My winding journey into the history of my Maynard ancestors begins with Elizabeth (Maynard) Manley (1907-1998), my paternal grandmother. Note that the original intent (and title) of this blog entry was “The Maynard’s of Sussex, England”. However, as I began to piece together the historical details from my ancestry tree I realized this truly needs to be a two-part blog.
There are the many generations of Maynard’s in Lenawee County, Michigan beginning in the early 1850’s. Prior to these Maynard’s, there were many generations of Maynard’s in Sussex County, England stretching back to the 1500’s and earlier. The stitching together of these two segments of the Maynard line seems to be best told as separate stories with our ancestor, Thomas J. Maynard, the connecting point between the English-born ancestors and those born in America.
Thomas J. Maynard (1812-1876) was born in Warbleton, Sussex, England in 1812 to John Edwards Maynard and Sarah (maiden name unknown at the time of this writing) and was christened in the Heathfield Non-Conformist church, ten miles southeast of his home shortly after his birth. In June 1831 eighteen year old Thomas J. Maynard arrived in America aboard the ship “Hannibal” and initially settled with his mother, Sarah, stepfather, John Kenward, two brothers Jonathon and John Edwards, sister Martha and several step siblings in Ostego County, New York. After his marriage to Caroline (Coleman) Maynard in 1839 they reside in Ostego County until about 1853 when they move ‘west’ to Michigan. Thomas and Caroline resided and farmed in Macon, Michigan until Thomas’ death from erysipelas (a bacterial infection) in 1876. He is buried in Lake Ridge Cemetery, located between Britton and Macon, Michigan in Lenawee County.
The generations of Maynard’s prior to Thomas J. Maynard residing in Sussex were recorded often as Puritians, dating back to the Rev. John Maynard (1600-1665) who was the Vicar of the Mayfield parish. From “Mayfield – The Story of an Old Wealden Village”:
“John Maynard was born at the end of the 16th century at Rotherfield (Sussex) and was a student at Queen’s College in 1616 and later at Magdalen Hall, Oxford. He entered into holy orders and presented to the vicarage of Mayfield around 1625. At the breaking out of the civil wars, John Maynard avowed himself a puritan, and boldly preached the views of his party. In 1643 he was appointed one of the Commissioners of Sussex for the ejectment of ignorant and scandalous ministers and schoolmasters. In 1662, as a non-conforming minister, he was deprived of his benefice as Mayfield’s vicar, despite being held in high esteem by his flock and he died three years later in Mayfield.
I will explore the Sussex Maynard’s in more detail in part II of my blog (hopefully shortly).
However, as to the history of the Lenawee County Maynard’s, I will move backward in time beginning with my paternal grandmother, Elizabeth (Maynard) Manley (1907-1998). Elizabeth’s parents (my great grandparents), Leon Maurice Maynard (1881-1947) and Florence Nightingale (Gurin) Maynard (1883-1970) were married on May 30, 1904 in Adrian, Michigan. At the time of their marriage, Leon Maynard is 23 years old, his occupation is listed as ‘engineer’. Note that Leon’s middle name was pronounced ‘Morris’.
On February 11, 1907, Leon and Florence’s first child and the oldest of their five children, Elizabeth Blanche Maynard, my grandmother, was born somewhere in Lenawee County, Michigan. Her birth announcement in the Tecumseh Herald indicates that her parents were ‘formerly residents of Tecumseh’, but does not indicate where they currently reside. Also of note, Elizabeth was actually born ‘Blanche Elizabeth’ named after her mother’s half-sister, Blanche (Fuller) Naylor. My grandmother disliked the name Blanche so much she always went by ‘Elizabeth’. Leon and Florence’s second child born on May 7, 1909 is another daughter, Mildred Caroline Maynard.
A newspaper article from the Adrian Telegram in September 1909, about four months after Mildred’s birth, records that Leon had secured a position in Adrian with the Clark Motor Company. However, a short time later, in April 1910 the Federal Census enumerates the family of four residing in Jackson, Michigan (about 35 miles west) with Leon’s occupation listed as a ‘machinist in a motor factory’.
