George B. Wells and his family tragedy

George B. Wells was my father’s 1st cousin 3x removed. George was the son of Tabitha Wells, who was the sister of Joel Wells. Joel was my dad’s great-great grandfather.

George mentioned in his grandfather Matthew’s will from 1828. George would have been 7, and his mother had already died (perhaps in childbirth?). George was left 52 acres.

By 1848, George was in Buchanan, Missouri where he married Catharine Page on January 7, 1848. In the 1850 census, George and Catharine were living with their 2-year-old daughter Mary in Rush Township, Buchanan County, Missouri. In the 1855 Kansas State Census, there is a George B. Wells enumerated in the 15th district with his wife, C. F., and 3 daughters – M. A., L. J., and M. J. I believe this is George and his family even though the ages for George and Catharine don’t match up.

George and Catharine eventually had 4 daughters (Mary Ann, Louisa, Martha, and Alice) and 1 son (Benjamin). On October 10, 1870, George and his family were enumerated in Rush Township. George was listed as a common laborer with $100 in personal estate. He was 49. His wife Catharine was 40. Mary was out of the house, having married Winfrey Mitchell in April 1870. Louisa was 19. Martha was 16, while Alice was 14. Their son Benjamin was 11. Louisa married Thomas Cox, aged 18, later in the month of October. She was enumerated again with Thomas on November 11th. They were living next to her sister Mary and her husband Winfrey, also in Rush Township. Louisa and Thomas had 4 children during their short marriage: William (born September 1872), Charles (born May 1874), Edward (born 1876), and Georgia (born 1878).

Sadly, typhoid fever swept through the family in late 1879. George died December 23. His daughter Louisa died December 31. Catharine, George’s wife, died on January 3, 1880. His son-in-law Thomas Cox also died on January 3rd.

The Atchison (Kansas) Daily Champion, 1/4/1880, pg. 4
The Atchison (Kansas) Daily Globe, 1/5/1880, pg. 1

The four children of Thomas and Louisa were raised by different families around the area. In the 1880 census, William was living with their uncle William Cox, a doctor in Green Township, Worth County, Missouri. Charles was listed as the adopted son of G.G. and Emma Henderson in Iron Township, Missouri. Edward was listed as a boarder of George and Martha Newton in Rushville, Buchanan County, Missouri. They raised him and he took their last name. In 1880, Georgia was also living in Rushville, with her adopted parents Benjamin Culver, a doctor, and his wife Nancy.

Children of Thomas and Louisa (Wells) Cox, c1940
[From left: Georgia, Edward, Charles, and William]
contributed to by user dlt3d

William married Clara McNelly on January 9, 1903 in Council Bluffs, Iowa. They had three children. William died July 2, 1942 as a result of a farming accident. According to the Randolph (Nebraska) Times-Enterprise from July 9, 1942, he was injured on June 29th “when a steer, being led at the back of a wagon, upset the vehicle and it fell on him.”

Charles married Nora Wilson on September 24, 1895 in Buchanan County, Missouri. They had 9 children. Charles died February 12, 1952. Edward married Fannie Pulley on September 28, 1897. They had 7 children. Edward was a blacksmith. He died Setember 26, 1947. Georgia was married at least 4 times and had at least 2 children but none that survived. She died November 10, 1953.

I like to think Thomas and Louisa would be happy that their four children lived long lives and gave them many grandchildren.


Everett Manley Norris, Vaudeville Performer

Everett Manley Norris, known as Manley Norris, was my father’s 3rd cousin 2x removed. They are both descended from Adam Kinder (1765-1835) through two of Adam’s daughters, Margaret and Sarah.

Manley was born on August 19, 1878 in Wisconsin to Benjamin Franklin Norris and Eliza Brown. Benjamin’s mother was Margaret Potts, the daughter of Margaret Kinder Potts (1794-1869), who was the sister of my 4x great-grandmother Sarah Kinder Bost (c1809-c1845). On June 11, 1880, Benjamin, Eliza, and Manley were enumerated in the U.S. Federal Census in Webster, Vernon County, Wisconsin, where Benjamin was a farmer.

I love local newspapers! I discovered that Manley won a .50 prize at the 1895 Vernon County Fair for a “case of pug puppies.” His mother Eliza won .50 for hair flowers, 2nd place (and another .50) for her Early Rose Potatoes, and 2nd place for her tomatoes (.25). She won 1st place (and .50) for her tomato catsup! (Postcard for 1907 Fair)
Manley Norris’ business ventures, 1897-1898. He was 19.

We first see a glimpse of Manley’s future career in the newspaper the Vernon County Censor on September 13, 1899. In it, the paper reported that he was travelling with the National Theatre Company. In the June 1900 census, Manley was living with his family in Viroqua, Vernon, Wisconsin. His mother was a milliner. Manley was 21 years old and a musician. In fact, the 10/30/1901 edition of the Censor reported that, “Manley Norris arrived home Monday. For some time he has been receiving treatment at a Rochester hospital for an injury received while handling a piano.” Did he hurt himself moving a piano for the theatre company? On July 23, 1902, it was reported that Manley was “spending his summer vacation at home. He will renew his engagement with a leading theatre company in the course of a month.”

Manley was a member of “Imson & Edgar’s Ideals” theatre company which performed “Hopper the Agent” Dec. 22-26, 1903 at the Fargo (ND) Opera House.
New York Clipper, October 3, 1903

In January 1904, the company performed “Hopper the Agent” at the Victoria Opera House in Morden, Manitoba, Canada. According to the Morden Empire newspaper, it was one of the best productions seen in Morden, while “the wooden shoe dance by E. Manley Norris was the best ever seen in this city.” That would have been interesting to see!

On September 25, 1904, Manley and his fiancee Lulu visited Manley’s parents. The Censor reported that he was “traveling with a ‘Little Filipino’ side show at the county fairs.” I can’t find any information about this side show, but it may have something to do with the Phillipine exhibit at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. On November 7, 1904, Manley married Lulu M. Lynn in Athens County, Ohio at the home of her parents. She was 21 and her occupation was listed as actress. Manley was 26 and a “music dealer.” They worked together with traveling theatre companies. By 1908, they called themselves the “Big Norris Band” and played 10 instruments at the same time. In 1910, they were called the “12×2 band” because the two of them played 12 instruments at the same time. A 2/10/1910 Lewiston (ME) Sun Journal article detailed how Manley rescued a cat stuck in the highest area of the local Music Hall’s stage loft. He slipped and had to be rescued himself!

“Mounting the ladder leading to the loft, he soon crawled across a narrow rafter and reached the frightened animal… In retracing his steps, one of Manley’s long legs caught in the intricate net-work of ropes and he came near to falling to the stage 50 feet below. He swung free from the overhead loft, hanging by one of his long ljmbs, with the cat held fondly to his bosom. Who knows what passed thru the gallant musician’s mind. But he never thought of dropping the cat… Thinkgs were beginning to take a serious aspect when Charles Voyer, the head flyman, entered the theatre. Mr. Norris heard the footsteps and began calling lustily for help, which with the help of the cat made no mean duet. This sudden burst of music caused Mr. Voyer to look up, and taking in the situation, he went immediately to the rescue of the rescuer and the cat. He pulled in the rope, extricated Mr. Norris and the three descended to safety.”

In September 1911, Manley and Lulu visited Manley’s parents in Wisconsin again and this time the Censor said this about their success: “Manley has gained not a little fame as a star of the stage since his last visit home. They spent past summer vacation at their new bungalow at Buckeye Lake, Ohio, enjoying boating and fishing. In the winter Mr. and Mrs. Norris will play vaudeville dates with their musical act, “The 12×2 Band.” They open the season at the Majestic Theatre in LaCrosse next Sunday.” In Fall 1912, Norris and his wife introduced “The Bell Hop,”

Advertisement for The Bell Hop, Nov. 15, 1912, Tupelo, MS
A not-so-flattering review in the Arkansas Democrat, 11/29/1912, page 16. Lulu was quite good on the xylophone though!
Lulu Norris in “The Bell Hop”

In September 1918, the couple was living in Buckeye Lake, Ohio, which was just east of Columbus. On his WWI draft registration, Manley listed his occupation as traveling actor. In January 1922, he performed in a musical comedy called “Kathleen” in Lancaster, Ohio. In 1923, the Norrises settled in Columbus. In 1923-24, Manley was a salesman for the Lindenberg Piano Company. In 1925-27, he was a piano tuner, and in 1928 he was listed as a piano and pipe organ rebuilder. Around January 1928, Manley (aged 50) impregnated 17-year-old Mary E. Wiles, who gave birth to a son on October 25, 1928. A daughter was born March 30, 1930. I’m not sure if Manley and Lulu ever divorced or if he and Mary ever married. In 1930, the four of them were living as a family in Akron, Ohio with Manley being listed as 38 (he was really 52) and Mary listed as 28 (really 20). In 1934, they were living in Columbus again where Manley was a piano repairman.

