CHARLES AHLGRIM is one of the prominent representative German-American citizens and farmers of Burr Oak Township. He was born in the North of Germany on the 3d of May, 1838, and became prosperous as a farmer in his native country, as prosperity goes there. He was not rich, but on the other hand, was not suffering. He determined to try the New World, and accordingly emigrated to these shores in 1863. He made his home first in Colon. In beginning life here he was face to face with the difficulties incidental to a change of country and language, and what was equally, if not even more embarrassing, the difficulty of being minus funds. He began by working out by the day and as soon as he had saved a little he rented a farm, and so gradually climbed the ladder round by round.
In 1866 our subject was united in marriage with Miss MARY FROST, of Colon. There have come to our subject and wife nine children, whom we mention as follows; FRED, CHARLES, HENRY, WILL, LENA, JOHN, MINNIE, FRANK and MARTHA. Mrs. CHRISTINA FROST, the mother of Mrs. AHLGRIM, who has reached the advanced age of seventy-seven years, makes her home with our subject. Besides Mr. AHLGRIM there are two other members of his family in American; His sister RACHAEL, the widow of JOSEPH NENODOLF, of Burr Oak, and MINNIE, the wife of CHRIST BROKER, of Leonidas Township.
Our subject has taken deep interest in the institutions and government of his adopted country, and is a member of the Democratic Party. He has represented his party in the county conventions, and is recognized as an able citizen for such work. He is highly esteemed as a friend and neighbor, and is now happily comparatively well off and thoroughly successful in his business affairs, owning 120 acres of splendid farming land on section 2 of Burr Oak Township.
ABNER DAVIS, deceased. No man stood higher in the estimation of the people of Burr Oak Township than he of whom we submit the following comparatively brief record. A native of Onondaga County, N.Y., born in the town of that name, he began life on the 26th of June, 1815, and was the son of DAVID S. and CHARLOTTE (ABBEY) DAVIS, the father a native of Washington County, N.Y. The maternal grandfather, WILLIAM ABBEY, was a farmer by occupation, and a soldier in the Revolutionary War. On the other side of the house Grandfather Dr. JOHN DAVIS was also a native of Washington County, N.Y., and married lady of Greenwich, Conn.
The father of our subject was a farmer by occupation, and the eldest of a family of four sons and two daughters. He migrated with his parents to Onondaga County, N.Y., when a lad of fourteen years. He and his estimable wife became the parents of eight sons and two daughters, and spent their last years in Onondaga County. Their children were named respectively; ABNER( our subject), SUSAN, WILLIAM T., GEORGE W., ORDELIA, JONATHAN, JOHN, EDSON and EDWIN (twins), and FRANK M. Of these five are living.
The subject of this sketch at an early age was taught those habits of industry and principles of honor which have been the secret of his success in life. He became familiar with agricultural pursuits at an early age, and received a common-school education. He made his first trip to Michigan in 1839, at that time purchasing eighty acres of land in Ingham County, then returned to Milford. He settled in Burr Oak Township in October, 1868. He was married over fifty years ago, on the 2d of January, 1838, to Miss ESTHER ANN RAY, the wedding taking place at the home of the bride, in Amber, Onondaga Co., N.Y., and they became the parents of three children. The eldest, DAVID S., lives upon and manages the homestead; J.M. is a salesman in the feed store at Grand Rapids; ALICE is the wife of FRED WORDEN, a resident of Burr Oak. The DAVIS homestead includes eighty acres of good land with comfortable buildings, where the proprietor passed his declining years in peace and quiet, surrounded by the comforts of life, and his days made pleasant by the solicitous attention of his children and hosts of friends. He was a man observant of what was going on around him in the world, and one who was fearless in fighting for the right. Politically, he was a Republican. Mr. DAVIS' death took place on the 15th of November, 1888.
