lived in Ash with their daughter Hazel, his aunt, and several boarders. He listed his occupation as hotel keeper. Daniel died November 4, 1901 in Ash, Monroe County Michigan, and he is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

Railroads Criss-Cross Carleton

Railroads were the corporations of the Nineteenth Century and the imprint and impact of railroad ties helped develop southern Michigan and small villages like Carleton. The opening and expansion of the Flint and Pere Marquette Railroad in the 1870s created railroad tracks through stands of virgin trees, lumber camps, and far-flung markets. The railroad opened up dense forests of virgin hardwoods to lumbering, and towns like Monroe to be distribution centers for wood and farm products like berries, fruits, and vegetables.

On November 13, 1873, the railroad line between Detroit and Toledo opened for business and Monroe County grew to the rhythm of the train whistle. The Chicago and Canada Southern line stretched diagonally in a southwestern direction through Monroe County and the village of Carleton formed where it crossed the Flint and Pere Marquette tracks. For many years, Carleton shipped hard wood timber and other products, prospering by railroad transportation.

The villages of Scofield and Maybee also sprang up as shipment centers for the area, and even the inland village of Dundee profited from its railroad connections.  These railroads created centers of trade tended to divert business from Monroe City, but as new railroad lines were opened, new factories and other businesses established and populations grew. There was enough business for everyone, with more and more people moving into Monroe County. Railroad trade attracted so many new businesses and so many people that in the fall of 1873, rent prices escalated and vacant houses were as scarce as castles between log cabins.[2]

Why Carleton? Will Carleton!


At the same time that railroads were creating Monroe County villages and stimulating more growth in Monroe, Will Carleton wrote poetry and articles for the Hillsdale Standard in Lenawee County. The fifth child of John Hancock and Celeste Smith Carleton, Will grew up on the family farm in Hudson, Michigan in rural Lenawee County. He went to school in a one room schoolhouse and continued on to Hillsdale College, while continuously contributing poems and stories to newspapers. After he graduated, Will forged a journalism career on newspapers in cities including Hillsdale, Chicago, Detroit, and New York.

In 1871, Will published a poem called Betsy and I Are Out, an ironic story of divorce and in 1872, Over the Hill to the Poor House, possibly his most famous poem. Over the Hill to the Poor House spotlights the struggle for survival of aging people in Nineteenth Century America with no resources and no help. This poem published by Harper’s Weekly, catapulted him into national prominence and established him as a national literary figure. It also inspired Daniel Matthews to name the village he platted after Will Carleton.

Will Carleton moved to Boston in 1878 and married Anne Goodell. In 1882, they moved to New York City, but he continued to be involved with his college fraternity and his boyhood home and friends. In 1907, he returned to Hudson as a literary figure, his poems quoted across America. In 1919, the Michigan legislature passed a law requiring teachers to teach at least one of his poems in school and officially naming October 21, his birthday, as Will Carleton Day in Michigan.

Other places christened in Will Carleton’s honor include a school in Hillsdale called Will Carleton Academy, a section of M-99 in Hillsdale called Will Carleton Road, and for Carleton, Michigan, probably the most important christening. The village of Carleton is named after Will Carleton, with the road on its northern border separating Monroe and Wayne counties named Will Carleton Road. Will Carleton is buried in Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn. But according to George Lang, Carleton is the only town in the United States named after Will Carleton.

George Lang also listed some interesting facts about Carleton in his 1917 Pocket Road Map, Monroe County, Michigan.  He wrote that Will Carleton actually visited Carleton two times. He first came to Carleton in June 1908, and made a return visit on June 28, 1909.

 Some  Historic Carleton Businesses and Business People

Joseph Allan Doty, Sr., born February 19, 1856 in Grafton, Monroe County, Michigan operated the Standard Ohio Station in Carleton for 26 years until his retirement.  He died on April 23, 1942, and he is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

Charles William Ohlemacher was born in 1864 and died on November 9, 1950 in Carleton. He was a merchant and Carleton resident for 63 years. He is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

Dr. Elmer Jeremy Potter, born in Ash Township on January 16, 1851 on the Potter homestead,. He married Elva Haley on December 21, 1871 and they had five children. Jeremy Potter graduated with a medical degree from an Ohio medical college, but after several years practice, he gave up medicine and returned to Carleton where he established a jewelry business. Dr. Potter died December 31, 1911 and he is buried in Carleton Cemetery. He wrote a memoir of his life which he titled Memorandum of Events from 1851 to 1911, transpiring in the life of E.J. Potter M.D., detailing life in the late Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries.



Photos courtesy of Grace Schuon-Leidt, former Carleton resident

Here is a list of historic Carleton businesses. a-few-carleton-businesses

Here is a list of some Carleton businesses , 1917-2017.  carleton-businesses-1917-2017

Carleton Contributors

Floyd Leverne Barnum was born June 6, 1879 in Ash Township and he spent his life farming the farm where he was born. On March 22, 1909, he married Miss Mable Deppen at Carleton and they had three children.  Only his daughter Alberta, Mrs. Montoe Kahlbaum, survived into adulthood. Floyd served as a supervisor of Ash Township in 1924,1925, and 1926. He died on March 18 1936 and he is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

James “Jacob” Boyle’s short life spotlighted the dangers of rural life. Born about 1851, he was the son of Charles and Anna Boyle of Ash Township. The Monroe Commercial of October 13, 1859, reported the James went hunting on a Monday morning and didn’t return on Monday night. His friends searched the woods for him and found him dead, killed by a falling tree. “Whether the appearance were that he died immediately from the blow we have not be able to learn,” the Commercial concluded. James is buried in St. Patricks Cemetery #1, Carleton.

Elmina Rose LuckeElimina Rose Lucke, born on December 6, 1889 in Ash Township, Monroe County, established models for International Social Work practices and several firsts for women. Earning a BA degree from Oberlin College in 1912, in 1919 she founded and directed the Detroit International Institute. In 1922, Columbia University accepted her as the first woman accepted for doctoral study in the field of International Law and Relations. After she graduated from Columbia in 1927, Dr. Lucke helped found a high school in Carleton, Michigan, her home town, and she later taught at the Teachers College of Columbia University for nearly 20 years. She helped organize and served on the board of the American Council for Nationalities Service.

In 1947, the YWCA of America asked Dr. Lucke to go to India to help develop a social work training program for young women. In India, she met and became close friends with Mahatma Gandhi and he opened doors for her work, including establishing the first graduate school of social work in India at the University of New Delhi. Later as part of the United Nations Technical Assistance Program, she established a national social work education program in Pakistan.

Dr. Lucke returned to America to more recognition and awards. Oberlin College awarded her a Doctor of Humane Letters degree for “building of friendships between people and peoples.” In 1985, she published her book, Unforgettable Memories, A Collection of Letters in India.” In 1986, she was inducted into the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame.  She died on October 31, 1987, and she is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

The Newcomb Doctor Dynasty

Dr. Darwin E. Newcomb was born on February 1, 1848, in London, Monroe County, MichiganAfter attending Michigan University, he graduated with the class of 1884 in the Detroit Medical College, and practiced as a physician and surgeon in Carlton. He married Emma Z. DuPaul and they had five children:  Blanche, Stanley, Ralph, Charles, and Elizabeth. Dr. Darwin Newcomb is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

Dr. Stanley NewcombDr. Darwin Newcomb’s son, Stanley was born in 1877. He graduated from Monroe High School and graduated from the Detroit College of Medicine, his father’s Alma Mater, in 1904 with an M.D. degree. He practiced medicine in Ida, Michigan and served as health officer of Raisinville Township. He married Julia R. Snell and they had two children. He served as a private in Company M, 31st Michigan Volunteer Infantry between 1898-1899. He is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

Dr. Elizabeth NewcombElizabeth Naomi Newcomb was born in April 1885, the youngest daughter of Dr. Darwin Newcomb and his wife, Emma Z. DuPaul.  She earned a medical degree and is listed in the 1940 United States Federal Census as a Medical Doctor and a widow. She died on December 7, 1942 and she is buried in Carleton Cemetery.

Sidney and Robert Woodward

Sidney Ellen Reid Woodward. Sidney was born on February 14, 1842, in Delaware County, Ohio, and moved to Monroe County with her parents. She married Robert R. Woodward of Monroe on November 9, 1861.

Sidney told her descendants stories of her childhood in the woods of Monroe County, describing the nightly howling of wolves outside the cabin. If people had to go out at night, they carried burning pine knots to keep the wolves away, but their eyes gleamed in the darkness. Robert recalled one time an Indian visited the cabin while his father was gone. His mother hustled her children up into the loft where they crouched silent and still while the Indian prowled below and his mother stood holding a loaded shotgun. Eventually, the Indian left the cabin and disappeared into the woods. Robert died on June 3, 1921 and he is buried in Carleton Cemetery. Sidney died on December 26, 1926, and she is buried in Carleton Cemetery with Robert.