E. Manley Norris died January 15, 1935 after an operation for stomach ulcers. In the 1940 census (taken April 29th), his two children were living at St. Vincent’s Orphanage in Columbus. They were in 3rd and 4th grade. In 1935, they lived at the same place. I’m not sure if Mary lost custody of them after Manley’s death or what. Mary remarried in 1951 and died in 2010.


1943 Hackleburg, Alabama Tornado

“…all in the twinkle of an eye.”

Franklin County Times, Russellville, Alabama (Thurs. Apr. 15, 1943, Page 1)

While researching my husband’s Mann family, I stumbled upon a tragedy. Around 1:30 AM on Monday, April 12, 1943 a tornado struck the town of Hackleburg in Marion County, Alabama. Four people were killed immediately and 26 people were admitted to the hospital. Walter James Mann (hubby’s 2nd cousin 3x removed) and his wife Dovie (Tidwell) Mann were 2 of the 4 people killed. Walter’s mother, Clarise Ann (Britnell) Mann, and 3 of his 5 children were among those admitted to the hospital.

Walter was the son of Monroe Mann and Clarise (sometimes called Clarsie) Britnell. Monroe’s grandparents and my hubby’s 4x great grandparents were William and Susan (Harris) Mann. Monroe and Clarise were married on November 21, 1895 in Marion County, Alabama. They had four children: Luther, Victoria, John, and Walter. They divorced before 1919 and Monroe remarried.

Walter was born October 8, 1906. He and Dovie Tidwell were married October 10, 1926 in Marion County. They had five children between 1927 and 1937: 1) James Beauford, born 6/12/1927; 2) Margie Josephine, born 7/24/1929; 3) Elewene, born 1/17/1932; 4) Alfred, born 12/4/1933; 5) Hubert, born 9/26/1937. In the 1940 census, taken on April 23rd, the family was living in Hackleburg, and Walter was employed as a railroad section head. Walter was listed as 33, Dovie was 29, and the kids were 12, 10, 8, 6, and 2.

Walter and Dovie with one of their sons, from Ancestry

On April 12, 1943, the first tornado of the year in Alabama struck Hackleburg in Marion County. Now it is classified as an F4 tornado, with a path length of 5 miles and a maximum path width of 200 yards. According to the National Weather Service, at least 85 homes and 17 businesses were destroyed, along with most of the town. The four deaths all occurred in their homes, since it was 1:30 in the morning. First reports of the tornado said that 3 of the Mann children were missing.

Images of the damage from the Birmingham News, April 12, 1943, p. 1

“First persons known to have been killed at Hackleburg were Postmaster Powell and his wife. Their bodies were found in the wreckage of their home. Three children of Mr. and Mrs. Mann, who earlier were believed to have been blown away by the wind, later were found safe, but injured. The three Mann children, Eloween [Elewene], 10, Albert [Alfred], 8, and Hubert, 6, were injured , however.”

The Birmingham News, April 12, 1943, p. 8
The Marion County News, 4/22/1943, p. 1

After the tornado, the children went to live with relatives. James joined the U.S. Merchant Marines, and was living in St. Joseph, Missouri on June 12, 1945 when he filled out his draft registration card (his 18th birthday). He joined the Army on February 8, 1946 and was discharged on March 28, 1947.

The other children, Margie, Elewene, Alfred, and Hubert, lived with their father’s brother, Luther, and Luther’s wife Myrtle at 835 Benicia Road, Vallejo, Solano County, California. In the 1948 city directory, Margie was a clerk at the Mare Island Navy Yard, while Luther was a welder. In the 1950 census, Luther was listed as an electric welder at Mare Island. Elewene was 18, Alfred was 16, and Hubert was 12. I think Margie was living as a lodger at the home of Arthur and Ruby Ewing in Vallejo, Solano County, California in 1950. She was 20 and a saleslady at a retail department store.

From Jimmy Emerson on Flickr

On April 27, 2011, an F5 tornado struck Hackleburg and Marion County and 25 people were killed. In April 2012, a memorial was dedicated remembering the victims of that tornado, as well as the 1943 tornado. The 2 additional deaths listed for 1943 were Walter’s mother, Clarise, who died on October 1, 1943 (presumably from injuries acquired during the tornado) and Charles “Pink” Lunsford. He and his wife were both injured. He was described by the Birmingham News as the “most seriously injured among those hurt at Hackleburg” and “was said to have suffered several broken ribs and other injuries.” He was 81 at the time. He died due to his injuries on June 1, 1943.

Prompts · Treasure Chest Thursday

Kittie Bendelow, Missionary to Burma

I have a postcard addressed to Mrs. Bolt, my 3x great-grandmother, in care of Mrs. Bendelow at 320 Linwood Avenue, Detroit, Michigan, U.S.A. The front shows a picture of the Shwedagone Pagoda in Myanmar. Written on the front by the sender was the following description: “This building is just like the Burmese people, showy, [?], glittering on the outside, as far as they know how to do – and that’s all.” Makes me think the writer was a judgy white person. The card was postmarked 4 times, the first on April 21, 1906 at Thandaung, Myanmar, and the last was May 20, 1906 at Detroit.

So my questions were: Who sent this postcard to my great-great-great grandmother Mary J. Bolt? And who’s Mrs. Bendelow?

Searching for the name “Bendelow” in Detroit in 1906 led me to Miriam Jane (Keen) Bendelow. Originally from England, the Keen family came to the United States in the early 1850s when Miriam was about five years old. In 1860, when Miriam was 12, the family was living in Detroit. Miram married Edward Bendelow on January 3, 1876.

Miriam Keen Bendelow, c1884-1892

They had 5 children: Catherine Keen Bendelow (1880-1968; AKA Kittie), Charles (1883-1906), Edward Jr. (1885-1958), Cora (1888-1968), and Herbert (1891-1980). When Charles died on May 12, 1906, his obituary stated his address as 320 Linwood Avenue and 1502 Eighteenth Street.

Detroit Free Press, 5/13/1906, Page 5

According to the notes of the July 28, 1908 Detroit Common Council meeting, an ordinance was passed changing the names of several streets. Perhaps it had already informally gone into effect, since Charles died in 1906. Section 14 of the ordinance states “that the name of the street…known as 18th Street, extending north of [Grand] Boulevard, is hereby changed and shall hereafter be known as Linwood avenue.” (p. 1033). Detroit had a massive address renumbering effective January 1, 1921, so I’m not sure if addresses on 18th Street were changed in 1908 at the same time as the name change. Anyway, the point is the Bendelows lived at 320 Linwood in Detroit, the address to which this postcard is addressed.

Miriam’s daughter Kittie Bendelow graduated from the Washington Normal School in January 1901 and was assigned to teach at Amos School for a salary of $35 (not sure if this was weekly or monthly). According to the 1903 Detroit City Directory, she was teaching at Estabrook School and lived at home. She requested a leave of absence in December 1904. The June 3, 1905 Detroit Free Press tells us why, in an article titled “Two Young Women in Mission Work”: “Kentung, Burmah, will probably be Miss Bendelow’s field of work. She has been an earnest worker at the Eighteenth Street Baptist Church, and has been wanting to enter the Baptist mission field for some time. Her parents seriously objected, but Miss Bendelow resigned her position as a school teacher about six months ago in spite of their opposition to take up missionary work” (p. 3).

Picture from “The Helping Hand,” v. 32, no. 2 (Feb. 1905)

A “Farewell Missionary Rally” was held on September 3, 1905 at the 14th Avenue Baptist Church, with speakers including Kittie Bendelow (Detroit Free Press, 9/3/1905, p. 9). She left from Boston for Burma (now Myanmar) on September 23, 1905 as part of a group of 21 missionaries of the American Baptist Union (Detroit Free Press, 9/24/1905, p. 4). Kittie was financially supported by the Woman’s Baptist Foreign Missionary Society of the West. She arrived in Burma on November 6, 1905 on the S.S. Mandalay, along with Dr. and Mrs. Walter Rittenhouse.

