A Civil War Soldier: Pvt. Willard CROTHERS (1832 – 1871)

How Related: Brother of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Anna CROTHERS

Born: 1832 in Erie Co., New York (probably either in the Town of Erie–now called Newstead–or the Town of Clarence)

Parents: John CROTHERS (c. 1799 – bet. 1840/1844) and Mary “Polly” WYCKOFF (1805 – aft. 1880)

Siblings: Anna (1825 – 1904), unknown girl (b. bet. 1826/1830), William Lewis (1827 – 1872), Moses (c. 1837 – 1877), Elizabeth June (1838 – 1915), and Nancy Amanda CROTHERS (1839 – 1925)

Married: Sarah Jane (SWEARS) FORD (1827 – 1899) on 19 November 1853 in Atlas Twp., Genesee Co., Michigan

Children: Marion Arabella (1854 – 1932) and Sarah “Anna” CROTHERS (1857 – 1932); step-son Charles FORD (1851 – 1903)


Source: Civil War Pension Index Cards of Willard Cruthers. Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900. National Archives and Records Administration. Publication T289. Digital images purchased at Footnote [http://www.footnote.com/].


Enlisted:
11 August 1862 in Co. K, 23rd Michigan Infantry in Atlas Twp., Genesee Co., Michigan; private. On 15 February 1864, he was transferred out of Co. K, 23rd Michigan Infantry and into the U.S. Veteran Reserve Corps, 152nd Co., 1st Battalion (Invalid Corps), a.k.a Co. I, 5th Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps.

Side Served: Union

History of Unit: 23rd Michigan Infantry; U.S. Veteran Reserve Corps

Mustered Out: 2 Dec 1865 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan

Biography or Information of Interest: While serving in Company K of the 23rd Michigan Infantry, Willard was put on picket duty on 18 October 1862 near Frankfort, Kentucky when he came down with the measles. Apparently, there was also a heavy snow storm (in October? in Kentucky?) and he became very ill due to the measles and exposure. In the morning, he was unconscious and so was taken to a log house in which about 20 other men were also ill and being cared for by an old black woman. As soon as they were able, they were all moved on to join their regiment. Willard, however, immediately contracted tuberculosis and spent the remainder of his military service in one military hospital after another. Finally, he was transferred to the Invalid Corps and later discharged at St. Mary’s Hospital in Detroit. He suffered from this wasting disease for over five more years before his death.

Died: 21 February 1871 at his home in Hadley Twp., Lapeer Co., Michigan as a result of tuberculosis contracted during wartime

Buried: Sweers Family Burial Ground, Atlas Twp., Genesee Co., Michigan

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A Civil War Soldier: Pvt. Willard CROTHERS (1832 – 1871)

How Related: Brother of my 3rd-great-grandmother, Anna CROTHERS

Born: 1832 in Erie Co., New York (probably either in the Town of Erie–now called Newstead–or the Town of Clarence)

Parents: John CROTHERS (c. 1799 – bet. 1840/1844) and Mary “Polly” WYCKOFF (1805 – aft. 1880)

Siblings: Anna (1825 – 1904), unknown girl (b. bet. 1826/1830), William Lewis (1827 – 1872), Moses (c. 1837 – 1877), Elizabeth June (1838 – 1915), and Nancy Amanda CROTHERS (1839 – 1925)

Married: Sarah Jane (SWEARS) FORD (1827 – 1899) on 19 November 1853 in Atlas Twp., Genesee Co., Michigan

Children: Marion Arabella (1854 – 1932) and Sarah “Anna” CROTHERS (1857 – 1932); step-son Charles FORD (1851 – 1903)


Source: Civil War Pension Index Cards of Willard Cruthers. Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900. National Archives and Records Administration. Publication T289. Digital images purchased at Footnote [http://www.footnote.com/].


Enlisted:
11 August 1862 in Co. K, 23rd Michigan Infantry in Atlas Twp., Genesee Co., Michigan; private. On 15 February 1864, he was transferred out of Co. K, 23rd Michigan Infantry and into the U.S. Veteran Reserve Corps, 152nd Co., 1st Battalion (Invalid Corps), a.k.a Co. I, 5th Regiment, Veteran Reserve Corps.

Side Served: Union

History of Unit: 23rd Michigan Infantry; U.S. Veteran Reserve Corps

Mustered Out: 2 Dec 1865 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan

Biography or Information of Interest: While serving in Company K of the 23rd Michigan Infantry, Willard was put on picket duty on 18 October 1862 near Frankfort, Kentucky when he came down with the measles. Apparently, there was also a heavy snow storm (in October? in Kentucky?) and he became very ill due to the measles and exposure. In the morning, he was unconscious and so was taken to a log house in which about 20 other men were also ill and being cared for by an old black woman. As soon as they were able, they were all moved on to join their regiment. Willard, however, immediately contracted tuberculosis and spent the remainder of his military service in one military hospital after another. Finally, he was transferred to the Invalid Corps and later discharged at St. Mary’s Hospital in Detroit. He suffered from this wasting disease for over five more years before his death.