Tracking the family’s movements through census data and newspaper archives between the years of 1910 and 1915, it appears after the short stint in Jackson, Michigan in 1910 the family returns to Lenawee County and moves frequently over the next few years within a twenty-mile radius, residing in Adrian, Tecumseh, and between 1914 and 1915 they finally settle in Macon, Michigan where Leon tries his hand at farming.
On July 31, 1915 a third daughter, Ruth Irene Maynard, is born in the small rural farming community of Macon, Michigan. The Maynard’s first son and fourth child, Herbert “Barney” Maynard is also born in Macon on July 7, 1920.
In October 1922 at the age of 41 years old and after seven years of farming in Macon, Leon auctions off his farm, equipment, and livestock and quits the farming life.
The family moves to Tecumseh, where on May 31, 1923, Leon and Florence’s last child, a son, Ivan “Buck” Maynard is born. It is interesting to note that Florence would have been about two months pregnant with her fifth child at the time of the farm auction on October 31, 1922. Perhaps the move was precipitated by the need for a more stable source of income for the large family, but that is merely conjecture on my part. However it’s my opinion that the fact that once Leon arrives in Tecumseh he becomes the janitor at the local school, a position he will hold the remainder of his life lends some sort of credence to this idea.
Leon, my great grandfather, is the second generation of American-born Maynard’s after the arrival of his grandfather, Thomas J. Maynard in 1831.
Leon’s parents, my 2X great grandparents, were Thomas D. Maynard (1847-1931) and Phebe (Carter/Skinner) Maynard (1849-1895). At the time of his mother, Phebe’s, sudden and unexpected death from pneumonia in 1895, Leon was only 13 years old. His father, Thomas D. Maynard, will not remarry until Leon is 18 years old.
Thomas D. Maynard (1847-1931), my 2X great grandfather, is the son of English-born, Thomas J. Maynard and New York-born Caroline (Coleman) Maynard. Thomas D. Maynard was born in Otsego County, NY and arrived with his parents in Lenawee County at the age of about six years old.
Common names seen in almost every generation of our Maynard line are Thomas Maynard, Jonathon Maynard, John Edwards Maynard, and Martha Maynard.
Ironically “Jonathon” and “John Edwards” are seen several times in branches of the Maynard tree as names of brothers in the same family, leading me to believe that the Jonathon males were actually called ‘Jonathon’ versus the abbreviated John which would have been their brothers.
Also note the middle name is “Edwards” with an ‘S’ as opposed to “Edward”. The middle name was originally the maiden name of my 6X great grandmother, Frances Edwards (1727-1798).
Special thanks and acknowledgement to my family for the photos in this blog, including Ashley Chase, Mary (Manley) Koebbe, Vickie Manley, and Willis and Marilyn (Manley) Kilbourn.
Born 1848 Clarkson, Monroe County, New York
Died August 2, 1891 Tecumseh, Lenawee County, Michigan Buried Brookside Cemetery Tecumseh, Lenawee County, Tecumseh, Michigan
As I explored my family history and pieced together the details of each generation of grandparents, I found that the life of my 2X paternal great grandfather, Franklin Alonzo Manley, was a compelling story. My research on Frank was important as he was the conduit that connected the New York Manley’s with the Michigan Manley’s of my lineage. After Frank’s arrival in Michigan in the late 1860’s, to date, six generations of Manley’s have been born in Lenawee County.
Frank was born in 1848 in Clarkson, Monroe County, New York, the first child of James Manley and Susan (Smith) Manley. At the time of Frank’s birth, James was 26 years old and Susan was 18. Approximately two years later, Susan gave birth to Frank’s brother, Edwin Smith Manley on May 30, 1850.