Church Life, a journal produced by the First Baptist Church of Chicago, published a letter from Kittie dated March 29, 1906 in the June 1906 issue. Among other things, she states, “You may be glad to know I weigh 2 pounds more than I did in America. Since coming here, I have had fever for a week but am entirely recovered now and am hard at work on Karen” (p. 16-17). The Karen are a group of people in southern Myanmar. The mission Kittie worked at specifically focused on this group. Dr. Rittenhouse had a letter he wrote on April 6, 1906 published in the same issue of Church Life (p. 4). He discussed their trip and arrival (remember, Kittie was also with them):

Mrs. Rittenhouse and I spent a week in Rangoon, shopping and sight-seeing. Rangoon has several English stores with complete stocks of all lines, that at least remind one of Chicago department stores. Knowing this we had reserved most of our shopping for Rangoon. The new missionaries were entertained in the homes of the missionaries and teachers in the Baptist College… . The chief objects of general interest are the Swe Dagon Pagoda, and The Lakes, a beautiful public park on the outskirts of the city. Swe Dagon is the largest Buddhist pagoda in the country. We were there during the Feast of Lights. At night the place shows off to the best advantage. The light of the thousands of candles and the full moon, illuminate the tinsel and colored glass and hide the dirt and grossness.

It is so interesting to think that this recounting of the trip to the Pagoda is likely the same trip Kittie purchased the above postcard for my ancestor! Eventually Kittie was stationed at Schwegyin. In 1909, the secretary of the Michigan chapter of the Woman’s Baptist Foreign Missionary Society of the West, stated in the organization’s Annual Report, “We…rejoice in the work which Miss Kittie Bendelow is doing in Schwegyin, Burma, and desire to do more for her each year” (p. 51). Kittie earned a salary of $500 for the year. Also in the 1909 Annual Report, the Schwegyin mission was said to have 7 missionaries and 62 churches with a membership of 2,503. They also say that there were 16 baptisms during the year. In a letter discussing the Karen school (apologies for offensive language), Kittie said,

There are about 35 heathen Karen villages within half a day’s walk from Schwegyin. During the past few months, the teachers have been going out one at a time preaching in these villages, taking with them a few of the pupils to sing. The Karens love music so much that they come together to hear the singing and then there is a chance to talk to them.

In 1912, Kittie resigned from her mission – it was accepted with “deep regret” (Missions: A Baptist Monthly Magazine, v. 3, no. 11, p. 849). She arrived back at Boston on July 17, 1912. At the August 22, 1912 Detroit Board of Education meeting, it was noted that Miss Bendelow had returned from her leave of absence, and, at the September 12th meeting, she was assigned to Morley School with a salary of $80.

You might think this is the end of Kittie’s story – that she taught, got married (or remained a spinster), had kids (or not), and died. Not quite. According to a post on a forum, “she married a Burmese man with the last name of Alexander and was disowned by her father, Edward Bendelow. She had 2 children, Charles and Jane. She was in a POW camp during World War 2, but made it out alive. She died in 1968 but never returned to the United States.” Let’s see what the documents say.

Kittie did leave Liverpool, England on July 17, 1914 bound for Rangoon. She was in 1st class on the ship Bhamo, and was listed as a 33-year-old teacher with her “country of intended future permanent residence” listed as Burma. She arrived in Rangoon on about August 1. She married a man named Stanley Alexander in Rangoon about 3 weeks later on August 24, 1914. This is the last mention I can find for her until her father’s obituary in July 1935, in which she is listed as one of his two daughters, “Mrs. Kittie Alexander.”

To conclude, I think I’ve solved most of the mystery. The sender was Kittie Bendelow, teacher and missionary to Burma, and daughter of Mrs. Miriam Bendelow, who was the recipient at 320 Linwood. Now to figure out how Mary J. Bolt knew the Bendelow family. Through the Baptist church? That would be new information for me! Was she friends with Miriam from somewhere else? She would have been about 13 years older than Miriam.

Maternal · Prompts · Wednesday's Child

Leroy Burtraw

Emma Oakes, my great-grandfather’s sister, was married to Floyd Burtraw on December 9, 1908 when she was 18 and Floyd was 21. They had 3 children: Earl (1909-1946), Margaret (1911-2011), and Leroy (1915-1922).

Detroit Free Press, Dec. 13, 1908, page 83

In the 1920 Federal Census, Floyd, Emma, Earl, and Margaret were living on Prentis Avenue in Detroit, Michigan. From this page of the census, one would never know that Leroy existed. Instead, I found him as a patient at the Eloise Hospital and Infirmary in Nankin Township, Wayne County, Michigan (now Westland). He was 4 years and 7 months old. Leroy and a boy named Wilbur, who was 2 years and 9 months old, were the youngest patients in the entire infirmary. From the census, I couldn’t tell what his illness was. Next, I found his death certificate listing his date of birth as May 15, 1915 in Detroit and his date of death as October 2, 1922 at 3:30 AM at the Michigan Home and Training School in Lapeer County, Michigan. The poor baby died of otitis media (a middle-ear infection) with secondary/contributory causes of tonsillitis, endocarditis, and “feebleminded.” Next, I looked up the Michigan Home and Training School and found that when it opened in 1895, it was known as “The Michigan State Home for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic.” According to Merriam-Webster, “feeble-mindedness” is defined as an “impairment in intellectual ability” and is noted as a dated and offensive term. I wonder if doctors used the terms epileptic and feeble-minded interchangeably, and if Leroy was really epileptic.

Eloise infirmary building (on left), c1930 – from Friends of Eloise Facebook page

I wanted to find out more about the institutions that Leroy was committed/admitted to. Begun in 1832 as the Wayne County Poor House, by 1913 Eloise Hospital had three divisions: the hospital (mental asylum), the infirmary (or poorhouse), and the sanatorium (for tuberculosis patients). Leroy was in the infirmary on the date of the census, February 21, 1920. Before June 2, 1913, it had been called the Wayne County Alms House. Later, in March 1933, the infirmary became the Dr. William J. Seymour Hospital for infirmary patients, as well as mental patients with medical/surgical needs. I can only speculate why Leroy was there in 1920. I don’t think it was because his family was poor; Floyd had a job as a machinist at a factory in 1920. Was Leroy too young to be put in the mental hospital area for his “feeble-mindedness”? Did he have epilepsy, instead? And would that have been treated in the infirmary instead of the hospital? I wonder how long Leroy had been there before the census was taken, and how long after.

I do know, according to his death certificate, that he was seen by the doctor at the Michigan Home and Training School from July 1922 until his death in October 1922. The school began as the Michigan Home for the Feeble Minded and Epileptic in 1895 in Elba Township, Lapeer County.

Image from the 1896 Biennial Report

“Originally providing housing and care for epileptics, the home moved the epileptic patients to the hospital in Caro, Michigan, in 1913. This was done in order to focus more attention on teaching and training residents in hopes that they would eventually become productive members of society. By 1922, all residents were admitted only by order of probate court; this included mentally deficient and handicapped children, orphans, abandoned children, and juvenile delinquents, and special consideration was given to the poor.”

From Oakdale: The Lapeer State Home by Laura Fromwiller and Jan Gillis

Between July 1, 1917 and June 30, 1918 (3-4 years before Leroy came), the school’s rate of maintenance per patient per day was .66 cents. In their biennial report for the end of 1918, the school stated that “there are more than 300 on the waiting list who have been ordered admitted by the various Probate Courts.” An interesting item to note: “Our epileptic population – 65 male and 66 female – are children of school age and will not be transferred to the Michigan Farm Colony for Epileptics until provision is made for their training at the Colony. The balance are patients of low mentality and not eligible for transfer” (p. 14).

Attendant Minnie Kenietz and a resident in Cottage A Dormitory Room (from 1900 Biennial Report)

I don’t know if Leroy was physically well enough to enjoy the occupations at the school, such as farming vegetables and taking care of animals. In August 1922, according to the 9/21/1922 issue of the Flint Daily Journal, the population was 1,768.

Leroy Burtraw’s death certificate from Ancestry

When he died at age 7, Leroy had numerous infections (heart, tonsils, ear) and ended up dying of his ear infection, which may have been curable with antibiotics. Sadly, penicillin wasn’t discovered until 1928. Had he lived, Leroy may have eventually been forcibly sterilized as 2,339 people were at the school between 1914 and 1974.


A Sister’s Sacrifice

The title of this post comes from an article in the Christmas Eve 1889 edition of the Bay City (MI) Times. I’ll be writing about Emma Baker, the sister of Jacob Baker (my husband’s great-great grandfather). Emma was born to George and Elisabeth (Kline) Becker on January 13, 1869 in Ohio. She was the 7th of 9 children. In the 1870 and 1880 censuses, the family was living in Richfield Township in Lucas County, Ohio. Emma’s older brother Conrad (1860-1933) married Mary Hager in Bay City, Michigan in October 1884 and remained in that area. Jacob joined Conrad in Bay City sometime between 1884 and 1889.