Died: 21 February 1871 at his home in Hadley Twp., Lapeer Co., Michigan as a result of tuberculosis contracted during wartime

Buried: Sweers Family Burial Ground, Atlas Twp., Genesee Co., Michigan

Guests for Dinner

Mr. Joseph Josiah Robbins
Newfield Township, Oceana County, Michigan

Mrs. Mary “Polly” (Wyckoff) Crothers Chappel
Millington Township, Tuscola County, Michigan

Mr. Franklin Preston Midkiff
Lincoln (now Moore) County, Tennessee

Mrs. Berber J. “Barbara” (DeJong) Valk
1315 West Leonard Street
Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan

You are cordially invited to attend a dinner
held in your honor at the home of your descendants,
Norm and Miriam (Robbins) Midkiff,
Spokane, Spokane County, Washington
at 6 o’clock in the evening
on Friday, February 1st,
in the Year of Our Lord, 2008.

What a fascinating opportunity I would have if it were possible to invite these four ancestors to dinner! We would undoubtedly sit long into the wee hours of the night while I enjoyed their tales of the past and amazed them with the technology of the present. Here’s what you might overhear me say, if you could also be present at the meal:

Joseph, my fourth-great-grandfather, I know your father’s name was George, but was he one and the same as George Washington Robbins who married Abigail Hicks? And that other George Robbins in Oceana County, was he your brother or some other relation? Tell me more about your first wife, Joe, Emeline C. What was her maiden name? Why, no one in the family had even heard about her until I obtained your pension record! And speaking of your Civil War days, did you really get captured by the Confederates and spend time in Andersonville?…because I can’t find any evidence of that. I’m thinking your son Charlie was a bit of a tale-teller, or perhaps was a bit confused in his old age when he was interviewed by a reporter about your military experiences. He said you served in the War with Mexico and then started off to California during the Gold Rush but decided to come back home. Is this true? By the way, was Grandma your cousin? I mean, a woman named Marinda Robbins marrying a man named Joseph Robbins…it does make me wonder. And what was up with her surly old man, Uzza the blacksmith with the black temper? Sounds like he was a bit mentally unstable: poisoning his second wife with arsenic in her bean soup, and caving in the head of his son with an anvil, it appears. That surely must have been a scandal, and no wonder none of us for several generations had heard about it…until my friend Google helped me uncover the story! Good grief, what is with your obsession with the name Ben? Five sons, and three of them named Ben, Benjamin, and Benson! Did your daughter-in-law Viola ever tell you what she knew about her father Nelson H. Peck? Because he’s another brick wall for me. Brick wall. It’s kind of hard to explain. Yes, I know I’m being a pest, but just one more question: what happened to your daughter Evaline? Did she marry Joseph Lyttle, or was that another Evaline? If it’s the same one, I need you to sign an affidavit, because the Oceana County Clerk has Evaline’s maiden name as Stewart, not Robbins. You could really help me out here, Joseph, and I’m so glad you came for dinner! Now, let me show you how this TV works. TV…it’s short for television, and it’s quite amazing…”

Grandma Polly, it’s so nice to meet you at last! You’re my fourth-great-grandmother, you know. I’ve admired your needlework for many years now. Yes, I’m the one that has your lovely cross stitch sampler that you made nearly two centuries ago. I’ve been taking good care of it, and I hope that it remains in the family for many more generations! Polly, I do need to know more about Grandpa John Crothers: can you tell me more about his life? When and where he was born, who his parents and siblings were, how you met, and yes, please tell me the sad story of his death. I heard he drowned in the Erie Canal, but that might be hearsay. It must have been so difficult being left with seven children, or is that number correct? I do know you had seven in 1840, but I only know five of their names for sure. Was Moses one of your sons? I’ve been checking into him and I’ve long suspected he was yours! How did you meet your second husband, William Chappel? And what became of daughter Euphema? I can’t find her after 1860. Goodness, I don’t even know what happened to you and William after 1880! I’ve looked online in death and cemetery records for Millington Township and you’ve been very elusive! Did you go live with one of your children in a different county in your elder years? I can’t find a death or burial place for you anywhere! You know, you come from a long, proud line of Wyckoffs who trace their roots back to New Netherlands and your immigrant ancestor, Peter Claesen Wyckoff, who came over in 1637 on the ship Rensselaerwick. But your mother’s line (sigh)…I can’t find much. Tell me more about her, that Elizabeth Mainard. I see that Cornelius Mainard is buried in the same cemetery as your parents; isn’t he your uncle? Wait, Polly, you can’t put a metal spoon in the microwave…”