A Few Veterans in Carleton Cemeteries

(I changed the list of veterans in Carleton Cemeteries to a PDF because the list was 14 pages long in the blog format and I wanted to make the blog a little shorter to read. I also wanted to say that I in no way intended for this list to be a list of Monroe County veterans or even a complete list of Carleton veterans.  It just struck me as I was researching for this article how many veterans are buried in Monroe County cemeteries and how much we owe them.  I wanted to honor them by printing their names. A very unhappy gentleman complained because I didn’t include all of the Monroe County Veterans listed on the memorials.  Of course I can’t in this short article and that wasn’t my purpose. I just want to highlight as many veterans from Carleton and Monroe County as I can. Sincerely, Kathy Warnes)

A Few Veterans in Carleton Cemeteries     a-few-veterans-buried-in-carleton-cemeteries



[1] The Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory of 1877 lists Daniel as D.A. Mathews, while his genealogical records list him as Daniel C. Matthews.

[2] History of Monroe County Michigan, Volume 2. John McClelland Buckley. Books on Demand, 2013. Pp. 238-240.

Portraits, Paintbrushes, and Partnerships: Monroe Artist Frances Amy Maedel’s Creative Legacy


When Frances “Fran” Maedel died in January 2016, she left a legacy of art, creativity, and service to her community of Monroe, Michigan, a legacy that began and continues with family and community ties. She combined her artistic talents, her family’s photography, and her Monroe community to create a self portrait in artistic skill and service.

Frances “Fran” Amy Maedel picked up a paintbrush early in her Pennsylvania childhood. On July 24, 1922, Alice Maud Amy Mack gave birth to a daughter, Frances Amy in the home that she and her husband Arthur Elwood Mack shared in Bangor, Pennsylvania. Fran’s older sister, Joyce, also welcomed her into the family. Arthur Elwood Mack taught high school and her mother Alice stayed at home tending her two girls. Fran learned to love art at an early age, as Fran tells it, at age four when her sister Joyce came home from school and showed her how to draw. Decades later, she still recalled the feel of the crayon in her small fingers.

Fran and her mother.

Fran’s parents encouraged her passion for art and she took art courses throughout her school years. In 1932, Arthur died and Alice Maud and her two daughters moved to Indiana, Pennsylvania where Fran finished her last year of high school. After high school graduation, she enrolled at the Indiana State Teacher’s College and graduated with honors in 1944 with a degree in art education.

In 1942, Fran met Robert Maedel Sr. while she was boarding a bus in Lebanon, Pennsylvania and from the time that they met he asked her to marry him on every date until she finally said yes. They were married on October 7, 1944, in Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania. Since neither of them owned a car, they took a street car to Scranton, Pennsylvania, where they spent their honeymoon. After their marriage, Fran taught art in Wyoming, Pennsylvania until her husband Bob was discharged from the Army in 1946.

Bob and Fran in the 1940s.

Maedel’s Cameras in Monroe, Michigan

After Bob was discharged from the Army, the Maedels moved to Monroe, Michigan to be near Bob’s father, Gottfried who by this time had established himself as a professional photographer in Monroe. Their first home in Monroe was a cottage on Elmwood Drive at Woodland Beach which Fran described as snug with a huge yard. She took care of her three children- Jack, Robert Jr. and Connie- fixed up her home, and worked in her yard and garden. She devoted the next 67 years to her family, her art, and the Monroe community.

In 1949, Robert Maedel, Sr., opened his new business,  Maedel Photo Shop on 227 East Front Street  in downtown Monroe and the family moved to a house attached to the store. Fran helped out in the camera store with the processing, tinting, and printing of photographs. Fran and Robert’s  daughter Connie Maedel Diehl  described her father Robert’s business practices.  “In the business we were shown that honesty was very important, even if it lost a sale. He earned a reputation to being fair and honest to a fault, and business grew in a town that normally would not support a specialty camera store.”

Connie recalled that her father could sit in their living room and spot a customer coming into the store, so he could move back and forth between the store and the house. The Maedel children weren’t allowed to come into the store during business hours without an invitation or when they grew older, unless they were working.

The family business which was eventually renamed Maedel’s Cameras remained a fixture in Monroe for over 50 years, 1949-2004. When Robert Maedel, Sr. died in 1995, Connie took over the store management until it closed in 2004.

Besides helping in her husband’s business, Fran Maedel worked full time as both a mother and an artist. She didn’t drive, but her daughter Connie said that since they lived on the edge of the downtown Monroe shopping district, Fran and sometimes the children walked everywhere they needed to go. Fran taught full time for a few years at Cantrick Junior High School, but Connie recalled that “she was there for us and active in our school activities and education.”

Practicing Art At Home

 As soon as her children were old enough, Fran introduced them to oil painting. They would set up in the dining room at the back of the house featuring a wall of windows with a norther exposure. She taught them how to work with clay, sometimes with a potter’s wheel, and they had a copper kiln where they made jewelry. She didn’t limit herself or them to just one type of art, but encouraged them to explore and try new art forms. “But we were never made to feel we had to enjoy it as she did, or that anything we made was not up to par or could be compared to hers or the work of other artists,” Connie said.

Encouraging  and Enabling Art in the Monroe Community

 When Fran first came to Monroe, she looked for art classes, but she discovered there were none available. She didn’t know many people to ask about artist groups or classes, but she heard that Dr. Vincent Barker had space above his office where artists worked. Fran worked to organize a community of artists and she taught a group of students, but she insisted, “Teaching is what I loved to do, but art was something I had to do.”

Local store owners would sometimes let the artists use empty apartments above their stores to meet, paint, and hold fund raising art shows. Connie and her brothers had the opportunity to help and be with their mother as young children at the many art events.

The Monroe Community Players were another of Fran’s artistic activities. She almost single handedly painted all their props for many years, sometimes with the help of her children. After she was grown and married, her daughter Connie digitized Fran’s artwork and made print for her to sell and share. Connie reminisced  that she and her mother complemented each other and grew especially close in the last decade of Fran’s life.

In 1959, Fran helped found the Monroe Arts and Crafts League and over the years the Art League dropped the crafts and became fine art. The Art League has met and worked in various locations around the city and more recently the League  meets on the fourth Tuesday of each month in the United Way Building at 216 North Monroe Street. Fran joined the Toledo Art Club as a contributing member, the Toledo Women’s Artists’ League, the Bedford Artist’s Club, the Women’s Center at the Sawyer House, and the Monroe Spinner’s Guild.

After Maedel’s Camera’s closed, Fran decided to turn the former store space into an art studio where she could paint. Over the years, she created enough art work to line the walls of her studio, ranging from a portrait she painted in college to 21st century landscapes and Native American sculptures. She invited other artists to share her studio and attendance varied from two to more than a dozen artists.

Fran continued to create art, accepting paid commissions from area businesses. Through the years she participated in numerous art shows, winning over 100 awards for her watercolors, acrylics, oils, and pastels. She preferred working in acrylic paint and particularly favored scenes, but she did portraiture work as well. A large scale winter scene of hers is displayed at the Monroe Golf and Country Club. She also created paintings on several panels of glass that placed together in a frame make the work look like it is three dimensional. For one piece, she found scrap metal in front of her home where an old parking meter was removed. Admiring the colors in the metal, she juxtaposed the metal with sea shells and old thread spools.

Artist Fran researched, designed, painted and donated murals in church basements, banners for a church sanctuary, and paintings for museum gift shop donations. She researched and painted three large educational paintings for the River Raisin National Battlefield. She molded an Indian from clay for an art contest that 1812 Bicentennial Steering Committee, the River Raisin National Battlefield Park and the Monroe Art League sponsored.

Several months before her death, Fran researched and painted a historic painting of Wyandot Village Life, but she wasn’t satisfied with one version of it. She redid the painting to make it more historically accurate and reportedly was still working on it when she died.

Modest about her monetary and artistic successes, Fran said in a 2013 interview in Monroe Magazine,  “I’ve had plenty of dry spells and sometimes it takes someone else to help me get going, but I love to do this. I just have to make art.”

Connie Diehl, Fran’s daughter said that her mother didn’t want public recognition for her decades of community service with her art, remarking that sometimes friends had to trick her into recognition for her contributions.

Fran didn’t have to seek recognition for her artwork or her community service. Her pictures and her contributions speak loudly and clearly for themselves.

Photographs courtesy of Connie Maedel Diehl.