Emma Baker
photographed by G. F. Sterling of West Bay City, MI between October and December 1889

Jacob became ill with “typhoid-malarial fever” and Emma came up from Ohio around the beginning of October 1889 to care for him – I assume since he was single and didn’t have anyone else to tend to him. According to the Bay City Times article, “For nine weeks [Emma] attended carefully to his wants, remaining at his bedside day and night, and sacrificing her health and rest for his good.” Around December 13, 1889, Emma too got sick. While she was ill, their brother Conrad also came down with the sickness and was moved to a different house (I assume since he had a pregnant wife and young son at home). Emma died on December 23, 1889 at about 10:30 AM.

Bay City Times, 12-24-1889, page 5

Emma was buried in plot 1264 in Bay City’s Pine Ridge Cemetery on December 24, 1889 at 2 PM. Jacob and Conrad recovered from their illnesses. Jacob was back in Ohio by 1900 where he married Bertha Knisel. He and his wife named their first child Emma Maud Baker, a touching tribute to his sister who nursed him, or as the article said, “…[laid] down her own life that her brother may live.”

Plum Street Series

Alexander Young Malcomson

Alexander Young Malcomson was born on June 7, 1865 in North Ayrshire, Scotland. His parents were William Malcomson and Bridget Rodgers. In 1861, the family, including William (aged 40), Bridget (33), and children William (16), Ellen (10), Philip (8), Robert (5), Ann (3), and Henry (1) were living in Dalry, Ayrshire, Scotland. Son Joseph (12) was a lodger in the home of Thomas Gaffney in Glasgow Gorbals, while their daughter Mary (18) was living with her grandparents Philip and Mary Rodgers at Kilcush Cottage in Dalry. In 1871, Alex’s father William worked as a laborer at the ironworks and the family lived at No. 1 Stoopshill Row in Dalry. Living with William and Bridget were daughter Mary (28), who was married to Henry Allan, and her son Robert (1), daughter Ellen (21), who was married to William Hill, and her son Robert (2). Additional members of the household were sons William (26), Joseph (23), and Alexander (5).

The Malcomson family lived at No. 1 Stoopshill Row in Dalry in 1871, at right. 1896 map from

In 1880, William Sr. and Alexander arrived in the United States. In the June 11, 1880 U. S. Census, they were living with William’s brother Joseph R. Malcomson and his family at 415 Michigan Avenue in Detroit. William was listed as widowed, aged 65, and his occupation was gardener. Alexander was 14 and a clerk in a store (probably his uncle Joseph’s store). Alexander continued boarding with Joseph’s family through 1883. On 9/3/1884, Alex, along with other friends from church (including future wife Sarah Mickelborough, his 1/2 cousin Lydia’s daughter), attended a going-away party for Thomas Linn. The 12/31/1884 Detroit Free Press reported on Christmas festivities for the kids at Plum Street Church of Christ, including Alex’s recitation of “The Last Hymn” which was “touchingly delivered.” This poem was written by Marianne Farningham and published in her 1878 book “Songs of Sunshine.” It was a popular piece for recitation in the late 19th century.

In 1885, Alexander was employed as a clerk at William Baxter and boarded at 320 5th Street. The next year he clerked for S. H. Edgerly & Co. and boarded at 434 Bagg (and his future wife Sarah was living at 415 Michigan Avenue). The 12/23/1886 Free Press contained an advertisement for “Alex Y. Malcomson, Dealer in choice meats of every description, and pure leaf lard a specialty.” This market was located at 895 Grand River Avenue. The 1887 city directory showed that he was living in the same building as the meat market. In 1888, he seemed to have finally found his calling. The directory showed him owning the Malcomson Coal & Wood Company at 254 Baker Street, at the corner of 13th Street, along with his cousins R. H. and W. G. Malcomson. The slogan for the coal company was “Hotter than Sunshine” and eventually went from a one-horse and cart business to 10 coalyards, 110 wagons, and 120 horses. Tracing Alex through city directories helps prove Robert Lacey’s assertion that Malcomson was “opportunistic, restless, and compulsive,” “specializ[ing] in spreading himself thin” (p. 72).

In the 1889 directory, Alex was boarding at 373 Trumbull Avenue (his cousin W. G.’s house). Alex married Sarah Mickelborough, the daughter of W. G.’s half-sister Lydia, on October 11, 1889. John S. Gray, deacon at Plum Street Church of Christ, performed the ceremony, and W. G. Malcomson and W. F. Linn were witnesses. Their first child Mary Jane was born on August 15, 1890. In the 1890 city directory, Alex, Sarah, Mary, and Alex’s father William were living at 200 Pine.

Sarah and Mary Jane, c1891

In 1891, they were living at 415 Michigan Ave. where Alex was listed as owning the Malcomson Bros. grocery store. Joseph’s family had moved out. R. H. Malcomson was the proprietor of Malcomson Coal and Wood Co. at 247-251 and 252-254 Baker. In 1893, the same situation was in place. Alex and Sarah’s 2nd child, Helen Josephine, was born June 21, 1893. In 1895, the family lived at 243 12th Street and Alex ran the coal company again. Malcomson Bros. grocers was again run by R. H. Malcomson and his partner Alexander C. Long (Long was married to Sarah’s sister Rachel). On March 17, 1896, Alex and Sarah’s 3rd daughter Grace Lorraine was born. In 1897, Alex and his family (including his father) were still living at 243 12th Street and Alex ran the Malcomson Coal, Wood, and Coke Company.

Sarah Mickelborough Malcomson in front of the office for the Malcomson Coal and Wood Company in 1896.
From Detroit: City of Industry by David Lee Poremba (2002). Arcadia Publishing, p. 93.

Their son George William was born on December 5, 1897, and a stillborn daughter was born on February 11, 1899. Alex and Sarah’s next son Alexander Jr. was born February 27, 1900. In the June 14, 1900 census, the family was living at 290 24th Street. The 1901 city directory listed an additional company called The A. Y. Malcomson Co., Ltd. which dealt with selling ice. James Couzens was secretary and Alex was its treasurer. On November 24, 1901, Alex and Sarah’s last child, Allan Robert, was born. Sadly, Sarah died less than two weeks later on December 6th of a cerebellar embolism and eclampsia, resulting from Allan’s birth. Her funeral was Monday, December 9th at Plum Street Church of Christ. Sarah was almost 32 years old and had had 7 children in 11 years. Soon after, on March 19, 1902, Alexander’s father William died at about 90 years of age.

Alex Y. Malcomson and his 3 sons, George, Alexander, and Allan, c1903 – from Rochester University’s archives

On August 20, 1902, Malcomson and Henry Ford formed a partnership called the Ford & Malcomson, Ltd. They had became acquainted when while Ford was working for the Edison Illuminating Company and purchased coal from Malcomson. When Ford left Edison’s company in 1899, he continued to buy coal from Malcomson for his house.

1903 was an eventful year for Alexander Malcomson. On January 1, 1903, he married 26-year-old Alice Schofield in Toronto. They had known each other from Plum Street, where Alice taught in the Sunday school. Vernon C. Fry’s sister, Lily, was one of the witnesses to the wedding. In the 1903 city directory, the ice company was no longer listed, but the coal company now had multiple yards. On June 16, 1903, Ford & Malcomson, Ltd. became the new Ford Motor Company after Malcomson gathered investors. The investors were all associated with Alex in some way, whether through church or business. John S. Gray and Vernon C. Fry were members of Plum Street Church of Christ. Some sources say Gray was an uncle and Fry a cousin of Malcomson, but I have found no proof of that. Albert Strelow had built Alex’s coalyards. John W. Anderson and Horace H. Rackham were his lawyers. James Couzens and Charles Woodall were employees of Malcomson’s. Other investors were the Dodge brothers and Charles H. Bennett, the founder of the Daisy Air Rifle Company. More about the Ford Motor Company in a separate post.

Ford Motor Company listing in the 1903 Detroit City Directory

Alex and Alice’s daughter Dorothy Jean was born September 4, 1904. In 1905, the family lived at 29 Alger Avenue. Between 1906 and 1910, they lived at 63 Boston Boulevard. Alex’s daughter Grace died on March 23, 1908 at the age of 12 after an operation for appendicitis. On February 13, 1909, Alex and Alice had a daughter named Margaret Alice. By 1913, the family was living at their final home at 116, now 7640, LaSalle Boulevard (a sad photo gallery on Flickr shows the state of the house). The coal company became the Malcomson-Houghten Company, suppliers of coal, coke, builders’, pavers’ and sewer supplies. In 1914, Alex was the president of United Fuel and Supply Company. In 1920, he was the president of the Harlan Gas Coal Company, while his son George was the president of the Malcomson Coal Company and the vice-president of the Harlan Gas Coal Company.