Frank, I honestly don’t know whether to shake your hand or just shake you. Why when you died so young, you left your poor widow Ellender (yes, I know you always called her Nellie) with at least five little ones to raise. Yes, I know there were two other girls, but there’s no mention of them after 1840. I don’t even know their names. When Nellie died later on, your kids were still pretty young and had to do a lot of fending for themselves. Except for Ann, they all took off for Texas. You’d be proud of them. After all, your descendants founded the little community of Midkiff, Texas! And who in the world were your parents? Someone tried to tell me they were John Midkiff and Cathy Miller, but your sons’ names are full of clues to family surnames, I think: William Franklin, John Rufus and Charles Anderson. I kind of figured you all came from Virginia, seeing how Isaiah and Hasten Midkiff, your neighbors, hailed from there. You see, we have this DNA Project going (hang on, I’ll explain later) and it shows that all the Midkiffs we’ve tested so far are related. Well, maybe that’s obvious to you, but not to us here in 2008. We’re still trying to figure out how these three and four different lines connect and how the Midkiffs came over to this continent. Do you have any family stories to share? I mean, it’s kind of odd that we can trace your wife’s Oliver ancestry back two hundred years or more, but yours kind of deadends. Norm, let’s get a picture of you with your great-great-great-grandfather. Now, Franklin, that there is a remote for the stereo, and you need to be careful with it. You’re increasing the volume and if you hit the “mute” button, our ears are going to get AAAAHHHHH!…give me that!”

“Hello, Barbara, I’m your great-great-granddaughter. Of all the guests tonight, you are the only one I’ve had an idea of what you looked like before we met. See these family photos? I’ve also had the pleasure of standing at your grave, and that of your husband and mother-in-law…the first ancestral graves I ever visited, back in 2000. I’d love to hear the stories of your growing up years in the Netherlands and how you came over to the U.S. in 1882 with your fiance’, James. I actually found your names on the Surrey‘s passenger list, and even found a photo of the ship. Now, Barbara, I really need to know when and where you were born for sure, and the names of your parents. See, I’m guessing you were born in the municipality of Ferwerderadeel, Friesland like your husband was, probably in the village of Westernijkerk. But I think someone forgot to turn in your birth information to the authorities, and it never got written down! I know your father’s name was Sjoerd deJong, but who was your mother? Let me guess…Janna (Jennie) or Grietje (Gertrude). See, I know how the Dutch name their children, and you kept naming your girls Catherine (for your mother-in-law), Jennie and Gertrude; even when one of your little girls died, you’d give the next one the same name. I’m sorry you and James lost so many children. It must’ve been so hard. You know, I’ve seen lists of deJongs at the Westernijkerk church yard online, and even one named Sjoerd, but he would have been too old to be your father…was he a grandfather? “Online” means on the Internet; let me show you this computer. It’s like a window to the world. No, it’s not black magic. There’s nothing evil about it! Trust me…”

Oh, it would be an interesting evening for sure! Who would be more fascinated, more thrilled, more excited, we or our guests? Too bad we’ll never know!

Guests for Dinner

Mr. Joseph Josiah Robbins
Newfield Township, Oceana County, Michigan

Mrs. Mary “Polly” (Wyckoff) Crothers Chappel
Millington Township, Tuscola County, Michigan

Mr. Franklin Preston Midkiff
Lincoln (now Moore) County, Tennessee

Mrs. Berber J. “Barbara” (DeJong) Valk
1315 West Leonard Street
Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan

You are cordially invited to attend a dinner
held in your honor at the home of your descendants,
Norm and Miriam (Robbins) Midkiff,
Spokane, Spokane County, Washington
at 6 o’clock in the evening
on Friday, February 1st,
in the Year of Our Lord, 2008.

What a fascinating opportunity I would have if it were possible to invite these four ancestors to dinner! We would undoubtedly sit long into the wee hours of the night while I enjoyed their tales of the past and amazed them with the technology of the present. Here’s what you might overhear me say, if you could also be present at the meal:

Joseph, my fourth-great-grandfather, I know your father’s name was George, but was he one and the same as George Washington Robbins who married Abigail Hicks? And that other George Robbins in Oceana County, was he your brother or some other relation? Tell me more about your first wife, Joe, Emeline C. What was her maiden name? Why, no one in the family had even heard about her until I obtained your pension record! And speaking of your Civil War days, did you really get captured by the Confederates and spend time in Andersonville?…because I can’t find any evidence of that. I’m thinking your son Charlie was a bit of a tale-teller, or perhaps was a bit confused in his old age when he was interviewed by a reporter about your military experiences. He said you served in the War with Mexico and then started off to California during the Gold Rush but decided to come back home. Is this true? By the way, was Grandma your cousin? I mean, a woman named Marinda Robbins marrying a man named Joseph Robbins…it does make me wonder. And what was up with her surly old man, Uzza the blacksmith with the black temper? Sounds like he was a bit mentally unstable: poisoning his second wife with arsenic in her bean soup, and caving in the head of his son with an anvil, it appears. That surely must have been a scandal, and no wonder none of us for several generations had heard about it…until my friend Google helped me uncover the story! Good grief, what is with your obsession with the name Ben? Five sons, and three of them named Ben, Benjamin, and Benson! Did your daughter-in-law Viola ever tell you what she knew about her father Nelson H. Peck? Because he’s another brick wall for me. Brick wall. It’s kind of hard to explain. Yes, I know I’m being a pest, but just one more question: what happened to your daughter Evaline? Did she marry Joseph Lyttle, or was that another Evaline? If it’s the same one, I need you to sign an affidavit, because the Oceana County Clerk has Evaline’s maiden name as Stewart, not Robbins. You could really help me out here, Joseph, and I’m so glad you came for dinner! Now, let me show you how this TV works. TV…it’s short for television, and it’s quite amazing…”