Story by Kathy Warnes










Maybee, the Best Little Town in Michigan

Photo-Wikimedia Commons

Maybee started out with the perfect recipe to become a village -stands of elm, oak, and other hardwoods that made the charcoal industry possible, two visionary people, Abram Maybee and Joseph Klotz  with land to back up their dreams, and a railroad to carry the goods and people that Abram Maybee and Joseph Klotz set in motion. Today, Maybee is a village in southwestern Exeter Township in Monroe County, established in 1873. Between 1873 and 1875, the land sales, people, and railroad created an agricultural  community that included a grain elevator, grist mill, stone quarry, sand pit, a hotel, three churches, two schools, and a variety of factories and stores. The community became incorporated as the village of Maybee in 1899, with some of its original buildings including the grain elevator surviving into the Twenty-First Century. In 2010, Maybee village had a population of 562. In 2013, Maybee added a 546 acre parcel called the Stoneco Quarry to its area.[1]

Abram Maybee and Joseph Klotz Help Create Maybee

Between 1873 and 1875, Abram Maybee and Joseph Klotz surveyed, platted, and sold the land that later became the village of Maybee. Abram inherited the Maybee farm from his father, Solomon Maybee who brought his wife  Charlotte DeLano Maybee and their children  George, Julia, Morgan, Abram, Esther, and Marilla to settle in Michigan. The 1850 United States Federal Census shows Solomon living in Raisinville, Michigan with their children Morgan, Abram, Esther, and Marilla. Solomon died on March 26, 1860, willing 60 acres of his land “situated in Exeter” to Abram. Solomon and his wife Charlotte are buried in McIntyre Cemetery in Monroe along with Abram and his wife Mary Moses Maybee.

On February 19, 1868, Abram Maybee married Mary C. Moses. They eventually had three girls and two sons. Many Maybee citizens appreciated and remembered their son, Seward, who had a sharp memory and loved history. He recorded daily village events in a black book and he enjoyed pulling out the book and pointing out village historical facts to people. In 1890 when he was 56 years old, Abram Maybee retired and he died on May 18, 1892.

In 1873, thirty-nine-year-old Abram and his partner Joseph Klotz decided to have the land they owned surveyed and on January 6 and 7, 1873, Delos F. Wilcox surveyed the lands which were platted as part of Private Claims 352, 495, and 274. Then Abram Maybee and Joseph Klotz sold the land for village lots. The two men also operated other concerns in the new village. They owned a sawmill together and Abram built some of the first houses and a hotel in the village. On August 24, 1877, Abram Maybee took office as postmaster of Maybee and in 1879, Joseph Klotz served as postmaster. In another stroke of good fortune for the fledgling village, the Canada Southern Railway established a railway line through Maybee, insuring its commercial survival.[2]

Joseph Klotz was one of the ten children of John and Betsey Klotz who were born in Germany. The 1860 United States Federal Census records that John, 58, and Betsy Klutch, 43, (Klotz) were living in London, Monroe, Michigan with their children:  Orickons, 22; Elizabeth, 20; Frederick, 18; Joseph, 16; Catharine, 13; John, 10; Thestian, 8; Anna, 6; Mary,4; and Michael, 1.

The 1880 United States Federal Census shows Joseph Klotz, 34, living in Exeter Township, Monroe, Michigan with his wife Julia Cauchie Klotz, 24, and his children Marcy 5, William 3, and Burtha two months.  He lists his occupation as a merchant.

Businesses Make Their Mark in Maybee

People continued to buy village lots in Maybee and in 1873, the Canada Southern Railroad came through Maybee. By 1875, the village had 200 people.

The Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory, 1875

The Michigan State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1875 described Maybee as dating its settlement from 1874 and incorporating as a village in 1899, located on the Canada Southern Railway in Exeter township, Monroe county, 10 miles northwest of Monroe, the judicial east northeast of Dundee, and 26 miles southwest of Detroit. Charles Cook is listed as postmaster.

Business Directory-1875

Conrad Barkeeper, boots and shoes; Gramback & Miller, general store; Henry Houshalter, cooper; A. Maybee, brick manufacturer; Maybee & Klotz, saw mill; Stephen Mock, general store and produce dealer; John A. Patten, Hotel Proprietor opposite railway station; John A. Patten, insurance agent and notary public; John Rogers, blacksmith; Martin Van Buren, physician; and C.V. Whitmarsh, factory.

Click this link for some Maybee businesses between 1875 and 2017.

maybee-businesses     maybee-businesses

Stoneco Limestone Quarry

The Stoneco Limestone Quarry, located at Scofield near Maybee, has been a major supplier of crushed limestone, sand, and gravel in Michigan for more than 100 years. The Quarry has gone through many owners and many names including the Maybee Quarry; Scofield Quarry; Michigan Stone and Supply Company Quarry; Borin Brothers Quarry; and Woolmith Quarry.

Dr. D.Lucius Lee Hubbard building on the geological reports of Alexander Winchell and  Dr. Carl Rominger called attention to the Maybee Quarry in the State of Michigan’s Third Geological Survey conducted from 1869-1920. A bed of pure Sylvania sandstone was discovered and used for glass manufacturing and Colonel Thomas Caldwell , a British officer, originally preempted it from the government and held it for many years. From 1860-1873, Charles Toll of Monroe operated the quarry pits, directing the washing, sifting and shipping of the sand to Bridgeport, Bellaire and Benwood, Ohio, and other American cities like Pittsburgh, Wheeling, Rochester, Syracuse, and Hamilton, Ontario.

The Stoneco Limestone Quarry still operates into the 21st Century.

A Few Memorable Maybee People

Reverend Theodore H. Dannecker. 1886-1955. He was the pastor at St. Paul’s Church from 1921- till his death May 2,1955.  He is buried in St Paul’s Cemetery, Maybee.

Byron Engle. 1910-1990. He established and directed the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Police Assistance Program from 1955 until he retired in 1987. He was married to Geraldine L. Jelsch of Maybee and he is buried in St. Joseph Cemetery, Maybee.

 John Adam Harpst. 1853-1939. John was one of Maybee’s faithful farmers. He is buried in North Side Cemetery.

Remedios “Remy” Namiko Misik. 1928-2012. Born in the Philippines, Remy was he daughter of Tsunetaro and Marcella Yamauchi. At the end of World War II, she and her family relocated to Japan where as a young woman she helped her widowed mother raise her younger brothers and sisters. She worked as an International Switchboard operator, and then as an administrative assistant and translator at the U.S. Air Force base near Osaka, Japan. The U.S. Ambassador gave Remy a commendation for her work.

She married James Misik, came with him to the United States, and they had three children together. When James died in 1969, Remy dedicate herself to raising their three children. She worked for St. Mary’s Church and School for many years, and she also earned certification for dress making and became an excellent cook. At the age of 77, she earned her high school diploma, fulfilling a life-long dream. She is buried in North Side Cemetery, Maybee.

Annie K. Kellie Leathers-1842-1905. The Monroe Record-Commercial of March 9, 1905 noted that Annie came to America from Scotland at age nine. In 1862 she  married John C. Leathers and one of their five children became the wife of Seward Maybee. During her life time she was a kind and loving mother, a patient sufferer never complaining. She always led a Christian life reading her bible daily and was much beloved by all who knew her. She is buried in North Side Cemetery, Maybee.


Carl J. Rath. 1895-1987. He owned and operated Rath Chevrolet Sales in Maybee for several years and he also farmed. He is buried in North Side Cemetery, Maybee.

Mrs. Carl Rath. 1893-1972. For 40 years, Sylva Rath was the chief telephone operator in Maybee until 1955 when the dialing system was installed.  She is buried in North Side Cemetery, Maybee.

Gary L. Simmons. 1949-2016.  Gary worked for eighteen years at the National Archives and Records Administration, serving as general contractor and mechanical engineer during the construction of the National Archives II in College Park, Maryland. Completed in 1993, the building houses textual and microfilm records, for research of historical records of the United States of America.

In 2003, Gary served the National Archives located in Washington D.C. during a major renovation of the Rotunda. He was heavily involved in the updating of the building and mechanical systems, along with other areas. The Rotunda is the area where the Declaration of Independence; the Bill of Rights; The Constitution of The United States, and all of the other charters are displayed.

In 2008, Gary was a team member and mechanical engineer for the ESPC Project at the Presidential Libraries and Museums Energy Saving Performance, receiving the Presidential Award for Leadership in Federal Energy Management This involved many of the Presidential Libraries, and the Archives branches.

In the 2013 National Archivist Awards, he was honored with the ‘Outstanding Achievement award’ for Exceptional Service at NARA. He is buried in North Side Cemetery, Maybee.