In April 1922, the Malcomsons separated, and Alice moved out and filed for divorce on August 3, 1922. The March 21, 1923 Detroit Free Press ran a front page story when the divorce was granted, detailing the financial arrangements. Alice was awarded $225,000 ($25,000 at once, 10 yearly payments of $12,500 and a final payment of $75,000 to be paid on April 1, 1933). Their two daughters, Dorothy, aged 19, and Margaret, aged 14, were allowed to choose who they wanted to live with. Dorothy chose to live with Alex and Margaret chose to live with Alice. Alice had testified that Alex had a “domineering, argumentative disposition” and “often rude toward her over trivial things, and very often lost his temper.” Another article said he “berat[ed] her frequently in profane language” and once struck her.

According to the 8/2/1923 Free Press, Alexander Malcomson had had “an illness of nearly two years brought on by a nervous breakdown.” He had gone to California to find relief, found none, and returned to the Battle Creek sanitarium before finally moving in with his daughter. He died on August 1, 1923 at the home of his daughter Mary Jane in Ann Arbor. Alice threatened to contest Malcomson’s will unless her two daughters with him were given shares of the estate equal to those of his other children.


Boyd, R. Vernon. (2009). A History of the Stone-Campbell Churches in Michigan.

Lacey, Robert. Ford: the men and the machine. New York: Ballantine, 1986.

Plum Street Series

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell was born June 22, 1811 in Glasgow, Scotland to John Campbell and Jessie Garnock. In 1840, Caroline Linn began attending the Disciples of Christ meeting in Glasgow, where she met Colin Campbell. They married in late 1840 or early 1841. Their first child, John Milton Locke Campbell, was born December 24, 1841 in Glasgow. Colin, Caroline, and John along with Caroline’s parents, William and Jean Linn, and siblings Alexander (with his wife and children), Thomas, Robert, and Janette left Scotland and arrived in New York on August 2, 1842 on the ship Wandsworth.

In late 1842, after arriving in Detroit, the Linns and Campbells began meeting for worship at Thomas Hawley’s home in Detroit. Colin and Caroline had a daughter, Jessie Garnock Campbell, on June 24, 1844. During this time, Colin was in a business partnership with James Jack, his former roommate in Glasgow. This ended in 1847, and James Jack went into business with John Coats, the brother of James and Peter Coats who founded J & P Coats Thread Company. In 1848, Thomas Linn and Colin opened the “Campbell & Linn” Dry Goods Store (aka the “Scotch Store”) at the corner of Jefferson and Woodward Avenues. Caroline and Colin then had a son named Forrest Smith Campbell on May 14, 1849. In the 1850 U.S. census, Colin was listed as a merchant, aged 39. Caroline was 29, John was 8, Jessie was 6, and Forrest was 2. Also living with them was Caroline’s family. William Linn was 60, Jean was 57, Thomas was 26, and Janette was 18. Colin and Caroline had a daughter named Jeanie Flora was born on December 28, 1853. There was a fire in 1858 at the Scotch Store and it moved to the corner of Woodward and Congress.

Campbell & Linn at Jefferson and Woodward, c1856
from Detroit Public Library Burton Historical Collection

Apple Island

On August 27, 1856, Colin bought Apple Island, a 38-acre island in Orchard Lake, from John Coats for $3,050. From 1856 to 1939, the Campbell family and friends spent summers there, traveling from their homes in Detroit and Ohio. Colin and Caroline’s family lived in the original Greek Revival house, which was begun in 1847 and completed in 1851 by previous owners. Campbell Harvey described the main summer house as a “rambling, red-roofed, clapboard-sided, one-story structure on stone foundation… [with] a narrow porch in front, the ceiling of which was supported by four square wooden pillars.” Worship services were often held in the Campbell’s parlor and, beginning in 1874, at the Orchard Lake Chapel. Summer activities including swimming, fishing, sailing, and gardening.

Elma Campbell (daughter of Forrest & Harriet Campbell) fishing off the Apple Island dock, c1898 – From GWBHS

Additionally, the women and girls, according to Campbell Harvey, “sat on the porch, knitted, read, or sewed.” Charles Louis Loos, father of Charles II and Louise Loos, stayed in a bedroom in the Campbell house during his summer visits. Other families built their own cottages on the island, including Colin’s daughter Jessie Harvey, his son Forrest, his granddaughter Annie Brush King, and the Loos and Mayers family. The Harvey house was built in about 1870, soon after Jessie Campbell married John Harvey in 1867. Their son Campbell Harvey described it as “a story-and-a-half white clapboard-sided structure witha wide, comfortable verandah on three sides.” The Mayers cottage belonged to Samuel Mayers and his wife Lola. They spent summers on the Island between the 1870s and 1910s. The King cottage was built around 1900 by Annie F. Brush, the child of Colin’s daughter Jeanie, and Annie’s husband Claude B. King. Annie’s grandson, Glen King, described the cottage as a two-story building with an east-facing porch, a central stairway, and Annie and Claude’s bedroom in the northeast corner. Forrest Campbell’s cottage, on the east side of the island, was two stories and a full length, east-facing porch, likely built in the 1890s. A duplex on the south end of the island was occupied by Albert Mayers and his wife Rebecca and Charles L. Loos II and his wife Mary Louise Mayers. It may have been built in the 1870s, after Charles and Mary were married. Samuel, Albert, and Mary Louise were all siblings.

Photos from GWBHS

Forrest and Tina sold the island to Willis Ward in 1915 and were allowed, along with Annie King, to keep their cottages. Annie died in 1931, Forrest died in 1933, and Tina died in 1939. After 1939, the buildings all began to decay and were overtaken by nature. For more information about the island, see materials created by the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society including a wonderful video Apple Island: Then and Now, Apple Island Archaeology, and Apple Island History

Their last child Caroline Ella, nicknamed Tina, was born March 25, 1860. In 1862, Colin Campbell and others started a separate congregation on Jefferson Ave. and Beaubien Street, due to conflicts within the Howard Street congregation, especially with Campbell’s brother-in-law Alexander Linn. The two congregations reunited in 1865 briefly, but differences over issues like the use of musical instruments during worship split them again by 1867. On April 2, 1867, their daughter Jessie married John Harvey. In the 1870 U. S. Census, Colin (60) and his two sons John (26) and Forrest (21) were dry goods merchants. Caroline (49) kept house, while daughters Jeanie (16) and Caroline (10) attended school. Caroline’s mother Jean (77) was living there as well. They had 2 servants living with them named Kate Collins and Hanna Harper. Next door, Jessie and her husband John Harvey, a druggist, lived with their 1-year-old daughter Caroline. Two servants, Lizzy Codd and Anne Keller, lived with them. Also in 1870, Campbell and his brother-in-law Thomas Linn purchased the old Scotch Presbyterian Church and moved it to Washington Avenue. The Washington Avenue Christian Church congregation was located here until about 1890. (A new building, designed by W. G. Malcomson and W. E. Higginbotham, was built at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Ledyard and was called the Central Christian Church. In the 1920s, the congregation moved further up Woodward Avenue to a building built with funds from John Gray’s son, Philip H. Gray and designed by George D. Mason. In 1928, the Central Woodward Christian Church was dedicated. They moved to Troy in 1978 and sold the building to the Little Rock Missionary Baptist Church.)

In 1871, Colin’s partnership with his brother-in-law Thomas Linn ended. Colin then started Campbell & Sons with John and Forrest. Colin and Caroline’s daughter Jeanie married Henry T. Brush on December 18, 1873. Their daughter Annie Frances Brush was born April 12, 1874. Campbell & Sons went out of business in August 1874. Sadly, Jeanie died of typhoid fever at the family’s house on Apple Island on September 18, 1874. After her husband Henry died in 1879, the Campbell family raised their daughter Annie.