JAMES ENGLE. One of the best conducted farms in Burr Oak Township belongs to the subject of this sketch. It comprises 169 acres of land lying on section 4, and is provided with good buildings and fences, livestock and machinery. Mr. ENGLE came to Michigan in the spring of 1830, during its Territorial days, making the entire journey overland on the back of a three-year-old colt, and consuming one month's time. Genesee County, N.Y., was his starting place, and he was a lad of fifteen years at the time. He was accompanied by BENJAMIN SHERMAN, an old settler of Nottawa Prairie, who is now deceased. He has thus mainly grown up with the country, watching its progress and development with that interest which is felt by every intelligent citizen concerning the section of country where lie his closest relations in life.
Our subject was born in Genesee County, N.Y., May 15, 1815, and is the son of JONATHAN and ELIZABETH (BRUNGE) ENGLE, both of whom were natives of Pennsylvania. The father was a farmer by occupation, and the parental family consisted of nine children, namely; RACHEL, WILLIAM, JOSEPH, MARGARET, JONATHAN, GEORGE, THOMAS, JAMES and BETSEY A. Our subject, next to the youngest one of the family, is the only one living. The parents spent their last years in this county, and passed away, the father in 1840, and the mother in 1842. Young ENGLE after setting foot upon the soil of Michigan employed himself at work by the month until 1835, then secured eighty acres of land in Burr Oak Township, where he has since lived. He has all his life been familiar with agricultural pursuits. He was married, July 4, 1838, in Nottawa Township, to Miss MARGARET, daughter of PHILIP and PHEBE VINCENT, who were formerly of Pamelia Township, Jefferson Co., N.Y., and who emigrated to the Territory of Michigan in 1836, locating at North Centreville, where he engaged in farming. The parents spent their last years in this county, and in Schoolcraft, Kalamazoo County. Of this marriage there were born seven children, namely; JOHN A. and RACHEL, deceased; AMANDA, URSULA and GEORGE, residents of this county; ADDIE, of Illinois; and an infant who died unnamed. The wife and mother died Dec. 6, 1881.
Mr. ENGLE on the 16th of April, 1882, contracted a second matrimonial alliance, with Mrs. TRUEY (McNAUGHTON) RUTHERFORD, the widow of WILLIAM RUTHERFORD, of New York, and daughter of PETER and ELIZABETH (JEMISON) McNAUGHTON, the latter natives of Scotland and New York, now deceased. This lady was born in 1818 in Caledonia, Livingston Co., N.Y., where she spent the first years of her life. She acquired an excellent education, completing her studies at Caledonia, and is a very amiable and excellent lady, who enjoys the warm friendship of a large circle of acquaintances. The ENGLE homestead in all its appointments indicates the industry and intelligence of its proprietor, and is one of the most desirable in this region. The family are surrounded by life's comforts, and are regarded as valued members of the community.
ABNER J. VAN VORST, proprietor of a good farm of 120 acres on section 7, in Burr Oak Township, is a native of Glenville, Schenectady Co., N.Y., where his birth took place July 14, 1833. His parents were GILES and SARAH (BICE) VAN VORST, natives of New York, and the father a wagon-maker by trade, which he followed the greater part of his life very successfully, accumulating a fine property.
From Glenville the parents of our subject removed first to Jefferson County, N.Y., and thence to Oswego County, locating near the town of Mexico. In 1843 they left the Empire State, bringing with them their nine children, and located in Colon Township, this county, where they both died.
To GILES and SARAH VAN VORST there were born eleven children. Those accompanying their parents to Michigan were WILLIAM H., MARY A., ABRAHAM B., ABNER J., CHARLES C., AUGUSTINE D., JOHN J., SARAH, MINERVA and GEORGE. Those since deceased are MARY A. and AUGUSTINE. SUMMER died in New York State.
Our subject left the parental roof at the age of seventeen years, and entered the employ of the Michigan Southern Railroad during its construction from Elkhart to Janesville. He was finally promoted to foreman, and later became baggage master, operating at Coldwater and Burr Oak until August, 1865. He then engaged with the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railway.
In 1857 Mr. VAN VORST engaged in farming on rented land in Mendon Township, where he lived five years, and thence removed to Nottawa Township, engaging there also in agriculture until 1862. The late Civil War being then in progress, he enlisted in the 6th Michigan Light Artillery, and was in the service about one and one-half years, doing duty mostly in Kentucky, and although not regularly engaged in any battle, frequently met the enemy in skirmishes. He escaped wounds and capture, but his health was greatly affected by hardship ad privation, and he was obliged to accept his honorable discharge for disability in 1863. He now receives a pension from the Government.
