Elenor "Nellie" L. (VREELAND) LEWIS (1835 – 1912)

Source: Lewis, Elenor “Nellie” Vreeland. Photograph. Date unknown. Original photograph in the possession of Jeanne Holst Robbins, Fulton, Texas. 2008.

This photograph, within its oval oak frame and thick convex glass, adorned the walls of my paternal grandparents’ living room in Coopersville, Ottawa Co., Michigan for many years, along with its mate, the photo of Nellie’s husband, John Wallace LEWIS. Nellie was of the eighth generation of VREELANDs who had made North America their home. Her 5th-great-grandparents, Michiel Janszen VREELAND (1610 – c. 1663) and Sofitje HARTMANS (1611 – 1697) were immigrant ancestors from the Netherlands to the New Netherlands (present-day New York State and New Jersey). Perhaps you have a family line in which many of the men (or women) are given a certain first name, often to honor the patriarch of the family or an immigrant ancestor. In my SWEERS family line (unrelated to the people in this particular post), that name is Daniel; and in my VREELAND family line, it is Hartman. Nellie’s 4th-great-grandfather, her 2nd-great-grandfather, her grandfather, a brother, and a son were all named Hartman, in honor of Sofitje HARTMANS VREELAND. (Hartman would also have been Sofitje’s father’s name; the patronym Hartmans literally means “Hartman’s daughter.”) The VREELAND family had lived all those generations in New Jersey until sometime between 1840 and 1843, when Nellie’s parents, John P. VREELAND and Mary KANOUSE settled in York Twp., Washtenaw Co., Michigan.

Besides brother Hartman, who was about a year younger than Nellie, there were older siblings John H., Elizabeth, and Sarah, and younger siblings George W., Mary Esther, and Martha A. VREELAND. On 20 April 1867, Nellie married John Wallace LEWIS, a New York native who had come to Washtenaw County perhaps to start a new life, having been widowed, leaving his two young children in the care of his parents back in Oswego Co., New York.

John and Nellie had seven children, although our family history only lists five: George Emmett (my great-grandfather); John Wallace, Jr.; Esther Mary “Ette”; Hartman (named for Nellie’s brother); and Ida May LEWIS. It was when the 1880 U.S. Federal Census Index was released on CD by FamilySearch that I discovered two more children that remain elusive in our family history: Ethel and Willie. Ethel was born c. 1875 and Willie c. 1879, both in Michigan. Willie’s age was listed as one year old, while Ida, known to have been born 11 February 1879, was shown as two years old–curious! I cannot find these two children in any birth, death, or burial records, and they don’t appear again on federal census records (I have yet to search the 1884 and 1894 state censuses). In the 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Nellie states that had given birth to five children, five of whom were living. So who were Ethel and Willie? If they were adopted children (perhaps a niece, nephew, or cousins), I’ve still been unable to find their births listed under John and Nellie’s siblings’ names.

The Lewis family lived in the Clinton and Washtenaw County area for quite a few years, and it appears to have been a back-and-forth migration. George (1868), Esther (1874) and Hartman (1876) were born in Clinton County, while John, Jr. (1870) was born in Washtenaw County, where his parents had married (1867). The family was in Washtenaw County in 1870 (federal census), but in Clinton County in 1874 (state census). Sometime between 1876 and 1879, the family relocated west to Muskegon County, where they farmed in Whitehall Township until the late 1880s, then moved to Blue Lake Township. There they stayed until at least 1900.

John died 9 February 1908 in Whitehall Village, followed four months later by son John, Jr. Nellie probably went to live with married daughter Ida in Pontiac, Oakland Co., Michigan. She does not have a death record in Muskegon County, but is buried there in Oakhurst Cemetery, Whitehall Twp. with her husband and numerous descendants. Her gravestone reads “1835 – 1912.” My goal is to get her death record and obituary.

Source: Tombstone of Elenor L. “Nellie” (Vreeland) Lewis, Oakhurst Cemetery, Whitehall Twp., Michigan. Photograph taken at the request of Miriam Robbins Midkiff by Toni Falcon, volunteer for Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness. 2005.


2 Responses

  1. I see the connection to Oswego Co. Let me know if you need something from here.

  2. Thanks for your offer, Apple. I’ll keep you in mind!

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