The Walter Palmer Family ~ Our First English Ancestor Immigrants 1629

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First some historical background before writing about our first English ancestor immigrants. They were Walter & Ann Margaret Palmer and their five children: Grace, William Jonah, Elizabeth and John who lived at Nottinghamshire, England. Ann Margaret died before Walter and their children emigrated from the port of Gravesend, England aboard the Four Sisters in 1629 as part of the Higginson Fleet.

Walter & Ann Margaret Palmer, are Margie Tollas Bernard’s (as well as those of her brother Charles Tollas and sister Carolyn Tollas Knapp) maternal 9th great-grandparents; Don & Mark’s 10th great-grandparents, Mark Bryan, Christopher, Patric & Kyle’s 11th great-grandparents; and 12th great-grandparents to Mark Bryan & Michelle’s Holdin & Caleigh, and Patric & Jessica’s Nolan. 

This is my Palmer lineage beginning with Walter:

Walter Palmer (1585 – 1661)
9th great-grandfather
 Jonah Palmer 1st (1613 – 1709)
son of Walter Palmer
 Hannah Palmer (1657 – 1736)
daughter of Jonah Palmer 1st
 Ephraim French 1st (1698 – 1786)
son of Hannah Palmer
 Ephraim French 2nd (1734 – 1780)
son of Ephraim French 1st
 Mary French (1760 – 1820)
daughter of Ephraim French 2nd
 Ira R. Briggs (1823 – 1905)
son of Stephen Briggs 2nd
 Fannie E Briggs (1865 – 1933)
daughter of Ira R. Briggs
 Lena Mae Barker (1907 – 1990)
daughter of Jennie Augusta (Waldron) Bennett
 Marjorie Louise Tollas
I am the daughter of Lena Mae Barker & Alfred Tollas

In 1620, the stockholders of The Plymouth Council of England were granted the right by English King James I to form the Plymouth Colony in what was known as New England. They in turn granted the Pilgrims the right to settle and they arrived at Plymouth on September 11, 1620.

Landing of the Pilgrims

The next significant settlement was that of John Endicott who was one of seven signatories to a colonizing land grant provided by Robert Rich, the Second Earl of Warwick on behalf of the Plymouth Council of New England. Endicott was chosen to lead the expedition to New England and sailed aboard the Abigail with fifty or so colonizers and servants on June 20, 1628, arriving in September. The settlement they organized was first called Naumkeag, after the local Indian tribe, but eventually renamed Salem in 1629 and Endicott became the first acting governor of New England.

 Arrival of our Palmer Ancestors at New England

The following year, Endicott invited Francis Higginson, a Puritan minister [follower of John Calvin], to bring settlers to Salem. Higginson agreed and obtained a Royal Charter from King Charles I of England to form a colony. The Higginson Fleet set sail on the May 1,1629 with the following ships: George Bonaventure; Talbot; Lyon’s Whelp; Four Sisters; Pilgrim and Mayflower (a different ship than the Pilgrim’s Mayflower). The GB arrived June 22 and the rest on 29 June 1629. Walter Palmer and his five children were on the Four Sisters.

Lyon’s Whelp–Sister Ship of the Four Sisters

The Higginson Fleet brought with them 115 head of cattle, as well as horses and mares, cows and oxen, 41 goats, some conies (rabbits), along with all the provisions needed for setting up households and surviving till they could get crops in. They would have to build their lodgings for the coming winter from scratch. These were the first settlers of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, the main body would start coming in 1630 on the Winthrop Fleet. The Higginson Fleet arrived in Salem harbor on the 24 June 1629, and was greeted by a small group of settlers, led by John Endicott. This marks the second phase of what has become known as The Great Migration Begins: Immigrants to New England between 1620–1633

Not all these immigrants remained in Salem, as recounted by Higginson in his New England Plantation

“During the last week of June, or the first week of July, 1629, Mr. Thomas Graves, Rev. Francis Bright, with a part of the emigrants, settled in Charles-town. Describing the colony Higginson says:– There are in all of vs [us] both old and new planters about three hundred, whereof two hundred of are settled at Neihum-kek, now called Salem: and the rest have planted themselves at Masathulets [Massachusetts] Bay, beginning to build a towne there which wee doe call Cheriton, or Charles Towne.”

In the History of Charleston, Massachusetts is the record of the proceedings of the first town committee which lists the names of the settlers: Ralph Sprague; Richard Sprague; William Sprague; John Meech; Simon Hoyte; Abraham Palmer; Walter Palmer; Nicholas Stower; John Stickline, Mr. Graves and Rev. Bright their minister. Also present was Thomas Walford Smith who had lived there alone for several years.