Grandma Polly, it’s so nice to meet you at last! You’re my fourth-great-grandmother, you know. I’ve admired your needlework for many years now. Yes, I’m the one that has your lovely cross stitch sampler that you made nearly two centuries ago. I’ve been taking good care of it, and I hope that it remains in the family for many more generations! Polly, I do need to know more about Grandpa John Crothers: can you tell me more about his life? When and where he was born, who his parents and siblings were, how you met, and yes, please tell me the sad story of his death. I heard he drowned in the Erie Canal, but that might be hearsay. It must have been so difficult being left with seven children, or is that number correct? I do know you had seven in 1840, but I only know five of their names for sure. Was Moses one of your sons? I’ve been checking into him and I’ve long suspected he was yours! How did you meet your second husband, William Chappel? And what became of daughter Euphema? I can’t find her after 1860. Goodness, I don’t even know what happened to you and William after 1880! I’ve looked online in death and cemetery records for Millington Township and you’ve been very elusive! Did you go live with one of your children in a different county in your elder years? I can’t find a death or burial place for you anywhere! You know, you come from a long, proud line of Wyckoffs who trace their roots back to New Netherlands and your immigrant ancestor, Peter Claesen Wyckoff, who came over in 1637 on the ship Rensselaerwick. But your mother’s line (sigh)…I can’t find much. Tell me more about her, that Elizabeth Mainard. I see that Cornelius Mainard is buried in the same cemetery as your parents; isn’t he your uncle? Wait, Polly, you can’t put a metal spoon in the microwave…”

Frank, I honestly don’t know whether to shake your hand or just shake you. Why when you died so young, you left your poor widow Ellender (yes, I know you always called her Nellie) with at least five little ones to raise. Yes, I know there were two other girls, but there’s no mention of them after 1840. I don’t even know their names. When Nellie died later on, your kids were still pretty young and had to do a lot of fending for themselves. Except for Ann, they all took off for Texas. You’d be proud of them. After all, your descendants founded the little community of Midkiff, Texas! And who in the world were your parents? Someone tried to tell me they were John Midkiff and Cathy Miller, but your sons’ names are full of clues to family surnames, I think: William Franklin, John Rufus and Charles Anderson. I kind of figured you all came from Virginia, seeing how Isaiah and Hasten Midkiff, your neighbors, hailed from there. You see, we have this DNA Project going (hang on, I’ll explain later) and it shows that all the Midkiffs we’ve tested so far are related. Well, maybe that’s obvious to you, but not to us here in 2008. We’re still trying to figure out how these three and four different lines connect and how the Midkiffs came over to this continent. Do you have any family stories to share? I mean, it’s kind of odd that we can trace your wife’s Oliver ancestry back two hundred years or more, but yours kind of deadends. Norm, let’s get a picture of you with your great-great-great-grandfather. Now, Franklin, that there is a remote for the stereo, and you need to be careful with it. You’re increasing the volume and if you hit the “mute” button, our ears are going to get AAAAHHHHH!…give me that!”

“Hello, Barbara, I’m your great-great-granddaughter. Of all the guests tonight, you are the only one I’ve had an idea of what you looked like before we met. See these family photos? I’ve also had the pleasure of standing at your grave, and that of your husband and mother-in-law…the first ancestral graves I ever visited, back in 2000. I’d love to hear the stories of your growing up years in the Netherlands and how you came over to the U.S. in 1882 with your fiance’, James. I actually found your names on the Surrey‘s passenger list, and even found a photo of the ship. Now, Barbara, I really need to know when and where you were born for sure, and the names of your parents. See, I’m guessing you were born in the municipality of Ferwerderadeel, Friesland like your husband was, probably in the village of Westernijkerk. But I think someone forgot to turn in your birth information to the authorities, and it never got written down! I know your father’s name was Sjoerd deJong, but who was your mother? Let me guess…Janna (Jennie) or Grietje (Gertrude). See, I know how the Dutch name their children, and you kept naming your girls Catherine (for your mother-in-law), Jennie and Gertrude; even when one of your little girls died, you’d give the next one the same name. I’m sorry you and James lost so many children. It must’ve been so hard. You know, I’ve seen lists of deJongs at the Westernijkerk church yard online, and even one named Sjoerd, but he would have been too old to be your father…was he a grandfather? “Online” means on the Internet; let me show you this computer. It’s like a window to the world. No, it’s not black magic. There’s nothing evil about it! Trust me…”

Oh, it would be an interesting evening for sure! Who would be more fascinated, more thrilled, more excited, we or our guests? Too bad we’ll never know!