Tragically, Susan, my 3X great grandmother, dies shortly thereafter. Records vary as to the actual date of Susan’s death. Her brief obituary from the Rochester Daily Democrat newspaper archives dated June 12, 1850 indicates she died on May 31, 1850, the day after Edwin’s birth.
“In Clarkson died 31 inst., SUSAN, wife of James Manly (sic) and elder daughter of Leman Smith, aged 21 years.”
Some documents indicate she died in childbirth, while others indicate a day after the birth of her second son. Susan’s burial record for Morton Cemetery, Kendall, Orleans County, New York lists her burial date as June 3, 1850. Regardless of the exact date of Susan’s death, this tragic event left James a widower with two very young motherless children.
The 1850 Federal census recorded in Clarkson, Monroe County, New York on October 20, 1850, the autumn after Susan’s death, is curious in that she is enumerated along with her family although she had been deceased for several months. Members of the household recorded include James Manley (occupation farmer), Susan Manley, Franklin Manley and ‘Infant’.
On the same page in the census the neighbor recorded adjacent to the household of James Manley is his aunt, Melinda (Manley) Fisk with her husband Nathan Fisk and family. The family recorded directly after James’ family consists of his father, Howard Manley, Sr. and mother, Lois (Kilton) Manley (my 4X great grandparents), and two of James’ brothers still living at home.
In 1851, James remarries to 19-year old Mary H. Phillips and in February 1852 Mary gives birth to what will be their only child together, a son, James Frederick Manley. Mary’s sister, Syrena Phillips, is married to James’ brother, Howard Manley, Jr., therefore, James and Mary were probably acquainted via that connection prior to their marriage.
I am uncertain at what point after the death of his mother Susan in 1850 that Edwin Smith Manley, Frank’s brother and James’ second son with Susan, was taken in and raised by Susan’s parents, Leman and Rachel (Yale) Smith. However, in the 1855 New York State census Edwin, who would be 5 years old at the time, is not listed in the household of James and Mary. Based on my research, Edwin is only recorded once (a few months after his birth in the October 1850 census) as living with his birth family which might indicate he was raised from a baby by Susan’s parents.
In the 1860 Federal census for Batavia, Genesee County, New York, about 160 miles east of Hamlin, New York, Edwin is enumerated as living in the household of his maternal grandparents using the surname of ‘Manley’ and listed as their 10-year old ‘grandson’. In 1870 he is still living with his maternal grandparents, and by the 1880 census, Edwin Smith Manley is no longer listed with the surname ‘Manley’. He will officially be adopted by his maternal grandparents and takes the surname ‘Smith’. He is never again recorded as a ‘Manley’.
James Manley’s family is recorded in the 1860 Federal census residing in Hamlin, Monroe County, New York. In June 1863, two years after the start of the Civil War, Frank’s father, James, along with two of his brothers also living in Hamlin, Monroe County, New York register for the Civil War draft. This draft was the result of the Enrollment Act, also known as the Civil War Military Draft Act, instituted on March 3, 1863 to procure fresh manpower for the Union Army. Further research, however, reveals that James never actually served in the Civil War.
One year later, on June 30, 1864, James dies from ‘consumption’ (tuberculosis) in Hamlin, Monroe County, New York at the age of 42. He is buried in Morton Cemetery, Kendall, Orleans County, New York between his first wife, Susan and second wife, Mary. At the time of his father’s death, Frank is 16 years old.
Before the advent of modern-day antibiotics, tuberculosis was an extremely painful, highly contagious, and often long-suffering bacterial disease that affects the lungs. Although there are no records to indicate when Frank’s father first contracted tuberculosis prior to his death in June 1864, it would have been an uncertain and stressful time for Frank, the oldest son. It should be noted that James’ father (Frank’s paternal grandfather) Howard Manley, Sr. also died from tuberculosis 12 years prior in 1852.
To place the death of Frank’s father in 1864 into the bigger context of American history, the country was in the fourth year of the Civil War. The war will end a year later in April 1865 when Confederate General Robert E. Lee will surrender at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia.