“This newly created town committee then agreed: That this place on the north side of the Charles River, by the natives called Mishawum, shall be called Charlestown, which was also confirmed by Mr. John Endicott, governor.

“It is jointly agreed ad [and] concluded by the inhabitants of this town, that Mr. Graves do model and lay out the form of the town, with streets about the Hill, which was accordingly done and approved by the Governor.

“It is jointly agreed and concluded, that each inhabitant have a two acre lot to plant upon, and all to fence in common; which was accordingly by Mr. Graves measured out unto them.

“Upon which Ralph Sprague and others began to build there [their] houses, and to prepare fencing for their lots, which was afterwards set up almost in a semi-circular form on the south and south-east side of that field laid out to them, which lies situated on the north-west side of the Town Hill.

Walter Pamer [Palmer] and one or two more, shortly afterwards began to build in a straight line upon their two acre lots on the east side of the Town Hill, and set up a slight fence in common that ran up to Tho. Walford’s fence, and this was the beginning of that east field.”

Abraham Palmer,  a merchant, was one of the prominent men of the colony. He … came over in Higginson’s fleet in 1629, and arrived in this town [Charlestown, Massachusetts] with Graves.  He died at Barbados, about 1653. His wife’s name was Grace and apparently they had no children. As a merchant Abraham was engaged in trade between the New England Colony and Barbados. Barbados became an English Colony in 1627 dedicated to sugar plantations and slave trade: One wonders what Abraham traded in?

Walter Palmer is mentioned in the first record of the Massuchetts Bay Court of Assistants on September 28, 1630, in a jury called to make a determination into the death of Austin Bratcher a servant of one of the settlers, William Cheseborough. It found “that the strokes given by Walter Palmer, were occasionally e [the] means of the death of Austin Bratcher, and so to be manslaughter.” Walter  was tried at the next Court in October, and acquitted. Later, he was made freeman 1631, [citizen] and constable in 1636.

Old Oil Painting of Charleston. Seen is the steeple of the First Church which Walter, Rebecca and his eldest child, Grace, joined in 1633








In 1632, Walter married his second wife, Rebecca Short. They had five sons and two daughters: Hannah, Elihu, Nehemiah, Moses, Benjamin, Gersham, and Rebecca.

  In 1642, he moved his family to Rehoboth, Massachusetts, of which he was one of the founders. He was chosen to represent that town at the Massachusetts Bay General Court.

Walter Palmer Commemorative Stone

In 1652, Walter & Rebecca moved to Stonington, Connecticut of which he is a founder. This commemorative stone was erected, August 31, 1899, by the Wequetequock Burial Ground committee at Stonington to honor its four founders: William Cheseborough, Thomas Minor, Thomas Stanton and Walter. Minor married Walter’s daughter Grace.[The surname Minor was changed to Miner and remains thus in official documents] The wording on Walter’s side of this stone states:

“Walter Palmer one of the founders of Stonington. Emigrated to New England in 1629 and settled in Charleston, Mass. Became a Freeman May 18, 1631, and united with the Charlestown Church June 1, 1633. Removed to Rehoboth Plymouth Colony in 1642 and represented that town in the General Court. Came to Stonington in 1652 and lived here until his death Nov. 10, 1661. At his home near this spot was held the first religious service between the Thames River and Narragansett Bay.”

Walter Palmer’s Original Gravestone, called a “hogback” stone. The inscription was added years later.

In his will, Walter left property to his sons John, William, Gersham, Elihu, Nehemiah, Moses, Benjamin; and daughters Grace, Hannah, and Rebecca. He left to Jonah, who was already residing there, his “lot at Seeconk” which became part of Rehoboth .

 As reported in the New York Tribune, August 12, 1881, Walter Palmer ancestors made a pilgrimage to his last residence at Stonington.

Yesterday morning about half-past nine, more than five hundred of the [Palmer] family went by special train to view the site of the house in which their principal ancestor lived during a part of his residence in Pawcatuck (Stonington) and also the ancient Wequetequock Burying Ground where he was buried. These are situated about two and a half miles from the center of the borough. A number also went out by carriage and a few walked to….Walter Palmer’s estate, embracing about 1200 acres, [which] lay on the east side of the cove, and extended from its upper end down to the ocean. The burying ground was set apart by him and originally bordered on the cove. Now, however, a road runs along the shore and is divided from the burial plot by a substantial stone fence. It is not an absolute certainty that Walter Palmer and his wife Rebekah are buried here, but it is believed his bones lie under a huge “hog back” stone….There is no inscription or mark whatever upon the stone which is 6 ft. 11 in.  in length—the reputed height of Walter Palmer, whose weight was 300 pounds—and must weight at least a ton. One reason why this believed to be the grave of this ancestral Palmer is that a stone marking the burial spot of his son Nehemiah stands along side of the stone already described. Another of Walter Palmer’s children, his oldest daughter, Grace, who married Thomas Minor, is also buried a rod or two away, together with her husband. A flat stone covers the common grave, bearing the figure “1690”. His son Elihu, who died in 1655 is buried here, and the first wife of his son Gershom [Ann Dennison].”