Jeanie Campbell Brush

About Henry Thomas Brush

Henry T. Brush was born August 9, 1849. He was an architect and formed a company with Hugh Smith in 1873. He designed and built the Orchard Lake Chapel, which was funded with donations from Colin and Caroline Campbell, in 1874 (perhaps how he met Jeanie). Smith and Brush split in 1875 and George D. Mason joined Brush. After Jeanie’s death, Brush married Charlotte M. Grosvenor on March 7, 1876. On August 10, 1877, a son named Frederick Farnsworth Brush was born. During this time, Brush, with Mason, designed the Ransom Gillis House. Some other buildings he designed were Central Hall at Hillsdale College, Ypsilanti High School, the Woman’s Hospital and Foundlings’ Home, and the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue. Mason left the firm in 1878, and John M. Donaldson joined Brush. Brush had suffered from depression over Jeanie’s death and his financial problems, and he shot himself on July 15, 1879. He and Jeanie were buried in Woodmere Cemetery. Three years later, Charlotte married Brush’s former partner John M. Donaldson.

In the June 1, 1880 census, Colin and Caroline lived on W. Montcalm Street with their sons John (aged 38) and Forrest (30), daughter Caroline (20), granddaughter Annie Brush (6), and a boarder, Oberlin Loos (24). Colin was a fire insurance agent. Oberlin Loos was the brother of John’s future wife, Louise Loos. John and Louise were married on August 12, 1880 in Bethany, West Virginia.

About the Loos Family

Charles Louis Loos was a frequent guest of Colin Campbell’s in the summers at Apple Island. He and Colin had met at a church convention in the late 1850s. Charles had been born in France in 1823 and had come to Ohio with his family in 1834. In 1838, he began attending a Disciples of Christ church near his home and was baptized. In 1842, he began attending Bethany College in what is now West Virginia which had been founded by Alexander Campbell. Charles taught at Bethany College and became president of Transylvania College in Kentucky. He also edited Campbell’s The Millennial Harbinger.

Charles married Rosetta Kerr in 1848. They had many children, including a daughter named Louise. As mentioned, she married Colin Campbell’s oldest son John in August 1880. They had probably met during one of those Apple Island summers. Another of Charles and Rosetta’s children, Charles Loos Jr., married Mary Louise Mayers, sister of another Apple Island visitor, Samuel Mayers.

Colin Campbell died on September 9, 1883 from a heart attack he suffered at the Sunday service at the Orchard Lake Chapel. Forrest Smith Campbell married Harriet B. Hall on October 14, 1891. Colin’s wife, Caroline Linn Campbell, died May 15, 1900. Their daughter Tina never married. She was a schoolteacher at Central High School and resigned from teaching at the same time as Rachel A. Malcomson – June 13, 1924. Tina died on October 23, 1939. Her obituary stated that “she spent her summers for 75 years in the family home on Apple Island.”

Colin and Caroline Campbell’s Grandchildren

John Milton Locke Campbell and Louise Loos – No children
Jessie Garnock Campbell and John Harvey
– Caroline Campbell – born 11/5/1868; never married, no children; died 4/21/1961
– Jessie – born 11/9/1871; never married, no children; died 5/28/1951
– John Gould – born 10/26/1875; married Evelyn Beattie, 1 daughter; died 5/24/1945
– Amelia Drummond – born 9/16/1879; married David J. Law, 2 children; died 8/1967
– Alice Garnock – born 4/14/1884; married Neil Bentley, 2 daughters; died 4/11/1981
– Campbell – born 4/28/1889; married Dorothy K. Durfee, 1 daughter; died 1978
Forrest Smith Campbell and Harriet B. Hall
– Elma Virginia- born 1/7/1893; married Henry Hart, 2 daughters; died 8/10/1925 of leukemia
– Colin – born 5/19/1895; married Margaret Lytle, 3 children; died 12/27/1974
– Douglas Hall – born 1/14/1900; married Eleonore Grindley; died 12/9/1984
– Forrest Jr. – born 6/19/1903; died 11/21/1906 of diptheria
Jeanie Flora Campbell and Henry T. Brush
– Annie Frances – born 4/12/1874; married Claude King, 3 sons; died 10/9/1931
Caroline Ella Campbell – never married, no children. Helped to raise Annie Frances.

– Campbell, John M. L. (1890). Historical Sketch of the Central Church of Christ, Detroit, Michigan from July 1842 to Sept. 24th, 1890.
– Taylor, G. G. (1906). A History of the Plum Street Church of Christ, Detroit, Michigan.
– Wurst, LouAnn. (Approved June 5, 2018). Apple Island’s Approved application for National Register of Historic Places.

Plum Street Series

W. G. Malcomson

William George Malcomson, famed Detroit architect, was the son of Joseph R. Malcomson and Rachel Harding. William (I’ll call him W.G. to differentiate him from other Williams) has numerous connections to Alexander Y. Malcomson, the Ford investor, which I’ll show. Joseph Robert Malcomson was born about 1811 in Northern Ireland. Joseph had a brother named William, who was born around 1821. William was the father of Alex Malcomson, so W.G. and Alex were first cousins. I’ll discuss Alex’s family in their own post.

Photograph of Malcomson’s Grocery, 415 Michigan Avenue

Joseph married Rachel Harding in Ontario on June 1, 1852. Rachel had been born in Ireland in 1818 (her parents were William Henry Harding and Lydia Booth). Rachel’s first husband was George P. Edwards. They had been married in Toronto on January 9, 1843 and had a daughter named Lydia Martha Edwards in 1845. I assume George died before 1852, when Rachel married again, to Joseph. Joseph and Rachel had 5 children: W. G., Mary, Joseph, Richard, and Rachel. Joseph also seems to have adopted Rachel’s daughter Lydia. The family came to the U.S. in about 1857. In the 1860 census, the family was living in Detroit. Joseph was listed as a storekeeper, with $600 in personal estate. Rachel was 36, Lydia was 15, W. G. was 7, Mary was 5, Joseph was 4, and Richard was 2. Ann Carroll, aged 19, also lived there and was a clerk in the store. The 1864 Michigan State Gazetteer & Business Directory showed that Joseph was a grocer. The store (and their home) was located at the corner of Michigan Avenue and 8th Street. In the 1870 census, Joseph was a grocer, with $7000 in real estate and $2000 in personal estate. W. G. was 17 and clerk in the store. Also living there were Mary (15), Joseph (13), Richard (11), and Rachel (9). Ann Carroll was still living with them, as well as Margaret Kelly (aged 35), and both were listed as domestic servants.

In the 1880 census, Joseph was listed as a retail grocer. W. G. was 27 and now an architect. Richard was 21 and a clerk in the store. Rachel was 19 and a school teacher. Joseph’s brother William, aged 65 and a gardener, was also living with them, as was his son Alex. Alex was 14 and a clerk in a store. Ann Carroll and her mother Margaret were boarding there, as well as servant Margaret Kelly. Joseph R. Malcomson died on January 31, 1881.

Children of Joseph and Rachel Malcomson

LYDIA MARTHA – half-sister of W. G., she was born in 1845. On 1/1/1867, she married George Mickelborough. They had 5 children: Sarah Jane (12/29/1869-12/6/1901; was the 1st wife of Alex Y. Malcomson), Rachel Edith (3/5/1872-6/1955; married Alexander C. Long), Mary Jane (12/14/1874-7/1970; married Reno Deming), Matthew Harding (2/27/1877-10/11/1953; married Ethel Moore), and Lydia May (5/3/1878-5/17/1970; married Harry Learned). George Mickelborough died before 1889, when Lydia was listed as a widow in the Detroit city directory. Lydia died in 1927.

Rachel Harding Malcomson (left), Sarah Mickelborough Malcomson (standing), Mary Jane Malcomson (baby), and Lydia Edwards Mickelborough, c1891