In Manley family history in April 1865, less than a year after James’ death, Frank’s stepmother, Mary (Phillips) Manley petitioned the court of Monroe County, New York to surrender guardianship of both her stepson, Frank, and her biological son, James Frederick Manley. Through the >documents< discovered on familysearch.org we are afforded a glimpse into the hardship the family experienced at this point in time. Researching further on the appointed guardian noted in the legal documents, Egbert H. Campbell, I identified that Mr. Campbell was actually the ‘Overseer of the Poor’ in Monroe County, New York. It is worth a click through on the link above to read them directly, pages 623 and 624 of the document.
What is curious is that a few months later in June 1865, mother Mary and sons Frank and James are recorded in the 1865 New York State census for Monroe County residing together on their farm in Hamlin, New York. I find no documentation to clarify what transpired after the petition for guardianship of Frank and James Frederick in April 1865 to the State census information enumerated in June 1865.
However, I did unearth another document dated 1867, two years after the guardianship event, that indicates James Manley died intestate (without a will), and lists his wife, Mary, as administrator of his estate and three sons as minor children. At this point, Frank, 19 years old in 1867, is living in Hamlin, New York while his brother Edwin Smith Manley and his half brother James Frederick Manley are living in Batavia, Genesee County, New York.
In 1870, when Frank is about 22 years old, his guardianship is ‘dismissed’ and between the years of 1867 and 1870 Frank moves from Hamlin, New York west to Lenawee County, Michigan. As Frank is the only direct line Manley ancestor that migrates to Lenawee County, Michigan, I was interested to find out why he chose this particular location where, up to present day, the Manley’s of my line reside.
After months of digging around the life stories of other related Manley’s in Monroe and Orleans County, New York I (finally) discovered that Frank’s first cousin, 1X removed, Nathan Manley also born in Clarkson, Monroe County, New York moved to Lenawee County, Michigan in about 1853 after his marriage to wife, Ellen Weber. It might be surmised, although I have found no ‘hard’ documentation that ties Nathan to Frank other than sharing Manley blood lines and having been born and resided with all the other related Manley’s in Monroe County, New York, that perhaps Frank came to Lenawee County as Nathan was already there. At the very least with the physical proximity of all the Manley’s in the same area of western New York, they would have certainly known one another and been aware of their family connection which makes this theory a viable one.
In the 1870 Federal census for Lenawee County, Michigan, Nathan Manley is recorded in Deerfield, Lenawee County, Michigan, occupation carpenter. Frank Manley is listed a few miles away in Raisin Township, Lenawee County, Michigan, occupation farmer. It is interesting to note that although Frank is listed as a farmer, it appears that he does not own any land. In lieu of real estate, his recorded personal value at the time of the 1870 census is calculated at $500. Converting the dollar amount from 1870’s currency to today’s equivalent indicates that Frank owned approximately $9,000 worth of personal property.
The most interesting fact gleaned from the 1870’s Federal census is that we see Frank, now 23 years old, is married. The household of Frank includes his 23-year old wife, Harriet (Jordan) Manley, and a 17-year old laborer, Augustus Collins. Based on the fact that Harriet Jordan was born in Tecumseh, Michigan it is reasonable to assume Frank met and married her after his arrival in Lenawee County. To date, I have been unable to locate a marriage record for Frank and Harriet.
Frank and Harriet’s firstborn child, a son, Charles H. Manley is born in Michigan in 1871. Their second son, my great grandfather, James Judson Manley was born on May 9, 1872 in Tecumseh, Michigan and third son, Howard William Manley, was born on November 14, 1876, also in Tecumseh.
Although I have documentation that Frank and Harriet had five sons, Harriet’s death certificate from 1906 details that she actually had a total of six children. This ‘missing’ child may have been born and died between the 10-year gap of the Federal censuses, therefore, was never recorded in official documentation.