President Ulysses S. Grant had agreed to attend the pilgrimage but had to cancel due to the death of his youngest brother Orvil Lynch Grant.

Through the lineage of Walter’s eldest child Grace, who married Thomas Miner, I find I that General and President Ulysses Simpson Grant is my seventh cousin, three times removed.

Furthermore, Walter’s daughter Hannah by his second wife married John Fish whose ancestors are also famous in U.S. history; two of whom, brothers Hamilton & Nicholas Fish are friends of mine from our Washington, DC days in the 1980s. One of their ancestors, whom I believe is a great-grandfather, also named Hamilton Fish, was President Grant’s Secretary of State from 1869 to 1877.

This link provides Walter Palmer’s descendants, through the fifth-generation.













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Eliza O'Meara
Seated on the right is Eliza O’Meara Briggs wife of Ira Briggs (1834-1920), standing is Eliza’s daughter Fannie E Briggs Bennett (1865-1933) Fannie’s daughter Lottie Bennett Snyder (1887-1960) Lottie’s children Mabel Louise Snyder(1908-) & Clifford E Snyder (1912-1980)

Our Irish ancestral link begins with the birth of my 2nd great-grandmother Eliza O’Meara on 23 February 1834 at Gortmore Townland, Youghalarra Parish, County Tipperary, Ireland to Daniel & Margaret (D’Arcy) O’Meara. She was baptized 25 February and her godparents were Patrick D’Arcy and Brigid O’Meara. These surnames are also spelled as Darcy and Meara. 

The following information was obtained from the  Daniel O’Meara Family History compiled by Mary Ellen ‘Tink’ Stewart-Bailey and the History of Gratiot County, Michigan written by Willard D. Tucker, a son-in-law of Ira and Eliza (O’Meara) Briggs.

Plympton, Lambton County, Ontario, Canada

Daniel and Margaret (Darcy) O’Meara immigrated from County Tipperary, Ireland. They first settled in Plympton, Lambton, County, Ontario, Canada  sometime between 1845/48.  This dating is based on the fact that their last child born in Ireland was John (Feb 1845) and their first born in Canada was William (Jul 1848). These are the children who emigrated with them: Mary, Eliza, Patrick,  Ellen, Margaret, James and John. William and Theresa were born after their arrival in Canada.  They stayed in Canada for a while then ‘walked’ to Emmett, St. Clair County, Michigan where they settled. They lived there about six years and then moved to Kenakee Township, St. Clair County, Michigan. According to the History of Gratiot County  by Willard D. Tucker:

There the parents passed the remainder of their lives; substantial and influential farmers of the township and respected members of the community. Daniel O’Meara died in 1886; and Margaret Darcy O’Meara died in 1884. The nine children of Mr. and Mrs. Daniel O’Meara – all excepting the youngest still living – are given in their order as follows: Mary, Eliza, Patrick, Ellen Bridget, Margaret, James, John, William and Theresa.

Eliza R. O’Meara married Ira Briggs at Port Huron, Mi on September 15, 1854. He was the brother of Merrick D. Briggs, who was married to Eliza’s sister Ellen Bridget.

With the exception of about two years in Sanilac County, Eliza and Ira Briggs resided continuously in St. Clair County until the spring of 1881, when they moved to St. Louis, Gratiot County, where they resided until the winter of 1904-05. While on a visit at the home of their daughter, Mrs. Cora Goldsmith, at Edmore, Michigan.  Mr. Briggs, who had been in poor health for many years with rheumatism and kindred ailments, was called to rest, passing away on February 22, 1905. He was a man with many admirable qualities, respected by all. He was buried in the Edmore cemetery.

After the death of her husband, Mrs. Eliza Briggs lived in Edmore with Cora and her husband. “It is but simple justice to say that she is a woman of sterling worth. For many years, her husband being incapacitated for business in his later life, owing to ill health, by her industry, energy and indomitable persistence in conducting her business (dressmaking); she provided a comfortable living for her family, feeding, clothing and educating them in a way that would have been a credit to anyone with twice her strength and resources. She is fully entitled to a vacation of perfect leisure; but to keep her idle it would be necessary to bind her, hand and foot; and the law would not permit that.