The Mystery of the Marriage of James L. YORK and Mary "Mae" E. McARTHUR

Discover more about your own family living in the Emerging America historical period of 1880 – 1920.

One of my long-term goals in genealogy is to research in depth the lives of each of my ancestors through my great-great-grandparents’ generation. With that in mind, I’ve created a checklist of all the records I hope to find for each of them, the information from which I try to weave into comprehensive and comprehensible biographies for my AnceStories website.

I’ve been able to obtain marriage records for every ancestral marriage through my great-great-grandparents’ generation, with the exception of two couples, James L. YORK and Mary “Mae” E. McARTHUR (on my dad’s side), and Charles Frisbe STRONG and Mary Lucy WRIGHT (on my mother’s side). I do have a year and place of marriage for Charles and Mary (1873; Fairfield, Town of Candor, Tioga County, New York), which was discovered by a cousin of mine; I just haven’t obtained a document verifying this. But for James and Mae, I have nothing: no date or place of marriage.


James L. YORK, c. 1880s


Mary “Mae” E. (McARTHUR) YORK RANDELL, c. 1920s – 1930s

Here’s what I do know: James L. YORK was born 7 October 1867 in Goodrich, Atlas Township, Genesee County, Michigan to John H. YORK and Anna CROTHERS, the youngest surviving child of their seven children. Mary E. McARTHUR was born 28 January 1875 in Washington Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. Her parents were Daniel J. MacARTHUR (a Civil War veteran) and Martha JOHNSON. She was the fifth child, also of a family of seven children.

How this couple managed to meet each other is still a mystery to me. Gratiot County is two counties west of Genesee and Lapeer Counties, where most of the Crothers and York families had settled. Anna had two siblings, Nancy Amanda (CROTHERS) PHELPS and Moses CROTHERS (not verified he is a sibling) who lived in Clinton County, which is bordered by Gratiot County on the south; however, the Clinton County townships that these two lived in were not near Washington Township. I do know that James’ first cousin, Jennie Mae EBLER (daughter of Wilhelm D. EBLER and Elizabeth June CROTHERS) married Mae’s brother, Daniel Thomas McARTHUR, but they appear to have married after James and Mae did, sometime around 1907 or so.


Ernest, Howard, & Hazel YORK, c. 1900

James and Mae had three children: Ernest Lee (1894 – 1976); Hazel (1895 – 1967); and Howard Merkel YORK (1898 – 1945). Howard was my great-grandfather. Since Ernest was born on 12 April 1894, I can make an educated assumption that James and Mae were married by 1893. Ernest and Howard both gave their birthplace as Goodrich on their marriage records; and indeed, the family is enumerated there in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. However, none of the children’s births are found in Genesee County birth records as confirmation. Goodrich is a village in Atlas Township, which sits in the southeast corner of Genesee County, which is bordered by Hadley Township in Lapeer County on the east, and Brandon Township in Oakland County on the south. The children’s births aren’t recorded in those counties, either. And Howard’s obituary states he was born in Ortonville, Brandon Township, Oakland County; although I’m sure the information was given to the newspaper by either his second wife or a family friend, neither of whom probably knew for certain where he’d been born. James and Mae’s marriage was not recorded in Genesee, Lapeer or Oakland County marriage records, either. The lack of vital records available for this family has been frustrating and puzzling, and hasn’t lent itself to uncovering when and where the couple was married!

About a year ago, I discovered that the Family History Library had a microfilm of Genesee County Marriage Records that I had never viewed (FHL microfim 14,815) which included delayed recordings from 1892 – 1929. I sent off for it at once, but for some reason, the film was not allowed to be sent to a Family History Center. I then paid a $4.00 fee to have a FHL volunteer search the index on site for the surnames York or M(a)cArthur to see if the record was contained in that film. The answer came back that the marriage was not listed.

So, do I know if James and Mae were ever actually married? Yes, I do. Years ago, I sent off a request to see if I could find a divorce record for this couple from the Genesee County clerk in Flint. I had obtained a divorce record from this same source for their son Howard and my great-grandmother Mary Jane BARBER, and had found well-detailed information on the divorce which included a marriage date and place. I hoped to find similar information for James and Mae. But instead of receiving a copy of the original divorce certificate or a transcript of the court proceedings (both of which I’ve obtained from other ancestral divorce records) I received the following document:

I’ve had this document for several years, and wasn’t too sure what it was, other than understanding that it gave a date for the divorce and thus was secondary evidence of a marriage. I asked law professor and fellow genea-blogger Craig Manson if he would mind taking a look at this and explaining it to me. Here are his comments:

This appears to have been an uncontested divorce based on the the terms in the document. First, the document itself appears to be the court clerk’s file index or case index for this case. Court clerks keep track of each document presented to the court. The notation “4299” on the top left is likely the case number. The notation “Fees paid in full” along the left side indicates that all the court fees were paid. The name to the right of James York is that of his attorney, Daniel Heims. Heims was a prominent Flint attorney in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, who among other things, helped organize the Genesee County Bar Association. (An aside: Heims, who handled divorces, seems never to have married!)