Sometime between third son Howard’s birth in 1876 and 1880, Frank and Harriet return Frank’s native State of New York. On April 26, 1880 another son, Frederick M. Manley is born in Victor, Ontario, New York. In the 1880’s Federal census, Frank is listed as a farm laborer in Victor. Also included are his wife, Harriet, and four sons.
Subsequent to the 1880 Federal census recorded on June 5, 1880, Frank moved his family back to Lenawee County, Michigan where his son, Leon Frank Manley was born in Tecumseh on December 14, 1881. In the 1884 Michigan State census, Frank’s family has moved again and is then enumerated living in Franklin Township, Lenawee County, Michigan, approximately 13 miles west of Tecumseh.
As of this writing, between the years of 1880 and 1890 I have no documentation as to the life story of Frank’s family. The next document I was able to locate was by complete accident during a visit to the Tecumseh, Michigan library historical archives. While searching for information on my great grandfather, James Judson Manley, I stumbled across a legal record for a landlord dispute that involved Frank.
On February 22, 1890 Frank Manley was sued by his landlord for non-payment of rent for a home located on Logan Street in Tecumseh, Michigan as well as failure to remove himself and his family after he was served with eviction papers. Frank eventually plead guilty and was ordered to vacate the premises and pay $7 in fees.
Less than six months later, on August 2, 1891, Frank, now 42 years old, will be killed in a train accident. At the time of his death, the family was renting a home on Railroad Street in Tecumseh, near where the accident occurred.
Based on newspaper accounts and other documentation I collected regarding Frank’s death, he was managing a livery and boarding stable in downtown Tecumseh, Michigan at the time of his death. In the early morning hours of Sunday, August 2, 1891 Frank, with his horse and buggy, drove Pat Hendershot home. On his return to downtown Tecumseh, newspaper accounts record that it ‘seems likely that he had fallen asleep or in the darkness did not realize the close proximity of the track.’ His buggy was struck by the train, Frank was thrown onto the track and run over by the caboose. At the time of Frank’s death, my great grandfather, James Judson Manley had just turned 19 years old.
Frank is buried in Brookside Cemetery, Tecumseh, Lenawee County, Michigan, the first burial in the Manley plot that would eventually include his wife, Harriet, four of his sons and daughter-in-law, my great grandmother, Ida (Travis, Chase) Manley wife of my great grandfather. As of 2015 Frank’s grave does not have a headstone.
As a footnote, I wanted to include the following information regarding Frank’s stepmother, Mary (Phillips, Manley) Boyd. As Mary raised Frank from the age of about 3 years old, I am reluctant to call her ‘stepmother’ and only do so to distinguish her from Frank’s biological mother, Susan (Smith) Manley.
In 2013, I was fortunate enough to connect and collaborate research efforts with Mary’s descendant, William Boyd who also provided me with the photo of Mary above. By all accounts, Mary was a kind, loving, and selfless woman who raised not only her stepson, Frank Manley, my 2X great grandfather, but also stepchildren from her second marriage to Henry Boyd.
After James Manley’s death, Mary (Phillips) Manley remarried to Henry Boyd in 1868. What is interesting to note is that while married to James Manley, Mary’s sister, Syrena Phillips was married to James’ brother, Howard Manley, Jr.
Mary’s second husband, Henry Boyd’s, first wife was Jane Phillips. Jane was another sister of Mary’s. When Mary married Henry, she married her sister Jane’s widowed husband. The second set of stepchildren she raised were actually her niece and nephews.
Born August 16, 1849 Margaretta, Erie County, Ohio Died October 8, 1920 Adrian, Lenawee County, Michigan Buried Oakwood Cemetery, Block 25, Lot 25, Adrian, Lenawee County, Michigan
I begin my blog with the story of my 2X great grandmother, Melissa Maria Walker, for two reasons. Firstly, Melissa’s birthday is August 16th, about two weeks away, and I think it proper and fitting that she is remembered in a special way. Secondly, the Walker family lineage stretches back several centuries to ‘Old Plymouth Colony’ and my descendency from Melissa connects me with early 1600’s colonial roots which, I will unabashedly admit, makes me pretty darn gleeful. Although I personally contributed nothing of any sort to the Plymouth Colony, I will proudly, and without an ounce of shame, hitch myself to the ancestry wagon of the Widow Walker who made the voyage from England with the colonists.