A Few Maybee Veterans

(I originally included an eight page list of Maybee veterans, but it made the article so long that I decided to redo them as a PDF.  I think this makes things a lot easier to read. Sincerely, Kathy Warnes)

Here is the link to the list: maybee-veterans


[1] The Michigan State Gazetteer of 1875 states that Maybee was first settled in 1834 and incorporated in 1873.

[2] The Railroad History website, Alan Loftis Collections, states that the Canada Southern Railway was the first through Maybee, and later the Detroit, Toledo, and Ironton and the Lakeshore & Michigan Southern Railroads.

[3] Charles Happy is buried in Northside Cemetery, Maybee.(I

The Magic Canoe, A Tale 0f Early Monroe


 Sage, the Story Teller

My name is Sage. In French Sage means wise. Do tell!

I spin stories bedtime and morning as well,

This story is make believe all around,

Although there once was a place called Frenchtown.


After that Monroe in Michigan Territory,

That’s not all of the 1813 story:

At the second British and Native attack,

Brave American soldiers had to drop back,



Citizens fled Frenchtown scared and hasty,

Seeking refuge and a place of safety.

The burning of Frenchtown hurt real people,

As real as the Frenchtown’s St. Antoine’s church steeple,

This story is pretend, but it could have been,

So close your eyes and imagine a way back when,

This story ends with a seashell surprise,

It is full of people who are very wise.

Riding in a sleigh carrying people and goods,

Riding in a sleigh through dark and snowy woods,

Escaping the British and Wyandot plunder,

Shivering with cold and fear and hunger.

As we follow them on their snowy way,

We will listen to what they have to say.


Escape From Frenchtown. Fran Maedel

Sophia ‘s Story

sophia Mon Frere!   Alard!  My brother Alard!

When I say his name I stick out my tongue hard,

He says, “I am your best brother,  best you bet!

My name means noble wolf and noble you get!”

Sophia means wisdom – I  my wisdom bring,

Small brother Leroy whispers, “Leroy means king.”

(Listening is quite a quiet thing,

Small brother whispers, “Leroy means king!”)

Mere’s Story


Mother looks back from the front seat on the sleigh,

“We all must escape to fight another day,”

Mere means mother, a peaceful word to say,

We must help each other along the way.

(Listening is quite a quiet thing,

Small brother whispers, “Leroy means king!”)

Grandmere’s Story


Grandmere  slaps the  reins, shouts over the wind,

Grandmere  will not command “sit down” again.

Leroy leans against the sleigh’s splintery side,

“I sat on one and it hurt more than my pride!”

Alard, he scowls pointing to the empty seat,

“Pere is not here, the sleigh is not complete.”

Sophia yells, “Pere is safe away,

He will  return to fight a future day.”

Grandmere sets her lips in a thin  flat line,

“I will keep you safe, we will be fairy fine,

We’ll stay in town ‘til Pere comes back again,

Then we’ll rebuild our house snug as this wolf’s den.”

But even from her sleigh seat horse head high,

A waterfall of tears flow from her eyes,

The sleigh glides under the trees and skirts around

The sturdy house and barn burning to the ground.

(Listening is quite a quiet thing,

Small brother whispers, “Leroy means king!”)

 Alard’s Story


Attack the British and Indians at night!

Everyone should stay and everyone should fight,

I will stay. Pere taught me to shoot a gun,

I will fight the battle and it will be won!

When we win we won’t have to shiver and pray,

To reach Aunt Genevieve’s  by the light of day.

And at this time I can not run away,

I left Jake in the barn buried in the hay,

I have to find him or my heart will break,

“Stop Brownie, Grandmere, I have to find Jake!”

(Listening is quite a quiet thing,

Small brother whispers, “Leroy means king!”)

 Leroy’s Story


It’s cold in the woods where the sun doesn’t reach,

I think about seashells on Lake Erie Beach,

I see River Raisin grape vines and the  breeze,

Moving them and weaving them through the trees.

Brownie’s hooves clink on River Raisin Ice,

The sled slips and slides more than once or twice.

“Grandmere, the river path should have been chosen,

Both River Raisin and Lake Erie are frozen.”

I play on the beach every summer day,

I don’t want to leave our home, I want to stay!

What I planted by the barn I won’t tell,

Keep it a secret, I planted a seashell!

(Listening is quite a quiet thing,

Small brother whispers, “Leroy means king!”)


Grandmere’s Story

“Sit down everyone, sit back down I say,

We will not give up, we’re not running away,

But we can’t stay home while the soldiers are there

Dodging arrows and tomahawks in the air,

Warm stew waits at the home of Aunt Genevieve,

Now sit down so we can go with utmost speed!”

(Listening is quite a quiet thing,

Small brother whispers, “Leroy means king!”)

Sage, the Storyteller

They huddle in the sleigh through ice and snow,

They follow River Raisin to sunset glow,

Alard shouts ,”This isn’t the way to go,

I don’t care if we all are hungry and weary,

Don’t take the woods, but follow Lake Erie.”

Grandmere drives Brownie straight through the trees,

Brownie pushes and plows the snow with ease,

But after traveling a night and a day,

Grandmere says, “I think we have lost our way.”

They shivered through more snow silent and deep

With only ten wheat crackers left to eat,

Mere hugged all of them to keep them warm,

Praying, “God of peace keep us safe from harm.”

(Listening is quite a quiet thing,

Small brother whispers, “Leroy means king!”)


Alard’s Story

Leroy lightning flash jumps, “Says how do you do,”


A Wyandot woman paddles a canoe.

She wouldn’t answer any question of ours,

Just paddled the canoe up toward the stars,

We followed her and I protested that she,

Wouldn’t help us, she is the enemy,

Don’t  preach to me about the Golden Rule

I want to kill and burn the same as they do.

Now my playful dog Jake I need to find,

I don’t intend to leave with him behind!

(Listening is quite a quiet thing,

Small brother whispers, “Leroy means king!”)

 Sophia’s Story

We followed the Indian girl for miles,

All the time Alard proclaimed her wiles,

Gentle Mere says “You don’t understand,

They are just trying to protect their land,

And the way they live their lives from day to day,

From people who want to take it way,

The killing and burning will never cease,

Until both sides decide to live in peace.

And greed that wants the biggest pickle,

Fades away into the slightest tickle!”

(Listening is quite a quiet thing,

Small brother whispers, “Leroy means king!”)

 Sage, the Storyteller

Alard jumps from the wooden wagon seat,

“I am leaving you!”he shouts with great heat,

“I’m going to travel back home by the lake,

That’s the only way I will ever find Jake!”

The Wyandot maiden steps from the canoe,

She holds something?  What could it be, a shoe?

It’s not a shoe but a dog, make no mistake,

It’s a wiggly dog and his name is Jake!


Jake barks, breaks free and scampers to Alard,

Who wipes his soldier eyes and swallows hard,

(Listening is quite a quiet thing,

Small brother whispers, “Leroy means king!”)

Leroy’s Story

The Wyandot maiden paddles the canoe,

We follow her the entire day through,


The sled pulls up to Aunt Genevieve’s front hall,

Grandmere’s directions were right after all,

Just as I’m about to close the front door,

I spot a seashell sitting on the front floor,


Grandmere says, “We’ll go home when winter’s through.”.

Until then, we have important things to do,

I decree:  working for peace and sharing’s the thing,

Obey me:  I am Leroy and I am the king!


Early Monroe Captains and Ships Shape Monroe’s Maritime History



Steamboat Monroe

In his History of Monroe County, Michigan, Talcott E. Wing summarized the happenings between 1825 and 1834 in the rapidly growing port of Monroe.  One of the events he recorded occurred on July 22, 1825 when a bateau arrived at the Monroe wharf from the River Thames, with 150 bushels of wheat for grinding after a trip of 180 miles. The Canadians shipped the wheat for grinding to Monroe because a drought in the vicinity of the Thames had lowered water power and prevented grinding the grists there.

Talcott Wing pointed out that history had come full circle in relations with the River Thames Canadians. Just twelve years before, the British and Native Americans had caused citizens to flee from Frenchtown in the depths of winter to save their lives and the lives of their families. Now just twelve years later, Monroe citizens were enjoying independence and comfort and they could do a good deed for their former enemies by charging them reasonable amounts of toll for the grists.

On September 16, 1825, a 70-foot-long pine pump log arrived at the River Raisin from the River St. Clair. Six yoke of oxen hauled the log from the River Raisin and delivered it to James Hale, who was building a distillery in what later would be Monroe’s first ward. [1]

In the late 1830’s and early 1840’s, steamboats established routes between the Maumee River and many Lake Erie ports, including Buffalo, Cleveland, Sandusky, and Monroe. Eventually they expanded beyond Detroit to ports on the upper lakes like Chicago and Milwaukee. Geographically blessed by its location on Lake Erie’s shore, Monroe grew into a bustling port and the citizens of Monroe grew accustomed to steam engine whistles and the hustle bustle of unloading, transporting, and delivering cargos from other lake ports. Some of the captains of the growing list of great lakes steamers chose Monroe as their home port and several of the new lake steamships were either built at Monroe or owned and financed by Monroe entrepreneurs. Monroe played an important part in firmly establishing steam boat traffic and prosperity on Lake Erie.