(Daniel Heims)

Here’s the sequence of events in 1904:

March 21—Heims files the divorce action on behalf of James York. That same day, a subpoena is issued to demand the presence of Mary York at a hearing set in April.

April 7–The subpoena is returned to the clerk of the court with proof that it was served on Mary York (or that after a diligent search she could not be found within the jurisdiction of the court).

April 12–This was probably the date set for hearing. The “Affidavit of Nonappearance” is either Heims’ or James York’s declaration that despite having been lawfully served, Mary York failed to appear at the date and time set for hearing. The “Affidavit of Regularity” follows the nonappearance affidavit in that it recites that the defendant was served with the subpoena; states the manner of service; and declares that the plaintiff (James) believes the defendant (Mary) to be in default. It requests the court to proceed with the matter in the absence of the defendant.

May 18–The court issues an “Order Pro Confesso.” This is an order that states since the defendant has failed to appear, the facts alleged by the plaintiff will be taken by the court “as if the defendant had confessed” them. The court also issues an Order of Reference; that is, an order appointing a referee to determine the parties’ rights in property (and sometimes other duties).

June 2–CCC Report filed. This is no doubt the report of the referee, although I do not know what “CCC” stood for in 1904 Michigan practice.

June 3–The divorce decree is issued. “Ch. De. Bk.” may stand for “Chancery Decree Book.” In 1904 in most states, divorces were heard in the chancery courts, not the law courts. (The location and people in the chancery courts were often the same as those of the law courts–the distinction goes back many centuries to England and is too long a story to explain here!)

July 9–The decree is final.

Here then is evidence that James and Mae were married. I still will need to do some digging to obtain the actual full court records of this divorce, which should then provide me with the date and place of marriage. Mae remarried very soon after this divorce–on 27 August 1904–to the love of her life, Evan J. “Dick” RANDELL, whose family’s farm was just down the road and across the Genesee-Lapeer county line from the York family farm. Because of how quickly Mae remarried, I have often wondered if she and Dick fell in love before the divorce. When I mentioned that to Craig, he responded with:

What you tell me about Mary’s quick remarriage is consistent with a thought that I had–they [husband James and his lawyer] had worked this all out ahead of time and intended to get it done quickly. That’s why Mary did not show up [for the hearing].

That might explain James’s hiring a prominent attorney to handle the divorce. He may also have been wishing to protect himself from accusations from Mae’s attorney about his own behavior. Decades later, when one of Mae’s granddaughters was divorced, she made a comment to the granddaughter, saying her granddaughter’s ex-husband’s actions reminded her (Mae) of her “first husband.” This comment was unusual, because Mae rarely spoke of her first marriage. In fact, one grandniece that I spoke with who knew Mae well had never heard of Mae being wed before her marriage to Dick Randell! Only after digging through family papers and finding some labeled photographs of Mae with her sons Howard and Ernest York, was the grandniece convinced that there indeed had been an earlier marriage. According to these family members, James (who later married his housekeeper) retained custody of Ernest and Howard, while Hazel remained with her mother, who had two more sons with Dick Randell. This divorce changed the course of this family and the lives of their children adversely. Hazel seems to have been the most well-adjusted and lived happily with her husband and daughter in the thumb area of Michigan. Ernest and Howard had several marriages each; Howard was in and out of prison a couple of times. I can’t help but wonder if the boys’ childhoods spent without their mother were the foundation of their difficult lives.
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I’ve since thought of another place where I could look for a marriage record. Brides were often married in their father’s homes in those days, and Mae’s parents were living in Washington Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. So if the complete divorce record cannot be found or doesn’t yield a marriage date and place, that is another option. Genealogy is full of mysteries. Figuring them out can be, by turns, frustrating, exciting, disappointing, and thrilling!

This post was originally started with the intention of submitting it to the 33rd Carnival of Genealogy, whose topic was “Weddings!” Due to illness, I ran out of time to fully research and write it before the deadline.

Browse news and town records, photos, and military records.

The Mystery of the Marriage of James L. YORK and Mary "Mae" E. McARTHUR

Discover more about your own family living in the Emerging America historical period of 1880 – 1920.

One of my long-term goals in genealogy is to research in depth the lives of each of my ancestors through my great-great-grandparents’ generation. With that in mind, I’ve created a checklist of all the records I hope to find for each of them, the information from which I try to weave into comprehensive and comprehensible biographies for my AnceStories website.

I’ve been able to obtain marriage records for every ancestral marriage through my great-great-grandparents’ generation, with the exception of two couples, James L. YORK and Mary “Mae” E. McARTHUR (on my dad’s side), and Charles Frisbe STRONG and Mary Lucy WRIGHT (on my mother’s side). I do have a year and place of marriage for Charles and Mary (1873; Fairfield, Town of Candor, Tioga County, New York), which was discovered by a cousin of mine; I just haven’t obtained a document verifying this. But for James and Mae, I have nothing: no date or place of marriage.