On a side note, I have not yet determined the generational relationship between myself and Widow Walker (i.e. what ‘X’ grandmother she is to me) because, quite frankly, reading through the electronic version of the history of the Walker’s in the Google book archive, my mind went blank after about the 3rd iteration of my grandfathers named ‘Samuel’. My 3X great grandfather is Samuel Walker, my 4X great grandfather is another Samuel Walker, and good grief there’s yet another Samuel Walker grandfather.
However. By a stroke of genealogical luck, Melissa, born to Samuel Walker and Cynthia (Mann) Walker in 1849, is listed as the last generation recorded in the book published in 1861. As that research connects her back to the Widow Walker and I can tie myself to Melissa as my paternal Grandmother Elizabeth (Maynard) Manley’s grandmother, the kinship is established.
Melissa was born in Margaretta, Erie County, Ohio on August 16, 1849, the last of six children born to Samuel Walker and Cynthia (Mann) Walker. At the time of Melissa’s birth, her father was 41 years old, her mother was 34 years old. In 1854 when Melissa was five years old, her father, a farmer, dies. At the time of this writing, I have not yet located documentation on the cause of Samuel’s death, only that he passed at a relatively young age of 46 years old. Samuel is buried in the Sand Hill Cemetery in Castalia, Erie County, Ohio. Samuel and Cynthia had been married 19 years at the time of Samuel’s death. Although Melissa’s mother, Cynthia, was only 39 in 1854, she remained a widow until her own death in 1897 at the age of 82. The family of Samuel Walker are reported as members of the Methodist church.
In the 1860 Federal census recorded in June 1860, six years after the death of Samuel, the Walker family is registered still living in Erie County, Ohio with oldest son Chauncy B. Walker now head of the family at the age of 24. Also residing in the household are mother Cynthia, five of Chauncy’s siblings including 10-year old Melissa, Horace R. Woods listed as a ‘laborer’ on the farm, and Solomon Ford, listed as a ‘blacksmith’. Melissa’s oldest sister, Mary Eliza Walker, is listed as a 19-year old school teacher.
A few months after the 1860 census, in November 1860, Melissa’s oldest brother Chauncy marries Lucinda Wood in Erie County, Ohio. Sometime between 1860 and 1862 Chauncy and Lucinda leave the Ohio family home and move approximately 85 miles west to Blissfield, Lenawee County, Michigan where their first child, a daughter, Flora is born in June 1862. Chauncy enlists in the Civil War in 1863, a soldier for the State of Michigan at the age of 27. Chauncy will survive the Civil War and appears to have served only a short time as his son, Lester Walker, is born in Blissfield in 1864.
Melissa’s second oldest brother, Perry, remains in Ohio and, at the age of 25, enlists in the Ohio 55th infantry in 1863. According to Perry’s obituary written at the time of his death in 1904, Perry fought in the Civil War Battle of Chancellorsville where he was wounded by a bullet that entered above his lung and out over the top of his shoulder.
After his Civil War service and sometime prior to 1868 Perry moves to Blissfield, Lenawee County, Michigan where his brother, Chauncy has lived with his wife and two children for several years. In 1868, a marriage is recorded between Perry Walker and Anna Sudborough with Chauncy listed as a witness.
It is interesting to note that although her two sons are no longer residing in the area, mother and widow Cynthia remains in Ohio at least until the end of the Civil War where it is recorded in a newspaper notice in 1865 that she has mail waiting to be retrieved from the post office. I am not sure how she supported herself during this time period, however, eventually she too will move to Lenawee County, Michigan.