Captain Harry Whitaker and the James Monroe

Captain Harry Whitaker, born on March 26, 1801, enjoyed a reputation among his contemporaries as one of the most successful steamship captains on the Great Lakes. He built and commanded the James Monroe, built in Monroe, Michigan Territory, one of the first steamships on the Great Lakes. Captain Whitaker spent several years in Monroe, making many friends and leaving a deep imprint on Monroe history before he left to captain other ships and live in New York, and finally Detroit. The 1850 United States Federal Census shows that Harry Whitaker, age 49, lived in Buffalo, New York with his wife Maria, 41, his son Charles, 22, and his daughters Delia, 20, and Maria 13. By 1880, he had moved back to Detroit

Talcott E. Wing in his History of Monroe County, Michigan, wrote that Captain Whitaker told him that since the beginning of his career, he had commanded 18 steamers, some of them for only a short time, but he never lost a life or a pound of freight. He first shipped on the sloop Huntington, earning $6.00 a month. In 1821, he served as wheelsman on the Walk-in-the-Water and in 1824, he commanded the schooner Macedonia and in 1828, the steamers Peacock and Pioneer. In 1834 he commanded the steamer Monroe.

The Buffalo Whig described the Monroe as a “fine high pressure boat of about three hundred and fifty tones burthen superbly finished and furnished and in point of safety, convenience and speed, and beauty is exceeded by few if any.” The Monroe was originally owned by the River Raisin Steam Boat Company and was built in Monroe Michigan Territory in 1834.

The Western Star, a Buffalo newspaper, reported that on Monday, October 6, 1834, the splendid steam boat Monroe, Captain Whitaker entered the harbor for the first time the Thursday morning before. “She is indeed a splendid boat and shows well for the spirit of enterprise which actualizes our neighbors of the far west.”

On Wednesday, October 8, 1834, the Buffalo Whig noted that the new steam boat Monroe, Captain H. Whittaker, came into port for the first time on Thursday morning of the week before. The Whig account said that the Monroe was owned by the River Raisin Steam Boat Company and was built at Monroe, Michigan Territory. The Whig reported that the Monroe was 145 feet in length, its beam measured 47 feet and it had 350 runs burden. Her Gentlemen’s Cabin had 33 berths, Ladies 33 berths, 12 berths and four state rooms. Forward 33 berths, 51 berths, and steerage 20 berths.

“This boat is certainly of fine appearance, and is very handsomely finished. She came in in the morning during a heavy gale, which she had buffeted the whole night. Her captain informs us he has seldom seen a worse night upon the lake. The sea stove a boat suspended astern, and carried it away, making a full breach into the cabin windows and over the deck at the same time. With such a christening, and acquitting herself well, as she did, her reputation as a sea boat is established. Barker & Holt, Agents.”

In 1835, George William Featherstonhaugh, the first official geologist of the United States, traveled aboard the steamer Monroe from Mackinac to Green Bay as part of a trip into the Michigan and Wisconsin Territories. He noted that as the Monroe put out into the bay, the “lofty island, the old French fort conspicuous in the distance, the American fort a dazzling whiteness just above the town and numerous groups of Indians standing hear their lodges to view the departure of the steamer which moved on in gallant style with four Kentish buglers playing a lively air, concurred to produce one of those rare effects which a traveler sometimes witnesses.[2]

In 1837, the Milwaukee Sentinel claimed that in July 1836 the Monroe had earned the distinction of being the first steamboat to enter Milwaukee Harbor, and in 1834 she was the second steamer to visit Sault Ste. Marie. She called between the Lake Michigan ports of Green Bay and Milwaukee, Sault Ste. Marie, Mackinaw and down Lake Huron and Lake Erie to Buffalo.

The James Monroe experienced many owners and a varied history before it was lost off Cattaraugus, New York in 1845. Its owners included Detroit shippers William Brewster and Andrew F. McReynolds and several others from Buffalo. In 1835, the James Monroe collided with a stone scow in Erie Harbor, in 1837 it went ashore at Point Abino in Lake Erie, and it was rebuilt as a bark in 1843.

Friend Palmer of Detroit happened to be a passenger on the steamer the United States in the winter of 1845, when its Captain Whitaker performed an astonishing feat in the history of navigation. While the United States made the passage between Detroit and Buffalo on March 10, 1845, it encountered a five-mile-wide mass of rotten ice. Suddenly, the steamer struck solid ice. Quick thinking Captain Whitaker got all the passengers on the upper deck and had them run in a body from one side of the steamer to the other. This action gave the United States a rolling motion and then Captain Whitaker backed up the steamer and then let her drive with a full head of steam into the sheet of ice. Captain Whitaker continued the maneuver for two days within full sight of Buffalo before he finally worked the United States free to steam her way to Detroit. [3]

Captain Whitaker Builds the A.D. Patchin


The Buffalo Daily Courier & Pilot of Friday, September 4, 1846, described the new A.D. Patchin as being unsurpassed “for beauty, symmetry of proportion, and about the trimmest craft that floats these waters.” On January 13, 1847, the Cleveland Herald Weekly highlighted some A.D. Patchin details, reporting that she weighed 873.78 tons and cost $65,000 dollars. She appeared on the list of new vessels built on Lake Erie during 1846. The A.D. Patchin stranded and broke up near South Wagoshene Light in Lake Michigan on September 17, 1850. On May 15, 1851, the steamer Lexington rescued her machinery.[4]

Captain Whitaker and the Baltic


As well as being the owner and master of Great Lakes ships, Captain Whitaker also invented ship improvements. A story in the Buffalo Daily Republic of Friday, March 3, 1854, informed readers that the old steamer Baltic had been converted to a propeller with Captain Whitaker’s invention of side screw wheels. Lake captains were interested in this invention which if successful would revolutionize the building of lake craft. Captain Arthur Edwards owned the Baltic and Captain Averill, formerly of the propeller Charter, was its present captain.

The Democracy of Buffalo in a story dated Monday July 10, 1854, featured Captain Whitaker’s memoranda of his side propeller invention and its operation. Captain Whitaker kept a log of a Baltic trip from Buffalo to Cleveland with his side propellers operating instead of a paddle wheel. He compared the Baltic’s performance with a propeller with the performance of the Michigan, which operated with a paddle wheel and reported that the Baltic beat the Michigan by about one mile an hour.

Captain Whitaker summed up his invention by pointing out that the Baltic’s success proved that “even if two engines and two propellers were used, they would give boats of the Mississippi and its tributaries, the entire room of the deck and hull for freight, and save from one to two hundred tons’ weight of engines. All large, sharp, passenger boats, should have from four to six propellers to give them a very high rate of speed.”

Talcott Wing concluded his sketch of Captain Whitaker  by noting that he died on June 30, 1890 in his 87th year in full possession of his faculties and in the enjoyment of a good old age. He is buried in Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit.

Other Monroe Lake Captains and Steamers

Besides Captain Whitaker, other captains and steamers built or owned vessels of excellent construction and quality at Monroe.

Captain George Washington Strong

George Washington “G.W.” Strong was born on April 10, 1800 and died in Kalamazoo on February 29, 1892 at age 91. He was a pioneer steamboat captain of Lake Erie.  The husband of Hannah Blackman Vickers, one of his sons, Captain George Albert Strong, was also a ship captain.

A story in the Monroe Democrat dated Thursday, March 3, 1892, characterized Captain Strong as “one of Monroe’s oldest and most thorough citizens.” His family brought his body from Kalamazoo and his funeral services were held from the house of his daughter Mrs. Helen Deffenbaugh with Reverend L.B. Bissell officiating. He is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Monroe.

George W. Strong owned a sidewheel steamer called the Helen Strong and his son Captain Albert Strong commanded it. F.N. Jones built the wooden sidewheel steamer Helen Strong at Monroe, Michigan in 1845 for George W. Strong who also lived in Monroe. The Helen Strong had one deck, one mast, and measured 142 feet in length, 19 feet 10-inch beam, and eight feet in depth with 207.41 tonnage.

On November 19, 1846, the Helen Strong carrying dry goods and passengers blew ashore in a gale about four miles above Barcelona, New York, just east of Twenty Mile Creek in Lake Erie. Two lives out of 60 were lost and the Helen Strong was disabled.[5]

Captain G.W. Strong and the Macomb

Weeks, Allen, and several others from Detroit originally owned the Macomb, a wooden sidewheel steamer built at Mt. Clemens, Michigan, in 1837, but eventually George W. Strong bought the two- masted ship. The Macomb measured 91 feet, six inches with a 17’6” beam, a depth of 6’9”, and tonnage of 101.73.