WILLIAM GEORGE – born 4/7/1853. See rest of post for more details.
MARY – born in 1855. Attended the University of Michigan from 1879-1881. She became a teacher in Detroit. She died 9/22/1883. Her funeral was at Plum Street Church of Christ, and she was buried at Woodmere Cemetery.
JOSEPH JR. – born August 1857. He died in Detroit on January 7, 1876 of kidney disease.
RICHARD HENRY – born 10/25/1858. After his father died in 1881, he ran the store as Malcomson Bros. In the 1930 census, he was a patient at the West Side Sanitarium, located at 3840 Fort St. It was an “18-bed private mental hospital which specialized in the treatment of alcoholic, drug, and mental patients” (Ibbotson, p. 46). He died at the Ypsilanti State Hospital on 3/4/1941 after having been a patient there since 11/25/1939.
RACHEL ANNIE – born 4/4/1863. Attend University of Michigan from 1881-83. She became a school teacher. She resigned from Central High School in 1924. In 1930, she was living with her brother W. G. and his wife. Like her brother Richard, Rachel was admitted to Ypsilanti State Hospital on 11/25/1939. She died on 10/29/1940.
— The 6/22/1959 Detroit Free Press installment of the series “The Teacher I’ll Never Forget” by Mrs. Harold Moore featured her. Mrs. Moore said, “I will always remember with great affection Miss Rachel Malcomson, who taught English literature at old Central High School on Cass Avenue. In my mind I can see her now – a prim figure in tailored waist and skirt, with her Oxford eye glasses attached to a gold chain. The chain pulled out from a little gold roller that was pinned on her blouse. While she was talking to the class, she would pull out the chain and let it snap back, again and again. The habit fascinated me. Miss Malcomson was a teacher who was enthusiastic about her subject and assumed that her pupils were equally so. Her eyes sparkled and her features became animated as she talked of some English writer of prose or poetry. She made Beowulf a real person and Chaucer’s pilgrims, wending their way to Canterbury, as human a group as our own class. When a student gave a wrong or even a ridiculous answer to a question, she never rebuffed him. “That’s an interesting idea,” she would say, or, “I hadn’t thought of it that way.” Then she would lead him into a discussion and develop the right answer. One thought which she expressed many times has remained with me through life. In response to any account of discouragement or disappointment she would reply, “But you will find that there is always some compensation.” I have found this to be true and often very comforting. It is one of the many reasons she is a teacher I’ll never forget.”

W. G. and Jennie, c1882

W. G. Malcomson married Jennie McKinlay on June 13, 1882. On May 6, 1883, W. G. assisted in the first worship service at the Church of Christ at 14th and Ash Streets. In 1889-1891, he was the architect for the Plum Street addition. In the 1900 census, W. G. and Jennie were living on Trumbull Avenue with their children Mary (15), Joseph (14), Arthur (12), Caryl (6), and Ruth (4). Also living with them was a “niece” May Hampton, aged 18. May was actually the granddaughter of W. G.’s aunt, Lydia Harding Booth. Lydia Mickelborough, W. G.’s sister, was living next door to him with three of her children. His mother and siblings, Richard and Rachel, were also living on Trumbull Avenue. Margaret Kelly, aged 59, was still a servant, and Ann Carroll, aged 60, was still a boarder. Rachel died on February 28, 1901 of “old age.”

Children of W. G. Malcomson and Jennie McKinlay

MARY KATHRYN – born 11/4/1884. Attended University of Michigan and was a public school teacher. She married Mallory Napoleon Stickney on 6/26/1912. They had 3 children: Mallory II (4/22/1916-12/25/1923), Mary Janet (2/13/1922-7/14/2008), and Honor Malcomson (12/31/1923-12/17/2004). Mallory farmed in Clarkston and died on 11/20/1958. Mary Kate died on 3/30/1985 at age 100.

4 generations from left to right: J. P. McKinlay, Mallory Stickney II, Mary K. Malcomson Stickney, and Jennie McKinlay Malcomson, c1917

JOSEPH EMMETT – born 3/8/1886. Married Vonnie Mosshammer on 2/3/1917. They had a daughter, Alice Louise (9/27/1917-6/4/2019). Vonnie qualified as one of 15 women on the U.S. Women’s Swimming/Diving Team in the 1920 Olympics in Antwerp. She traveled to Holland with the team, but caught the flu and couldn’t participate. Joseph and Vonnie divorced in 1923. Joseph was a surgeon in the U.S. Navy Medical Corps. He married again to Frances Fuqua on 6/12/1924 at St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. They had 2 children: Joseph Jr. (1925-1934) and Jeanette (1926-2012). In 1928, Joseph was a lieutenant commander at the U. S. Naval Academy. In 1935, he was appointed officer-in-charge of the Navy recruiting district in Detroit. He died July 11, 1955 and was buried in Grand Lawn Cemetery.
ARTHUR JOHN – born 12/11/1887. Attend University of Michigan from 1905-06, and also became an architect. Married Gail Swift on 5/5/1917. She had also attended U of M and became a teacher. They had one son, Arthur, born on 9/24/1918. Sadly, Arthur died on 7/17/1919 at the age of 31 of cancer, from which he had been dealing with since 1912. In the 1920 census, Gail lived with Alex Malcomson and his family on La Salle Blvd.

Left to right: Arthur J. Malcomson, Joseph E. Malcomson, and W. G. Malcomson, 1917

CARYL ISABEL – born 12/20/1893. Graduated from University of Michigan Dental School in 1917 – she was 1 of 2 women in the 106-person class. Married Norbert Kulsavage/Kulasavicz on 6/27/1919. They had 2 children: Caryl (1921-1955) and Norbert Jr. (1922-2002). They divorced in 1950, and Norbert died in 1963. Caryl died on 8/24/1979.
JENNIE RUTH – born 11/11/1896. Married Clarence Robert Conn on 4/6/1917. They had 2 children: Elizabeth (1918-2015) and William (1922-2009). They divorced on 10/29/1925. She married again on 10/4/1927 to Clarence William Gregory. Ruth died on 8/17/1983 in Florida.

In July 1910, the Detroit Free Press mentioned that W. G. Malcomson and his family were staying at their cottage on Orchard Lake with guests Mrs. J. F. McKinlay [Minnie, wife of Jennie’s brother John F. McKinlay, a Common Pleas Judge] and her son [John Ritter McKinlay] and Miss Gail Swift [Arthur’s future wife]. Between 1920 and 1930, W. G. and his wife built/moved to 61 Edison St. In the 1930 census, the home’s value was $25,000, and W. G. was listed as 77, Jennie was 73, and Rachel, W. G.’s sister, was 69.

Plum Street Church of Christ
W. G. was known as a great leader in the Plum Street Church of Christ. When Vernon Fry first attended, W. G. presided over the Lord’s Supper, and Fry found him “dignified, eloquent, and comforting” (Boyd, p. 124). He also served as the Sunday school superintendent and an elder. As an architect, he designed many Detroit-area Church of Christ buildings, including the Dearborn Church of Christ, River Rouge Church of Christ and the new Plum Street building at Hamilton and Tuxedo in 1918 (with his son Arthur). The 9/30/1937 Detroit Free Press described an upcoming celebration on October 1st to honor Claud F. Witty’s 25th anniversary in ministry in Detroit: “Among the veterans of the old Plum Street congregation assisting Friday will be W. G. Malcomson, of 61 Edison Ave., V. C. Fry, of 616 Woodward Ave., and Mrs. C[aroline] H[elen] Trout, of 141 Puritan Ave.”

Malcomson & Higginbotham
In 1890, W. G. formed a partnership with William E. Higginbotham. One of their first jobs was to design the old Central High School (now Old Main at Wayne State University). In 1906-07, they designed the Malcomson Building located at 1215 Griswold Street for Alex Y. Malcomson. In 1908, they designed Henry Ford’s house, now at 140 Edison Street where the Ford’s lived until 1915. They also designed more than 3/4 of Detroit school buildings between 1895 and 1923. W. E. Higginbotham died on April 9, 1923. In 1924, Alexander Linn Trout (son of Alexander A. Trout and Caroline Helen Linn) joined the firm and prepared the sketches for Mosher-Jordan Halls at the University of Michigan, which was finished in 1930.

W. E. Higginbotham (on left) and W. G. Malcomson (on right), in their office
From Detroit Public Library
Firm’s letterhead from 1924

W. G. Malcomson died of pneumonia and bronchitis on October 19, 1937 at the age of 84. He was buried in Grand Lawn Cemetery. His wife Jennie died less than a year later on September 27, 1938.

Detroit Free Press, Nov. 13, 1937


  • Boyd, R. Vernon. (2009). A History of the Stone-Campbell Churches in Michigan.
  • Ibbotson, Patricia. (2004). Detroit’s Hospitals, Healers, and Helpers. Arcadia Press, p. 46.
  • Michiganensian: The Year Book published by the Senior Classes of the University of Michigan. (1917). pages 230-251. Ancestry databae “U.S., School Yearbooks, 1880-2012.”
Plum Street Series

Charles A. Lorman and His Ice Company

Charles A. Lorman was born November 1, 1829 in Geislingen in Württemberg, Germany. His parents were Christian Lorman and Elizabeth Vetter. Christian was a blacksmith. After he left school at 14, Charles worked as a cabinetmaker. According to Silas Farmer, when Charles was 17, he “left home, with knapsack on back and cane in hand, traveling through different countries, working at times at his trade, until he finally arrived at Rotterdam, Holland” (p. 1245). From there he left for America, arriving in New York on August 9, 1849. In Detroit, he became a dry goods salesman and worked at a few different hotels. He then traveled to New Orleans and worked on a steamboat on the Mississippi River.