On March 18, 1870, a marriage license is issued in Sandusky, Erie County, Ohio to 20-year old Melissa Maria Walker and George Fuller. Several months after their wedding, in the 1870 Federal census recorded in November 1870 Melissa and George are enumerated living in Charlestown, Portage County, Ohio about 100 miles east of Margaretta, Ohio. When I first began my research, oral stories passed down from my Grandmother Manley (Melissa’s granddaughter) indicated that Melissa’s first husband was a ‘doctor’. To my delight, this story is born out in the 1870 census wherein George’s occupation is listed as a ‘botanical physician’.
In 1870 young bride Melissa and her husband are living in the household of Nehemiah and Hannah Heath. Nehemiah is 69 years old and also a botanical physician. It is unclear as to the nature of the relationship between Nehemiah and George Fuller. However, they were both born in New Hampshire so my assumption is they may have known each other prior to George’s marriage to Melissa and that George may be an apprentice of sorts, learning his trade under the tutelage of Nehemiah.
Also of interest to note that although the marriage license of Melissa and George and subsequent census records from the same year list George as 29 years old, or 9 years older than Melissa, his death record indicates his actual year of birth as 1828 making an age difference of 21 years. At the time of their marriage, George Fuller was, in reality, 41 years old to Melissa’s 20 years.
To this marriage, beginning in February 1873 with the birth of their son, George Washington Fuller, three children are born. Their second child, Blanche was born in 1875 and last child, another daughter, Ada Louise, in 1879.
On June 19, 1879, after 9 years of marriage, Dr. Fuller unexpectedly dies, leaving Melissa a widow with two small children. At the time of George’s death, Melissa was approximately five months pregnant with their third child, Ada, who would be born in November 1879 in Lenawee County, Michigan.
After her husband’s death in the summer of 1879, 29-year old Melissa and her children moved ‘west’ to Lenawee County, Michigan and perhaps, at least initially, lived with her brother, Perry. Melissa’s brother Chauncy, who had also lived in Blissfield, Michigan was no longer alive in 1879 having passed in 1875 at the age of 38 years old from ‘inflammation of the lungs’.
In the 1880 Federal census, however, Melissa, and her three children, George 7 years old, Blanche 5 years old, and Ada 7 months old, and Melissa’s mother, Cynthia now 65 years old, are recorded as living in Blissfield, Lenawee County, Michigan in a separate household from Perry. Melissa is listed as head of household, occupation ‘housekeeper’.
I cannot ascertain what drew the Walker’s to Lenawee County, however, eventually Melissa’s sisters and their husbands also relocated from Ohio to Michigan. My research on the Walker family indicates that Melissa and her five siblings appeared to be a very tight knit family and maintained ongoing, close relationships throughout their lives.
Melissa remained a widow for nearly 3-1/2 years until her second marriage to William Gurin on September 26, 1882. This marriage took place in the home of Melissa’s brother, Perry Walker in Blissfield, Michigan with Perry and his wife, Anna, recorded as witnesses. Melissa was 33 years old and William, a widower, was 48 years old.
William’s first marriage to widow Harriet (Talmadge) McWilliam occurred in 1876 when William was 42 years old. Harriet, 11 years his senior at 53 years old, was a widow with seven children, mostly grown at the time of her marriage to William. No children were produced from William’s first marriage to Harriet.
I must digress here as, of all my ancestors, Melissa’s second husband, my 2X great grandfather, William Gurin is my favorite. No one from my tree has, or probably ever will, be able to compete with William for the undying affection and fascination I have for this never-met grandfather. I will delve into his life story as a separate blog.
I am insatiably curious as to under what circumstances Melissa met William. After the death of William’s first wife in 1880, Harriet’s adult children inherited the large McWilliam estate which left William without property and perhaps even an occupation. In the 1880 Federal census William is listed as a ‘peddler of household wares’ boarding in a hotel in Adrian, Lenawee County, Michigan. Did he meet Melissa while selling goods door to door? Or did William’s lengthy Civil War service connect him first with Melissa’s brother, Perry, another Civil War vet and Perry was the matchmaker?