On October 10, 1837, the Macomb was enrolled at Detroit and a little over two weeks later she ran from Detroit to Port Huron on her maiden trip. In 1838 and 1839 she had two owners:  C. Clemens and others from Mt. Clemens and Sylvester F. Atwood of Mt. Clemens. On May 21, 1839, she was lengthened at Detroit and she measured 107’2”x 17’6” x 6’9”, 104.07 tons. She ran Detroit-Toledo, Ohio and Fort Gratiot. In 1841, the Macomb ran Detroit-Perrysburg, Monroe & Toledo. On November 19, 1842, she ran ashore at the mouth of the Huron (Clinton) River.

On May 8, 1843, G.W. Strong of Monroe, Michigan owned the Macomb. On November 19, 1843, the Macomb ran ashore near Malden. The passengers were taken off and the Macomb was salvaged and laid up at Monroe, Michigan.

In 1845, the Macomb was rebuilt as a schooner or tug boat, possibly the Algonac, 42.38 tons.[6]

Captain George Albert Strong

Captain George Albert Strong, the son of George Washington Strong and Hannah Backus, was born in 1824 in Vermont and he was a steamboat captain before the Civil War. He enlisted as a captain for three years in Company I, 15th Michigan Volunteer Infantry. He died on board the Union Army chartered hospital river transport “War Eagle” from wounds he received at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6, 1862. He is buried in Woodland Cemetery, Monroe.

Captain Alonzo D. Perkins

 Alonzo D. Perkins was born in Bath, Maine. He married Katherine Norman and they had three children: Thomas, Norman, and Marianne Perkins Nims. He was the captain of Great Lakes vessels:  western Metropolis, Morning Star, Southerner, Constitution, Anthony Wayne, Arrow, and Evening Star. He is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Monroe, Michigan.

Captain Perkins commanded the Constitution. Launched and enrolled at Cleveland, Ohio, in June and July 1837. The Constitution passed through several owners before October 8,1847, when John Vail, Buffalo; Isaac Pheatt, Toledo, OH and Edward Bronson, Monroe, Michigan, assumed ownership of her. In 1848, Tunis Van Brunt of the Detroit District was listed as her sole owner, with Captain A.B. Perkins her master. In 1849 she was abandoned, and her machinery installed in the steamer J.D. Morton.[7]

The Southerner


 The Southerner was built at Monroe in 1847 by A.C. Keating and owned by Benjamin F. Field and others.  Captain A.D. Perkins commanded her. She was a wooden side wheeler with one deck. In 1847, she was enrolled new at Detroit and ran the rest of the season unfinished in the Monroe trade hauling freight in connection with the Southern Railroad. In 1847-1848 she went on layup and received an upper cabin for passenger service in the Buffalo, Toledo, and Monroe trade. In 1852, she was enrolled in Cleveland and served on the Cleveland and Detroit Line and in 1853 she served on the Dunkirk, Cleveland, Sandusky, and Toledo line with the New York and Erie Railroad. On October 28, 1853, she broke in two and washed ashore off Ashtabula Harbor on Lake Erie at a total loss.[8]

Anthony Wayne

Anthony Wayne was owned by Fifield & Sterling and Captain A.D. Perkins commanded her. She was built in 1837 in Perrysburgh, Ohio and launched on May 20, 1837 to run the Perrysburgh-Toledo, Ohio, Buffalo, New York route. By 1844 she had Monroe owners. On April 28, 1850, her boiler exploded and she sunk off Vermilion, Ohio in Lake Erie with the loss of 38 lives.[9]

The Arrow


Captain A.D. Perkins and Ira Davis commanded the Arrow which was built at Trenton, Michigan. She was enrolled on June 19, 1848 at Detroit and began service between Sandusky and the Lake Erie island in 1849. Between 1851-1857 she ran between Detroit and Toledo and in 1857 she ran from Buffalo, New York to Chippewa, Ontario. In 1858 she was transferred to Green Bay, Wisconsin to run ports on the east shore of Lake Michigan. In 1863, Charles T. Harley and others of Detroit formed the Lake Superior Forwarding Company at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan and ran the Arrow from Chicago to Lake Superior ports. In 1864 she was condemned at Green Bay.[10]

Captain Selah Dustin

In 1847, Captain Selah Dustin, purchased an interest in the John Owen which ran between Detroit and Toledo stopping at Monroe. There was no railroad competition at the time, so Captain Dustin made a great deal of money.

A few years later, Captain Dustin commanded the Dart, which also plied the Detroit, Monroe, Toledo route. In 1854, when the Detroit, Monroe & Toledo Railroad was built, the Dart was placed on the upriver route, making trips between Detroit and Port Huron. For two years, the Dart didn’t have any competition and made money for her owners, but in 1856 Captain E.B. Ward noticed the Dart’s profitability and he began operating a boat on the route. This action provoked a war of rates between the Dart and the Ward boat. Both captains gradually reduced the fare to Port Huron to 25 cents a round trip and Captain Ward installed a band for the patrons on his boat. Eventually, both captains included meals to entice passengers.

When the fare wars began, Captain Dustin was worth about $50,000, an amount that couldn’t compete with Captain Ward’s fortune. The fare wars and the sinking of his fruit boat operating between Chicago and St. Joseph, Michigan bankrupted him and he retired from the Great Lakes. He died in St. Mary’s Hospital in Detroit on August 13, 1888 at age 71, and he is buried in Woodmere Cemetery in Detroit.

A Few Steamers Stopping at Monroe, 1830s, 1840s

  • DeWitt Clinton. Stolham Wing from Monroe and Carlos Colton owners. Captains Brown and Ludlow commanded her.
  • Griffith. William V. Studdiford owned her and Captain Roby was master.
  • James Wolcott. Governeur Morris and Selah Dustin commanded her.
  • General Macomb. Captains Choate and Atwood commanded her.
  • Arrow. Captain A.D. Perkins and Ira Davis commanded her.
  • General Brady. Captain Burtis, master.
  • Indian Chief. J.J. Godfroy
  • John Owen. Ira Davis, captain.
  • John Hollister. Selah Dustin, captain.


[1] Talcott E. Wing, Editor. History of Monroe, Michigan. New York:  Munsell & Company Publishers, 1890, p. 136.

[2]  Lost Passenger Steamships of Lake Michigan, Ted St. Mane

[3] Friend Palmer. Early Days in Detroit. Detroit:  Hunt & June, 1906. P. 32

[4] Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library. Great Lakes Maritime History Collection.

[5] Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library. Great Lakes Maritime History Collection. From the collection of C. Patrick Labadie.

[6] Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library. Great Lakes Maritime History

[7] Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library. Great Lakes Maritime History

[8] Alpena County George N. Fletcher Public Library. Great Lakes Maritime History

[9] Alpena County George H. Fletcher Public Library Great Lakes Maritime History

[10] Alpena County George H. Fletcher Library, Great Lakes Maritime History



Cholera, the Invisible Enemy, Invades Southeastern Michigan and Monroe


The list of people visiting the old Frenchtown and the newly named village of Monroe through their formative years included President James Monroe, Governor Lewis Cass, and Father Gabriel Richard. Deacon Jonathan Stevens and his wife Lucy Berry Stevens arrived in Monroe in the spring of 1834 to join his son, Jonathan Worthy Stevens who moved to Monroe County from Cuyahoga County, Ohio. They came to Monroe to stay and so did another unwelcome guest – cholera.

From 1789 through the 1820s, Father Richard of St. Anne’s Parish in Detroit often made the trip from Detroit to Monroe to monitor the trustees and property of St. Antoine’s Parish. He saw the church and parish through the War of 1812, a transition from a majority of French speaking parishioners to a majority of English speaking parishioners, and building a new church. After the War of 1812, new lands opened in Michigan Territory and a steady stream of English settlers came to join the old French inhabitants alongside the River Raisin. Along with Father Richard, they made a significant impact on St. Antoine Parish.[1]


Father Richard’s visits to Monroe ceased in September 1832. A letter that Father Francis Vincent Badin, from Detroit wrote to Bishop Edward Fenwick in Cincinnati explained the reason. Father Gabriel Richard had died of cholera at 3:10 a.m. the morning of September 13, 1832,, after returning from a mission to help cholera victims in Detroit in a weakened condition. Cholera had made devastating inroads in the Detroit population, killing at least 96 people, as well as Father Richard.[2]

Cholera’s 1832 Visit

In June 1832 officials in the Western District of Upper Canada and Detroit acted immediately when they received the news that a cholera epidemic hovered over the Detroit River region, ready to strike. On June 25,1832, the Detroit Board of Health issued guidelines to prevent and cure cholera, including a list of medicines and dosage amounts for adults and children. Detroit’s Mayor Levi Cook added regulations restricting boat and ship traffic in the Detroit River and forbidding ships from any other port to come closer than 100 yards to Detroit shores. Ship passengers couldn’t land until they had passed a health officer inspection, and ship, boat and foot travelers were forbidden to cross from the Canadian shore to Detroit.