James L. YORK, c. 1880s


Mary “Mae” E. (McARTHUR) YORK RANDELL, c. 1920s – 1930s

Here’s what I do know: James L. YORK was born 7 October 1867 in Goodrich, Atlas Township, Genesee County, Michigan to John H. YORK and Anna CROTHERS, the youngest surviving child of their seven children. Mary E. McARTHUR was born 28 January 1875 in Washington Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. Her parents were Daniel J. MacARTHUR (a Civil War veteran) and Martha JOHNSON. She was the fifth child, also of a family of seven children.

How this couple managed to meet each other is still a mystery to me. Gratiot County is two counties west of Genesee and Lapeer Counties, where most of the Crothers and York families had settled. Anna had two siblings, Nancy Amanda (CROTHERS) PHELPS and Moses CROTHERS (not verified he is a sibling) who lived in Clinton County, which is bordered by Gratiot County on the south; however, the Clinton County townships that these two lived in were not near Washington Township. I do know that James’ first cousin, Jennie Mae EBLER (daughter of Wilhelm D. EBLER and Elizabeth June CROTHERS) married Mae’s brother, Daniel Thomas McARTHUR, but they appear to have married after James and Mae did, sometime around 1907 or so.


Ernest, Howard, & Hazel YORK, c. 1900

James and Mae had three children: Ernest Lee (1894 – 1976); Hazel (1895 – 1967); and Howard Merkel YORK (1898 – 1945). Howard was my great-grandfather. Since Ernest was born on 12 April 1894, I can make an educated assumption that James and Mae were married by 1893. Ernest and Howard both gave their birthplace as Goodrich on their marriage records; and indeed, the family is enumerated there in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. However, none of the children’s births are found in Genesee County birth records as confirmation. Goodrich is a village in Atlas Township, which sits in the southeast corner of Genesee County, which is bordered by Hadley Township in Lapeer County on the east, and Brandon Township in Oakland County on the south. The children’s births aren’t recorded in those counties, either. And Howard’s obituary states he was born in Ortonville, Brandon Township, Oakland County; although I’m sure the information was given to the newspaper by either his second wife or a family friend, neither of whom probably knew for certain where he’d been born. James and Mae’s marriage was not recorded in Genesee, Lapeer or Oakland County marriage records, either. The lack of vital records available for this family has been frustrating and puzzling, and hasn’t lent itself to uncovering when and where the couple was married!

About a year ago, I discovered that the Family History Library had a microfilm of Genesee County Marriage Records that I had never viewed (FHL microfim 14,815) which included delayed recordings from 1892 – 1929. I sent off for it at once, but for some reason, the film was not allowed to be sent to a Family History Center. I then paid a $4.00 fee to have a FHL volunteer search the index on site for the surnames York or M(a)cArthur to see if the record was contained in that film. The answer came back that the marriage was not listed.

So, do I know if James and Mae were ever actually married? Yes, I do. Years ago, I sent off a request to see if I could find a divorce record for this couple from the Genesee County clerk in Flint. I had obtained a divorce record from this same source for their son Howard and my great-grandmother Mary Jane BARBER, and had found well-detailed information on the divorce which included a marriage date and place. I hoped to find similar information for James and Mae. But instead of receiving a copy of the original divorce certificate or a transcript of the court proceedings (both of which I’ve obtained from other ancestral divorce records) I received the following document:

I’ve had this document for several years, and wasn’t too sure what it was, other than understanding that it gave a date for the divorce and thus was secondary evidence of a marriage. I asked law professor and fellow genea-blogger Craig Manson if he would mind taking a look at this and explaining it to me. Here are his comments:

This appears to have been an uncontested divorce based on the the terms in the document. First, the document itself appears to be the court clerk’s file index or case index for this case. Court clerks keep track of each document presented to the court. The notation “4299” on the top left is likely the case number. The notation “Fees paid in full” along the left side indicates that all the court fees were paid. The name to the right of James York is that of his attorney, Daniel Heims. Heims was a prominent Flint attorney in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, who among other things, helped organize the Genesee County Bar Association. (An aside: Heims, who handled divorces, seems never to have married!)

(Daniel Heims)

Here’s the sequence of events in 1904:

March 21—Heims files the divorce action on behalf of James York. That same day, a subpoena is issued to demand the presence of Mary York at a hearing set in April.

April 7–The subpoena is returned to the clerk of the court with proof that it was served on Mary York (or that after a diligent search she could not be found within the jurisdiction of the court).

April 12–This was probably the date set for hearing. The “Affidavit of Nonappearance” is either Heims’ or James York’s declaration that despite having been lawfully served, Mary York failed to appear at the date and time set for hearing. The “Affidavit of Regularity” follows the nonappearance affidavit in that it recites that the defendant was served with the subpoena; states the manner of service; and declares that the plaintiff (James) believes the defendant (Mary) to be in default. It requests the court to proceed with the matter in the absence of the defendant.