The marriage of ABNER J. VAN VORST and Miss ELIZABETH WHITE was celebrated at the home of the bride in Burr Oak Township in 1855. Mrs. VAN VORST was born in Light Street, Columbia, Co., Pa., Jan. 19, 1834, and is the daughter of ZEBBA and SUSANNAH WHITE, who were natives of Pennsylvania, and spent their last years in this county.
Our subject and his wife commenced their wedded life in Burr Oak. Their union has been blessed by the birth of six children, the eldest of whom, a daughter, LUCY, is now the wife of CHARLES WARD, of Sturgis; ALBERT, also a resident of that city, is engaged in farming; ZEABOTH, WILLIAM, GEORGE and SUSANNA are at home with their parents. Mr. VAN VORST operates his land on the line of general farming, and is doing well.
Hon. NELSON FERRIS, one of the most public-spirited men of this county, has built up one of its finest homesteads, which is located on section 15, Mendon Township, and invariably attracts the attention of the traveler through this portion of St. Joseph County. Mr. FERRIS came to this county in April, 1878, and has since been closely identified with its growth and progress. His property embraces 360 acres of valuable land, which, with its buildings, live stock and farm machinery, forms one of the most attractive spots in the landscape of this region. He is widely and favorably known, and enjoys the confidence of hosts of friends.
The subject of this sketch is the offspring of an excellent family, being the son of LEONARD and ELIZABETH (RYAN) FERRIS, the former a native of Dutchess County, N.Y., and the latter of Ireland. The mother crossed the Atlantic in her youth, and after marriage the parents settled in Wayne County, N.Y., where there were born to them nine children, and where they spent the remainder of their lives, the father dying about 1877, and the mother about 1872. Five of their children are living, and located mostly in Michigan.
Mr. FERRIS was born in the town of Mentz, Cayuga Co., N.Y., Nov. 8, 1817, at the modest homestead of his parents, removing with them to Wayne County when about two years old. When sixteen years of age he repaired to Seneca Falls, and served an apprenticeship at the miller's trade, which he followed thereafter a period of twenty-five years. Upon leaving Seneca Falls about 1842, he made his way to Mishawaka, Ind., where he sojourned until April, 1878. The most of the time at this place he was engaged in milling, but also had other business interests. In the meantime he became quite prominent in politics, and was elected Sheriff of St. Joseph County, Ind., holding the office four years, during which time he acquitted himself in a manner highly satisfactory to the people. In the fall of 1866 he was elected on the Republican ticket to represent St. Joseph County in the Indiana Legislature, and during his term of two years had the honor of voting for the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. During his term of office he was a member of the Committee on Claims, also the Committee on Prisons and on Appropriations. In 1850 he was appointed one of the Deputy Marshals to take the United States Census of St. Joseph County, Ind.
Mr. FERRIS was married in Seneca Falls, N.Y., Jan. 22, 1841, to Miss SALLIE WICKS, who was born in Pamelia, Jefferson County, that State, in 1814. Mr. and Mrs. FERRIS commenced their wedded life in Alloway, Wayne Co., N.Y., and of their union there were born four children, the eldest of whom, a son, MORTON E., died in Mishawaka when a promising lad of thirteen years; ELIZABETH J. is the wife of JAMES K. GORE, a resident of Elkhart, Ind.; WILLIAM W. is at Mendon, Mich.; ROWENA A. is the wife of A. L. OSBORNE, Jr., and lives in the city of LaPorte, Ind. These children have been carefully educated, and occupy a position in society in keeping with their station and acquirements.
Our subject voted for "old Tippecanoe" in 1840, and for his grandson, BENJAMIN HARRISON, at the late election (1888). In view of these circumstances, it is hardly necessary to state that he is a Republican "dyed in the wool." He has always signalized himself as a man warmly interested in the building up of his community, and gives both his moral and substantial support to those enterprises best calculated to this end.