A day later, magistrates in the Western District of Canada issued their own regulations ordering citizens to clean and whitewash their homes and privies and add lime to the whitewash when they cleaned the privies. They were instructed to clean their yards and fill or drain standing pools and cut ditches which would allow the Detroit River to flow into low laying land and marshes. Inns and taverns closed at 8:00 p.m. because popular wisdom had it that indulging in alcoholic drinks helped spread cholera.

By June 27 and June 28, 1832, Canadian magistrates had appointed boards of health and ordered hospitals opened on Bois Blanc Island and in the Western District Grammar School in Sandwich. They created the position of apothecary and chemist, a person charged with the responsibility of preparing medicines for the district. The Justices of the Charter Sessions followed Detroit’s lead and prohibited anyone from crossing the Detroit River from Detroit to Canada. Later, the Canadian Government empowered the magistrates to bar anyone suspected of having cholera to enter the area.[3]

Throughout the months of July and August 1832, officials and residents in the settlements in Southeastern Michigan, including Monroe did what they could to protect themselves from cholera, including building fences, stopping visitors, inspecting passengers in coaches, posting armed sentries on roads leading to and from their communities, and throwing strangers out of inns and out of towns. By August 15, 1832, 96 people had died in Detroit. Father Gabriel Richard, who showed the first signs of illness on 8 September, died on September 13, 1832 of cholera. By October 11, 1832, the worst of the cholera epidemic had ended for that cholera season, but the next one would come with the summer and last until the cooler temperatures of autumn.

The Cholera Experience

In his 2008 article, “The Black Cholera Comes to the Central Valley of America in the Nineteenth Century – 1832, 1849, and Later,” Dr. Walter J. Daly says that the cholera experience shouldn’t necessarily be considered as separate epidemics such as 1832,1849, 1866, and late 1870s, but instead as an epidemic without distinct boundaries of time or place, but with distinctive causes and effects. He wrote that the medical community had learned nothing about preventing or treating cholera between the 1832 and 1849 episodes, and that the only real differences were that by 1849 populations were larger, and transportation more rapid and less dependent on water routes. Modern people- moving improvements made moving and spreading easy for cholera too.

Modern science can identify the origins of diseases and suggest ways to counteract if not entirely cure them. Nineteenth Century physicians and local, state, and federal authorities didn’t always understand cholera’s causes or contagious capabilities. Some people blamed cholera on unpleasant smells or vapors and filthy living conditions. By extension, they could fasten the label “filthy living conditions” on groups they considered undesirable and inferior like the poor, black people, or immigrants. Others blamed cholera on sinful behavior and the wrath of a vengeful God.[4]

In this age of microbes, it’s hard to imagine the panic sweeping through a small village like the Monroe of 1834 when an unseen enemy like cholera visited friends and family, snatched some of them away to the burial ground and freed others to live their full lives. It’s easy to understand why survivors would blame the many deaths on the will of God or living conditions or people they considered undesirable.

Living conditions in Nineteenth Century Monroe and Michigan and the rest of the country as well, encouraged and welcomed a cholera visit. People practiced hit- or- miss sanitation. They dipped or pumped drinking water from shallow wells, rivers, or lakes, and water sellers peddled water from wells or rivers. Householders deposited sewage in their streams or in cesspools which often they allowed to overflow or seep into the water table. People and municipalities established water supplies and sewage facilities for convenience and they often stood so close together that drinking water had the odor and taste of sewage.

Treatment of cholera in the Nineteenth Century often created more problems than the disease itself. Doctors bled their patients, purged them, and dosed them with opium. They prescribed astringents like lead acetate, and others used oral salt solutions. Doctors had no standard, objective guidelines for cholera diagnosis. They considered cholera a severe and often fatal disease and mistook milder diarrheas to be symptoms of other diseases. According to Dr. Daly, this mistake in recognition and diagnosis led to the disease spreading more widely and confusion about its treatment.[5]

Cholera- Understanding the Visiting Enemy


 A few decades after the 1834 cholera outbreak in Detroit and Monroe, Nineteenth Century scientists Filippo Pacini and Robert Koch examined and isolated the cholera bacterium called Vibrio cholerae that causes the infection. Vibrio cholerea produces a powerful toxin in the small intestine that binds to the intestinal walls and interferes with the normal flow of sodium and chloride. This causes the body to secrete enormous amounts of water, producing diarrhea and a rapid loss of fluids and salts – electrolytes.  If the loss of fluids isn’t reversed, the person can die.

Cholerae bacteria live either in the environment or in humans. The bacteria occur naturally in coastal waters where they attach to tiny crustaceans called copepods, and they travel around the world with copepods as they follow their food source certain kinds of algae and plankton. The algae and plankton grow explosively when water temperatures rise and they also expand their population when urea in sewage and agricultural runoff contaminate the water.

When a person drinks cholera contaminated water or eats cholera contaminated food, he or she may not become ill themselves, but can pass along the bacteria in their stools. When human waste contaminates food or water supplies, both act as Petri Dishes for cholera bacteria. It takes more than a million cholera bacteria, about the amount found in a glass to contaminated water, to produce cholera in a person, so cholera usually isn’t spread through person-to-person contact. The most common sources of cholera infection are standing water and certain types of food, including seafood, raw fruits and vegetables, and grains. Symptoms of cholera infection include diarrhea, nausea and vomiting, and dehydration.[6]

Anguished Nineteenth Century people watched loved ones painfully die from cholera while being terrified of contracting the disease themselves.

A Lengthy and Tragic Cholera Continuation – 1834

The return of cholera to Detroit in August and September 1834 graphically illustrated its ability to quickly spread and kill. In the spring of 1834, Detroit’s population numbered 3,500. Cholera’s return in August caused the population to decrease by 700 by the end of September.  Doctors were authorized to dispense medicine and priests distributed medicine to their poorer parishioners. Poor people received their medicine for free, but other people had to buy it.

Business virtually suspended operations, grass grew in the streets, and flaming tar barrels were scattered throughout the city because people thought burning tar would disinfect the air. The custom of the time called for the ringing of church bells when someone died, but officials suspended the custom because frequent church bell ringing led to panic throughout the city. The 1834 epidemic was not the last for Detroit. Cholera returned several more times from 1849-1865.[7]

Cholera Terrorizes Monroe- 1834

Cholera affected small towns and villages, especially in the Midwest, more than cities because although relative population losses were similar the panic and flight were more destructive. Cold yearly statistics don’t reflect the terror in towns like Monroe. Cholera deaths occurred in a few days or weeks magnifying the effect. In some cases the yearly death rate exceeded the local population.  Some doctors, newspapers, and historians reported the blunt cholera facts, while others didn’t. In his biography of Dr. Robert G. Clarke of Monroe, John McClelland Bulkley wrote that Dr. Clarke was one of the first physicians to practice in the village and people respected him as a public-spirited citizen. Bulkley noted that the cholera outbreak of 1834 “caused some alarm in the settlement, and there were a few deaths which, with the fatalities of many cases in Detroit, did not allay the fears that an epidemic was to decimate the population.”

He added that the doctors checked the ravages of the disease and allayed people’s fears.[8]


Cholera and Memorial Place Cemetery


Photo Credit:  Lo Marie

Samuel Agnew donated the land for the first Memorial Place Cemetery, a quarter of an acre at the corner of West Front and South Monroe Streets. The cemetery was a Protestant Cemetery, but it had no name. Some of the first burials there included the remains of the men of the Kentucky Militia who died during the battles and massacre of the River Raisin in January 1813. Their mutilated bodies had lain on the battlefield for more than six months before concerned citizens gathered them up and buried them in the cemetery. Their remains were later exhumed and taken to Detroit and then sent to Kentucky. The cemetery was then abandoned. Cemetery and cemetery historian Lo Marie wrote that there are no burials in it.[9]

Samuel Agnew along with Daniel Mulhollen again donated a plot of land, this time for the second burial cemetery after the first one was abandoned. This cemetery is known as Memorial Place Cemetery, and it is located six blocks south of the first cemetery. Most of the burials in this second cemetery are many women and small children who died in the cholera epidemic of the 1830s, particularly 1834. The city didn’t maintain the cemetery and the last known burials were before the mid-1850s. Citizens agitated for the removal of the overgrown, neglected eyesore and finally in 1902, a Monroe women’s group called the “Civic Improvement Society,” intervened. The Civic Improvement Society convinced the State of Michigan and the City of Monroe to place a monument honoring the Kentucky Militia soldiers who died in Monroe and  in 1904,the large granite monument was placed at the front of the Memorial Place Cemetery.

