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