JOSEPH A. BROOKS. This gentleman is one of the leading farmers of this county, and is generally known by the name of ALLEN BROOKS. He was born in the town of Van Buren, in Onondaga County, N.Y., on the 25th of December, 1839. He came to Michigan with his parents when they migrated hither in 1844, he being but a small lad at the time. His parents, JOSEPH and SARAH E. (ALLEN) BROOKS, were of English birth, and came to this country in the year 1829. They lived in the State of New York for about seventeen years, where the father followed farming, locating first in Onondaga County, where they reared nine children, six of whom were born in the old country; they then came to Michigan in 1844.
The mother of our subject died after having been in this country but a year. About two years later the father was wedded to MARIA PUTNAM, who died in 1864, but left no children. The father of our subject died on the 7th of April, 1877, after a very brief illness.
Upon the death of his father our subject succeeded to the ownership of the homestead of 276 acres and the improvements thereon, and continued to work the farm. On the 20th of January, 1865, he was married to PHOEBE C. HOUSTON, the daughter of RICHARD and ELISABETH HOUSTON, of Burr Oak. She was born upon the farm of her father in Burr Oak. There have been born of this union three children, two of whom are living, viz; WALTON A. was born on the 4th of June, 1866, and NORA A., born on the 18th of December, 1871. Besides these one little daughter, Hattie Bell, was born on the 17th of January, 1873, but died when but eight months old.
The condition of Mr. BROOKS' farm bears testimony to his enterprise and business ability, as well as his prosperity. He has just completed, at an expense of upward of $8,000, one of the finest farm dwellings in the county. It is built after the most approved designs, is spacious, conveniently arranged, and supplied with the countless conveniences that modern homes demand. It contains twenty-one rooms, including three reception rooms and a large dining-room. The apartments are finished in natural woods, oak, cherry and white wood, and are quite pleasing and effective. The staircase is quite lavish in carvings, well executed, and in excellent taste. The carving is from the design of his daughter Nora.
Opposite this beautiful modern residence stands the old home which was erected by the father in 1848. While building this house, which was at that time one of the finest in the county, the family lived pioneer fashion in a little log house that was standing there when he came; he next built the old barn that stands in the rear of the old home, for our subject has erected a new, more modern and spacious barn, in keeping with the new house. This was completed in the year 1882.
Probably no citizen of this county has applied himself to his duties more than has done our subject. It has been a story of hard work and plenty of it. Acre by acre he has purchased his property, which comprises now 265 acres. He is a man popular and much respected. He is well informed, and takes no little interest in questions concerning matter of political importance, and usually votes with the Democratic party.
John BOTZNER is a worthy representative of the German-American citizens of this county, and the owner of eighty acres of arable, fertile land upon section 27, Burr Oak Township. He was born in Bavaria, Germany, on the 22d of August, 1827. He did not leave his native country until he was twenty-five years of age. His education was received in the common schools of his native county, after which he went into the shop of his father and learned the butcher business. His father had quite an extensive establishment, and our subject continued with him for twenty years. For reasons satisfactory to himself, doubtless, he would not issue to his son the customary certificate of efficiency, and as a consequence our subject left his home when twenty years of age. He then served three years more at butchering, and from the firm received the well-earned paper.
In 1852, believing that the New World would afford him better opportunities for making his way in the world, Mr. BOTZNER emigrated to this country, landing at the port of New York. Thence he went directly to Buffalo, where he arrived with but $2.50 in his pocket, which was required for his hotel bill. He was very successful in obtaining employment, and for two years continued to work for the sum of $800 per annum. After two years in Buffalo our subject came to Marshall, this State, where he worked at the well-known Michigan Central Eating House for three years. The subsequent three years he worked at his trade.
When the war broke out our subject was among the first to volunteer, and entered the 1st Michigan, Battery A, which was under the command of Col. LOMMIS. He fought under the old flag for three years in the Army of the Cumberland, and saw much service. Among the engagements in which he was an active participant might be mentioned those of Chickamauga, Stone River and Perryville. He went through the entire Comberland campaign. At the battle of Chickamauga he received a sabre wound upon the right thumb, that for the time gave him considerable trouble. He received an honorable discharge in June, 1864.