When Charles came back to Detroit, he headed up to Marine City where he worked in shipbuilding. He was in Marine City at the same time Alexander Linn and his family were there. Charles began attending Sunday meetings conducted by Linn. Linn baptized Charles in 1854 in the St. Clair River. According to G. G. Taylor, the ice on the river was 2 feet thick and had to be cut for the baptism. It was during this time Charles met Alexander Linn’s sister, Janette.

Janette Linn Lorman in the 1920s

Back in Detroit, he started working in the ice business, becoming a partner in the firm McLees & Lorman. In the 1856-57 Detroit City directory, he and Clinton McLees were listed as ice dealers in Springwells, Detroit. Meanwhile, Charles and Janette were married on December 24, 1858. When McLees died in 1860, Lorman went into the ice business for himself. In the 1860 U.S. census, Charles, Janette, and their baby Jean were living in the Railroad Hotel, owned by John F. Antisdel and located where the Detroit Opera House is now located. Jean had been born in February 1859. Another daughter, Caroline, was born in 1862. In the 1863 Detroit City directory, Lorman was listed as an ice dealer at 141 Jefferson Avenue. In the June 1863 Civil War draft, Lorman was living in Hamtramck. Charles and Janette’s next child, Flora, was born in 1865. Their 4th daughter, Jessie, was born on May 19, 1867. Their 5th child and 1st son, Christian Karl Lorman, was born May 30, 1872. Their last child, a son named Robert Blair, was born September 1, 1879.

Ad for Lorman’s “Belle Isle Ice Company” in the Mar. 3, 1872 Detroit Free Press

In 1869, Charles and Joseph L. Miner entered into a partnership and, in 1874, formed the Belle Isle Ice Company. In 1878, they absorbed the Wolverine Ice Company. Miner’s 1905 obituary said that he became president of the J. L. Miner Ice Company in 1882. Miner sued Lorman around this time and, in October 1892, the case went to the Michigan Supreme Court (I don’t understand the details, but the case can be read here and here.) The “1887 Michigan Reports of Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of Michigan” gave an enlightening description of how ice was harvested on the Detroit River and Lake St. Clair:

Colin Campbell’s oldest son John was a bookkeeper at the Belle Isle Ice Company (Lorman kept the name after Miner left). Walter Sanderson, John S. Gray’s brother-in-law, was the company’s secretary and treasurer, and W. F. Linn, Lorman’s nephew, was a stockholder.

Joint ad from the Gourlay Brothers, A.R. & W.F. Linn, and Lorman’s Belle Isle Ice Company in 1884’s “Proceedings of the Annual Conventions of the Christian Missionary Association

Children of Charles & Janette Lorman

JEAN – born in 1859. Married Alan Murray (son of Lilly Gourlay) on 9/25/1884 at her father’s home. They had 2 sons: Lorman Gourlay Murray (born 2/23/1886) and Welwood G. Murray (4/12/1890). In 1900, the family lived in Pittsburgh where Alan was an insurance agent. In 1910, they were living in Seattle where Alan managed the Bankers’ Reserve Life Insurance Company. Lorman married Mabel Bush on 8/10/1910 in Tacoma. They had one child, Janet Lorman Murray, on 6/23/1913. On 7/12/1914, Welwood died in a car accident. Alan died in June 1918 in Seahurst Park, WA. In the 1920 census, Jean, her mother Janette, and her nephew Oliver Hollis were living in Detroit. In 1930, Jean was back in Seattle working as a stenographer at age 71. In 1940, she was living with her son Lorman and his wife in Seahurst. Jean died on 2/25/1959 in Seattle at the age of 100.

CAROLINE – born in 1862. Married Ira N. Hollis on 9/21/1894. From 1893 to 1913, he was an engineering professor at Harvard University. From 1913 to 1925, he was president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. They had 4 children: Janette Ralston (b. 5/14/1895), Oliver Nelson (b. 9/13/1896), Elinor (b. 5/11/1900), and Carolyn (b. 1/17/1903). Caroline died in 1925 and Ira died in 1930. Their daughter Carolyn died in 2005 at 102!

FLORA ISABEL – born in 1865. Married Julius O. Cobb on 12/14/1892. They had 2 daughters: Janet (b. Oct. 1893) and Nancy (b. 12/17/1899). In the 1900 census, the family was living at the Ft. Stanton U.S. Marine Hospital in Lincoln, NM where Julius was surgeon-in-charge. Cobb was sent to the Bitterroot Mountains in Montana to investigate a spotted fever outbreak in June 1902. In July 1903, Cobb was a surgeon at the Marine Hospital in Los Angeles, CA. In 1910 the family was living in Milwaukee, WI. In 1920, the four of them were living in Chicago and Julius was the surgeon-in-charge at Chicago’s Marine Hospital. Janet married Charles D. Murray on 6/15/1921 and they had one daughter named Nancy Isabel in 1928. Julius died on 3/26/1935, and Flora died on 2/24/1947.

JESSIE – born 5/19/1867. Married William H. Vollmer on 4/24/1912 in Chicago. Vollmer was an architect that designed many homes around Detroit. In 1908, Vollmer had designed a home for Jessie’s mother on Green Lake in what is now West Bloomfield (Jessie lived there too – I wonder if that is how she and Vollmer met). Jessie and William had 2 sons, Russell Karl and William Jr. William died of stomach cancer in April 1932. Jessie died in October 1944 at Grace Hospital in Detroit.

William H. Vollmer, far left, working at Spier & Rohn’s architectural firm, c1896. From Detroit Public Library

KARL CHRISTIAN– born 5/30/1872. In 1896, he was a clerk at “Pittmans & Dean,” which was a coal and ice supplier. In 1897, he disappeared without any word to his family. In 1905, Karl sent a letter to Flora’s husband Julius Cobb from Johannesburg. He explained that he had changed his name to John Long, fought in the Boer War, and been shot in the thigh. Soon after the letter, Karl boarded a ship for the U.S. via Southampton. He arrived in Detroit on 8-20-1905, too late to see his dying father. Charles had died on August 8th. Karl was interviewed for the 8-21-1905 Detroit Free Press and said he would return to South Africa because it was “the only place with which I will ever be satisfied.” Something must have changed, however, because between 1908 and 1918 he was 1st officer on the S.S. Iroquois, purchsed by the Puget Sound Navigation Co. in 1907. It was a passenger steamship that operated on a regular route from Vancouver to Bellingham and Seattle (coincidentally, it was originally built by Craig Shipbuilding Co. of Toledo). Karl’s application for a Seaman’s Protection Certificate (like a passport) on 10/7/1918 states that he would be joining the Emergency Fleet Corporation, whose job it was “to acquire, maintain, and operate merchant ships to meet national defense, foreign and domestic commerce during World War I.” I lost track of Karl after the 1920s.

Karl Christian Lorman, c1918

ROBERT BLAIR – born 9/1/1879. In 1898, he was a clerk at the dry goods store “Burnham, Stoepel & Co.” in Detroit. By 1918, he was living in Seattle (may have moved there because of his sister Jean). In 1920, he was living in Deer Harbor, WA and was a life insurance salesman (like Jean’s husband Alan). However, in the 1930 census, his occupation was fruit farmer. In 1940, he was back to being an insurance salesman at the Ohio National Life Insurance Co. in Seattle. He died on May 15, 1950 and was buried in Detroit’s Elmwood Cemetery with his family.

Charles Lorman was a deacon at the Plum Street Church of Christ for many years. Around 1893, he retired and sold his ice company to the Pittmans & Dean Company (his son Karl worked there in 1896). In April 1905, Charles began to get ill with kidney problems. In early August, he developed pneumonia and died on August 8th. Philip G. Sanderson (son of Walter Sanderson and Isabella Gray) was his physician and called Charles “one of the best-hearted men I ever knew.” (Detroit Free Press, 8-9-1905). He was buried in Elmwood Cemetery.

In July 1908, his wife Janette had a house built on Green Lake, near Orchard Lake. It was designed by William H. Vollmer, her future son-in-law. The house is currently located at 6890 Commerce Road in West Bloomfield. Janette died at the home of her daughter in Massachusetts on August 30, 1927 at the age of 95. The funeral was held at her home on Field Avenue in Detroit, with services conducted by Dr. Edgar DeWitt Jones (of the Central Christian Church) and Frederick Cowan (of Ann Arbor Church of Christ), with prayer offered by John T. Smith (of Plum Street Church of Christ).

Janette Linn Lorman’s house on Green Lake in 1909 (above) and in 2020 (below).