WHAT’S THEIR STORY DADGUMMIT!?
But. Suffice to say from Melissa and William’s long and apparently very happy marriage, three children were added to the family. Florence Nightingale Gurin (my great grandmother) in 1883, and when Melissa was 40 years old in February 1889, she bore twins, Benjamin Harrison Gurin and Jenny Lind Gurin. In August 1889, infant Jenny died from an ‘inflammation of the lungs’ at the age of 6 months and 2 days. On a side note, the Walker lineage has several cases of twins in nearly each generation, perhaps more than I’ve seen in any of my research on other lines in my family tree.
BUT I DIGRESS.
By all accounts and newspaper archive research which detailed many social events, Melissa’s five surviving children, three from her first marriage and two from her second, were, like Melissa and her own siblings, extremely close throughout their lifetimes. Melissa’s daughter from her second marriage (my great grandmother), Florence, was especially close with her oldest sister, Blanche (Fuller) Naylor. Florence’s daughter, my grandmother, was named for her Aunt Blanche.
Melissa and William resided in Adrian, Lenawee County, Michigan from 1883 to Melissa’s death in 1920. Between 1910 and 1913, information was gleaned from various sources that indicated William, 79 years old in 1913, appears to have developed some sort of dementia. Melissa was legally appointed guardianship of his personal matters in 1913.
In 1914 his failing health and requisite daily care may have become too much for Melissa and William was moved to a veterans hospital in Dayton, Ohio. In 1915 as his condition worsened he was relocated to a veterans hospital in Washington, DC where he died in January 1916.
After William’s death in 1916 Melissa’s youngest son, 26-year old Benjamin Harrison Gurin, lived with, financially supported, and cared for his mother until Melissa’s death on October 8, 1920 at the age of 71. Melissa’s death certificate indicates that she died from heart issues. She is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Adrian, Michigan next to her mother, Cynthia (Mann) Walker. As of this writing, Melissa’s grave is not marked by a headstone.
In addition to her roles as wife, mother of six, and grandmother to nineteen grandchildren (at the time of her death), Melissa was also an accomplished gardener and deeply involved for many years in the horticultural women’s group in Adrian, Michigan. According to newspaper accounts of the time, she routinely won awards for her flowers and vegetables and accolades for her prize-winning recipes.
Melissa’s obituary indicates she was actively involved in the Women’s Relief Corp (W.R.C.) which was the official women’s auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic (G.A.R.) recognized in 1883. The W.R.C. is one of the many women’s organizations that were founded after the Civil War. Melissa had multiple connections to Civil War service through her two brothers and both of her husbands who served in the war.
Family stories recount that Melissa was an avid reader with an apparent flair for romance which is seen in her choice of famous names she bestowed on her children George Washington Fuller, Florence Nightingale Gurin, Jenny Lind Gurin (opera singer of the time), and Benjamin Harrison Gurin.
Melissa and William were active members in the Methodist Episcopal church in Adrian, Michigan and held many weekly prayer meetings at their home on McKenzie Street. However, at the time of Melissa’s death she is listed as a member of the Friends (Quaker) church.
As I close this blog on Melissa, I feel a sense of accomplishment in finally gathering up the hundreds of facts I’ve discovered about Melissa’s life and also a hope that I’ve stitched them together in a cohesive way for current and perhaps future generations. Melissa was a woman who experienced much loss in her life, but also I believe she had an abundance of joy.
Acknowledgement and gratitude to my cousin, Ashley Chase, who provided me with family photos of both William and Melissa. Special thanks and recognition to Derek Davey for the vast amount of documentation on my 2X great grandfather, William Gurin, which was almost entirely compiled from Civil War pension records from the National Archives in Washington, DC. This documentation, which encompassed over 200 pages, was gathered by Derek Davey, professional genealogist. Without his assistance, I would never have been able to fill in the gaps and fit together the pieces of William’s life.
It is my intention to add footnotes and sourcing to this blog. However, in the interim if you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org