Leaving the military service, Mr. BOTZNER returned to his adopted State, and at Sturgis during the next five years built up an extensive butcher business, from which he removed to his present farm in the year 1872, and has here resided about fifteen years. In 1866 Mr. BOTZNER was united in marriage with Elizabeth SCHMIDT, a native of Sturgis, and a daughter of Conrad and Christend SCHMIDT. She has presented her husband with six children, all of whom are living, and who bear the following names: Edward, Phillipp, Conrad, Addie, John and Frank.
Charles J. CLOWES. This pleasant and genial gentleman and his estimable wife are living comfortably together on a well-regulated homestead on section 6 in Mendon Township, where, during the years of an extended residence, they have gathered around them hosts of friends. They have been among the people of a community who were liberal and progressive in their ideas, and, as they have passed along the wayside of life, have done good as they have found opportunity. In noting the changes occurring during their long residence in Southern Michigan, they have been vitally interested in its growth and development. As peaceful and law-abiding citizens, laboring to build up one of the most desirable homesteads, they have thus contributed to the prosperity of their township, and are numbered among those to whom it is indebted for its importance among the intelligent communities of this region.
The father of our subject, Joseph H. CLOWES, was born in Loudoun County, Va., and married Miss Ann E. DUNKIN, a native of the same place. In 1832, leaving the Old Dominion, they made their way to Southern Michigan, during the Territorial days, and for a short time sojourned in Nottawa Township. Later they moved to what is now Colon Township, where the father operated as a tiller of the soil, and where his death took place Sept. 17, 1850. The mother is still living, having survived her husband a period of thirty-eight years, and remaining a widow. She is now quite aged, and makes her home with her son Charles J.
The parental family included two children only our subject and his sister Ruth. The latter, the elder of the two, married Samuel FISK, and died at her home in Vicksburg, in January, 1882, aged about fifty-three years; she was born in Virginia. The native place of Charles J. was in the then unimportant town of Schoolcraft, Kalamazoo County, where he first opened his eyes to the light Oct. 28, 1834. His father was for many years engaged in the dry goods trade, and Charles J. assisted him in the Store until his death. After that he turned his attention to agricultural pursuits. After the removal of the family to this county he lived in Colon Township until purchasing the farm which he now owns and which he has since occupied.
The CLOWES homestead embraces eighty acres of good land, with an excellent set of farm buildings, a fair assortment of live stock, the improved machinery necessary for caring on agriculture successfully, and all of the other appliances of the progressive farmer. One of the most important events in the life of our subject was his marriage with Miss Demetra POTTER, which took place at the home of the bride in Brady Township, Kalamazoo County, March 9, 1862. This lady is the daughter of Jeremiah and Nancy (JOHNSON) POTTER, who were both natives of New York State. They came to Michigan in 1844, settling in Brady Township, Kalamazoo County, where the father followed farming, and where his death took place July 7, 1870. The mother is still living, having arrived at an advanced age, and makes her home with her daughter.
To the parents of Mrs. CLOWES there were born eleven children, six sons and five daughters, and she was the third child. Her native place was in Herkimer County, N.Y., where her birth took place Jan. 24, 1834. She was a little girl ten years of age when her parents came to Michigan. At school she was studious and attentive, and developed into a teacher, which calling she followed in Kalamazoo County some time before her marriage. Of this union there has been born one child only, a daughter, Carrie, in 1875; she is now thirteen years of age.
Before the completion of the Grand Rapids & Indiana Railroad Mr. CLOWES was for several years Postmaster at Park. In 1859 he made quite an extended trip to the Far West, and spent about one year looking over the country beyond the Mississippi. There has been a vast change during the period of thirty years which has elapsed, and in which the Indians have been compelled to "move on" before the advancing feet of civilization. Mr. CLOWES witnessed many strange scenes during that sojourn on the other side of the Father of Waters, which he has always felt was time well spent as a means of gaining useful information. He has always kept himself well posted upon current events, and since becoming a voter has supported the principles of the Democratic party.
[top of page]