Over the years, people referred to the Cemetery as the Kentucky Soldiers Park Cemetery because of the monument honoring the Kentucky soldiers, but there are no known Kentucky soldiers buried in the Cemetery. The State of Michigan chose the spot to place the monument honoring the soldiers, because the other cemetery was abandoned and the city of Monroe built over it.

In a case of history unfortunately repeating itself, the city of Monroe and its citizens allowed the second cemetery to deteriorate. Some markers were found in 2004, and in 2013, another group searched for markers. The 56 memorials listed with markers on the cemetery site are the only ones known to have markers.[10]

Some Monroe Cholera Victims

August 14, 1834

The Monroe Journal of August 21, 1834, reported that Eliza Bayles, the infant daughter of Hiram B. Hopkins, Esq., aged 9 weeks and five days died of cholera on August 14, 1834. Buried in Memorial Place Cemetery, Monroe.

 August 15, 1834

Lyman Hart. Died at age 27 of cholera on August 15, 1834, Buried in Memorial Place Cemetery, Monroe.

August 17, 1834

Archange Godet dit Marentette Navarre. Daughter of Rene Godet dit Marentette and Catherine Campau. Married John Mary Alexis Navarre on January 22, 1787. Died of cholera and buried on August 17, 1834. She is buried in St. Antoine Cemetery.

August 28, 1834

Thomas Medbury, died of cholera age 60, August 28, 1834.Buried in Memorial Place Cemetery, Monroe.

August 29, 1834

Daniel Cornell.  Died of cholera August 29, 1834. Buried in Memorial Place Cemetery, Monroe.

August 30, 1834

Betsy Saunderson. Died of cholera on August 30, 1834 at age 13. Buried in Memorial Place Cemetery, Monroe.

September 1, 1834

Hiram B. Hopkins. Died of cholera on September 1, 1834 at 31 years old.  His daughter, Eliza died two weeks before him in August.  The Michigan Sentinel of September 6, 1834, reported that Hiram had been ill with a fever for some times when he was stricken with cholera and didn’t have enough strength to fight the disease.  He came to Monroe about 1830 from Lockport, New York. He was an enterprising merchant and prominent member of the Presbyterian Church of Monroe. The newspaper story said that “his loss will prove particularly afflicting to the surviving members of his family.” He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery, Monroe.

The Monroe Sentinel reported that from August 15, to September 2, 1834, 15 Monroe residents died from cholera.

September 2, 1834

Sylvanus Wright Curtis, September 2, 1834. Died of cholera. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 3, 1834

Foster. Died of cholera at age 26 on September 3, 1834. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 4, 1834

Harriet Muncer.  Died at age 18 , September 4, 1834 of cholera . She is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

Mrs. Saxton. Died of cholera on September 4, 1834 at age 40. She is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 7, 1834

I.Mation Gray. Died of cholera at age 25 on September 7, 1834. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 8, 1834

William Tunson, age 7.  Died September 8, 1834. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 9, 1834

William Miller.  Died of cholera, age 2.  September 9, 1834. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

Dominic Robert was born on October 28, 1810. He died on cholera and was buried in St. Antoine Cemetery on September 9, 1834.

September 10, 1834

Sylvia Bourdeau Bissonnet. She was born on November 26, 1774, the daughter of Joseph & Mary Louisa Bordeau. Died from cholera and buried on September 10, 1834 in St. Antoine Cemetery, Monroe.

September 11, 1834

Tameretta Bailey, age 22. Died of cholera on September 11, 1834. She is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

Mrs. Beach. Died of cholera on September 11, 1834. She is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 12, 1834

Martin Stoddard.  September 12, 1834. Died of cholera at age 16. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 13, 1834

Maria Luce. Died of cholera September 13, 1834. She is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 14, 1834

William Wilmot.  Died of cholera, September 14, 1834. Age 43. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

David Wilson.  Died of cholera, September 14, 1834.  Age 49. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 15, 1834

Cynthia Carrier.  Died of cholera at age 49 on September on September 15, 1834. She is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

 September 16, 1834

Amanda Patten. Died September 16, 1834 of cholera at age 36. She is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 19, 1834

Avery G. Spalding, died September 19, 1834 at age 24.  Probably cholera. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

Dominic Lacroix. Died of cholera and buried on September 19, 1834. He is buried in St. Antoine Cemetery, Monroe.

September 21, 1834

Thomas Collier.  Died of cholera at age 5 on September 21, 1834. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 25, 1834

John Lane. Died of cholera September 25, 1834. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 27, 1834

Charles Burch. Died of cholera on September 27, 1834. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 29, 1834

Amelia Hermitage. Died of cholera at age 7 on September 29, 1834. She is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

September 30, 1834

Seneca Allen. She died of cholera at age 45 on September 30, 1834.

 September, 1834

Child of L. E. Bailey. Died at age ten months of cholera.  September 1834. Buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

Walter Colton.  Died of cholera at age 61. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery

Lands Gidley. Died of cholera at age 24 in September 1834. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

Earl Saxton. Died of cholera at age 35. September, 1834. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

 October 1834

October 11, 1834

Matilda Navarre was born on April 14, 1815. She died of cholera in October 1834 and was buried in St. Antoine Cemetery on October 11, 1834.

Stephen A. Hopkins, son of Hiram and Phoebe. Age 11 months.  Died of cholera in October 1834. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

Gosfin Stuart.  Died of cholera at age 28 in October  1834. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.


George M. Darrah.  Died of cholera, 1835. He is buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

The Stevens Family, Church, and Cholera

The Monroe Journal of October 16, 1834 reported that Deacon Jonathan Stevens had died on October 13 in Monroe at age 75. He had come to Monroe with his wife Lucy in the spring of 1834 to join his son, Jonathan Worthy Stevens, who moved to Monroe County from Cuyahoga County, Ohio.

Born in Southwick, Massachusetts, Deacon Stevens was an early settler of Hamilton, Madison Co. New York where he spent most of his adult life. He was a Deacon in the Congregational Church and a “man of much force of character,” and also a blacksmith and a farmer.

Jonathan and his wife Lucy Berry Stevens had ten children together,  three sons and seven daughters. His wife Lucy had died on September 15, 1834. They both died of cholera and they are buried in Memorial Place Cemetery.

For several months in 1855, Jonathan Stevens their son, stepped in when the Trinity Episcopal Church in Monroe didn’t have a rector. He served as lay reader, sexton, and treasurer and built the fires, cleaned the building, paid the bills and read the service. At one point, the church owned him $1,000. The church was his home and he attended every service. As he grew too old and feeble to stand at the lectern, the church members gave him a chair and every Sunday he sat and recited the liturgy. He gave so much to Trinity that the congregation called him “Bishop Stevens.”

The Monroe Commercial of August 25, 1870, published his obituary, calling him “a kind husband, an affectionate father, a sincere and reliable friend; as such he was universally respected. But more than all this he was emphatically a Christian gentleman – a man of God. It may truly be said of him that he fulfilled his Master’s command – ‘Do ye unto all men, as ye would they should do unto you.'” He is buried in Woodland Cemetery in Monroe.


[1] French River Raisin settlers and the Catholic Archdiocese of Quebec, Canada founded Saint Antoine sur la Rivere-aux- Raisins, Saint Anthony on the River Raisin on October 15, 1788. The parish and new church were officially named St. Mary’s in 1845.

[2] Notre Dame University Archives

[3] “A Tribute to Jean Baptiste Dumouchel – Part 2”,  Diane Wolford Sheppard. Michigan’s Habitant Heritage, July 2007.

[4] “The Black Cholera Comes to the Central Valley of America in the 19th Century-1832-1849 and Later. Walter J. Daly, M.D. Transactions of the Clinical and Climatological Association, 2008.

[5]The Black Cholera Comes to the Central Valley of America in the 19th Century-1832-1849 and Later. Walter J. Daly, M.D. Transactions of the Clinical and Climatological Association, 2008.

[6] .Cholera, the Mayo Clinic

[7] Diane Wolford Sheppard. “The 1832 and 1834 Cholera Epidemics in the Detroit River Area.”

[8] History of Monroe County Michigan:  A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People, and its Principal Interests. John McClelland Bulkley. Volume I. Chicago, New York:  Lewis Publishing Company, 1913.  P. 83.

[9] Find A Grave Memorial 

[10] Ibid.