May 18–The court issues an “Order Pro Confesso.” This is an order that states since the defendant has failed to appear, the facts alleged by the plaintiff will be taken by the court “as if the defendant had confessed” them. The court also issues an Order of Reference; that is, an order appointing a referee to determine the parties’ rights in property (and sometimes other duties).

June 2–CCC Report filed. This is no doubt the report of the referee, although I do not know what “CCC” stood for in 1904 Michigan practice.

June 3–The divorce decree is issued. “Ch. De. Bk.” may stand for “Chancery Decree Book.” In 1904 in most states, divorces were heard in the chancery courts, not the law courts. (The location and people in the chancery courts were often the same as those of the law courts–the distinction goes back many centuries to England and is too long a story to explain here!)

July 9–The decree is final.

Here then is evidence that James and Mae were married. I still will need to do some digging to obtain the actual full court records of this divorce, which should then provide me with the date and place of marriage. Mae remarried very soon after this divorce–on 27 August 1904–to the love of her life, Evan J. “Dick” RANDELL, whose family’s farm was just down the road and across the Genesee-Lapeer county line from the York family farm. Because of how quickly Mae remarried, I have often wondered if she and Dick fell in love before the divorce. When I mentioned that to Craig, he responded with:

What you tell me about Mary’s quick remarriage is consistent with a thought that I had–they [husband James and his lawyer] had worked this all out ahead of time and intended to get it done quickly. That’s why Mary did not show up [for the hearing].

That might explain James’s hiring a prominent attorney to handle the divorce. He may also have been wishing to protect himself from accusations from Mae’s attorney about his own behavior. Decades later, when one of Mae’s granddaughters was divorced, she made a comment to the granddaughter, saying her granddaughter’s ex-husband’s actions reminded her (Mae) of her “first husband.” This comment was unusual, because Mae rarely spoke of her first marriage. In fact, one grandniece that I spoke with who knew Mae well had never heard of Mae being wed before her marriage to Dick Randell! Only after digging through family papers and finding some labeled photographs of Mae with her sons Howard and Ernest York, was the grandniece convinced that there indeed had been an earlier marriage. According to these family members, James (who later married his housekeeper) retained custody of Ernest and Howard, while Hazel remained with her mother, who had two more sons with Dick Randell. This divorce changed the course of this family and the lives of their children adversely. Hazel seems to have been the most well-adjusted and lived happily with her husband and daughter in the thumb area of Michigan. Ernest and Howard had several marriages each; Howard was in and out of prison a couple of times. I can’t help but wonder if the boys’ childhoods spent without their mother were the foundation of their difficult lives.
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I’ve since thought of another place where I could look for a marriage record. Brides were often married in their father’s homes in those days, and Mae’s parents were living in Washington Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. So if the complete divorce record cannot be found or doesn’t yield a marriage date and place, that is another option. Genealogy is full of mysteries. Figuring them out can be, by turns, frustrating, exciting, disappointing, and thrilling!

This post was originally started with the intention of submitting it to the 33rd Carnival of Genealogy, whose topic was “Weddings!” Due to illness, I ran out of time to fully research and write it before the deadline.

Browse news and town records, photos, and military records.

Digital Show and Tell

Lisa Alzo, the Accidental Genealogist, suggested a Digital Show and Tell. She is featuring a photo of her grandmother’s trunk on her blog, which was brought to the U.S. from Slovakia when she immigrated in 1922.

What a fantastic idea, Lisa! I’ve decided to feature my most precious (and oldest) genealogical treasure, the cross stitch sampler created by my 4th-great-grandmother, Mary “Polly” (WYCKOFF) CROTHERS CHAPPEL (c. 1805 – aft. 1880):


(click on the image above for a magnified view)

As a cross stitcher myself, looking at the difficulty of the stitches, I figure Polly probably made this when she was no younger than 10; and since her maiden name is stitched on it, it had to be made before her marriage c. 1824 – 5 (her eldest known child was born 11 Dec 1825). Therefore, it was probably made c. 1815 – 1825, making it around 182 – 192 years old!

Because this sampler was made by an ancestor from the biological line of my paternal grandmother (an adoptee), this item is especially precious to me. I researched my grandmother’s biological line for several years before finding living relatives for her to reunite with in 1997. The previous owner of the sampler, related by marriage only, corresponded with me for a while and was able to provide many details on the family history. Out of the kindness of her heart, she gave this sampler to me, mailed in a cardboard(!) envelope. The day it arrived in the mail, it was pouring down rain all day. The tape holding the envelope shut had come unsealed, and it was a miracle the sampler hadn’t fallen out during delivery!

Now it is safely wrapped in an undyed cotton sheet until I can find a local textile expert to advise me on how to best preserve it (and possibly clean and display it) for future generations.