Eight children were born in Michigan to Ira R and Eliza Briggs; the oldest at Bruce Township, Macomb County; all the rest born in Wales Township, St. Clair County. Their third child, Fannie, is my great-great grandmother. Fannie married Joseph Bennett in 1881 and two years later their first child, Jennie Augusta, my grandmother was born at St. Louis, Gratiot County, Michigan.

Erastus & Roxanah (Rogers) Disbrow

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Erastus & Roxanna (Rogers) Disbrow


Great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth Disbrow‘s parents, were Erastus & Roxanna (Rogers) Disbrow. Erastus was born 1815 in the Catskill Mountains town of Windham, Greene County, New York to Meeker & Chloe (Abbott) Disbrow.

Although the 1950 U.S. Census indicate Roxanna was also born in New York State, we don’t know where; there have also been several versions of her forename, Roxanah, Roxanna, Raxalena, Roxsalany. A semi-official record of her family surname was given in the death certificate of their son, Robert S. Disbrow, provided by Robert’s son (her & Erastus’s grandson), Roy Disbrow. The names he provided for his father’s parents are: Erastes Disbrow & Raxalena Rodgers, so at best this is third-hand information. Until further information is uncovered I will accept her as my 2nd great-grandmother Roxanna (Rogers) Disbrow.

There are also numerous versions of the Disbrow surname as noted in Descendants of Thomas & Mercy (Holbridge) Disbrow: Part One, The First Six Generations compiled by Michael S. Disbrow for the Disbrow Family Association.

So how ancient is our honorable name? As it was applied to a small parish in the western part of the county of Northampton in England, it was in use by 1086 when mention was made of it in the “Domesday Book”. As it was then spelled Dereburg, Desburg or Diesburg – it didn’t bear much resemblance to the name we are familiar with, but eventually it came to be spelled “Desborough,” and the town is still known by that name today. Archeological discoveries made in the area show that there were both Celtic and Roman settlements at Desborough, and the place has quite probably been occupied for 2,000 years or more. There is more than one theory ascribed to how the place took its name. One is that it was called “Danesborough” because it was a place of refuge for the local inhabitants from the marauding Vikings. Or perhaps it was “Daysborough”, a place or borough of Judgement. (Disbrow, p.9)

Again, although I have been unable to obtain official documents of their wedding, some give 5 May 1842 as the date Erastus & Roxanna married in Milan, Erie County, Ohio and Roxanah (sic) is given as the name of his wife on the 1850 U.S. Census. We also don’t know the official date of her death but family records say it was at Milan, Erie, Ohio in 1853.

In 1850 Erastus Disbrow was living in Milan Twp., Erie Co., OH. In the census he’s listed as age 35, a carpenter, with Roxanah 35, Sylvester 7, Mary 9, Jane 3 and Hannah 1. By 1860 Erastus had married his second wife Betsey and the family was living in Michigan Twp., LaPorte Co., IN. (Disbrow, p. 197)

The official records of Huron County, Ohio give the date of Erastus & Betsey Ann Barker’s marriage as 30 July 1854. Interestingly, the 1860 U.S. Census lists a Marion Disbrow under Erastus name which is usually the slot where the name of a wife is entered. Then on the 1870 and subsequent censuses, Betsey A. is recorded in the wife slot. Some family historians, in their attempt to reconcile these two different names, combine them as Marion Betsey A. I don’t know who Marion is nor where Betsey Ann may have been when the 1860 census was taken so this remains a mystery; then again, it could be a recording error by the census taker.

Erastus & Roxanna’s children were: Lemuel Sylvester born 1843, Milan, Erie County, Ohio; Mary Elizabeth born 20 October 1846, Milan, Erie County, Ohio;  Jane Fanny born 10 November 1847, Milan, Erie County, Ohio; Hannah Emma** born 7 July 1849, Milan, Erie, Ohio;  Robert Scott born 17 October 1851, Gilead, Branch County, Michigan.

Thomas Alva Edison’s Birthplace, Milan, Ohio.

Roxanna & Erastus’ daughter, Jane Fanny, my 2nd great-aunt, shares the same birth year (1847) and birthplace (Milan, Ohio) as does Thomas Alva Edison.  As his family lived at Milan before moving to Port Huron, Michigan when he was seven, one can speculate that Jane, as well as her older siblings, my great-uncle Lemuel & great-grandmother Mary Elizabeth may have been playmates with Edison or even attended the same grammar school.

Civil War Service


Sometime before 1860 the family moved from Ohio to Indiana. There, Lemuel Sylvester, Erastus & Roxanna’s eldest son, enlisted in the Grand Army of the Republic, 9th Regiment, Company B, Indiana Infantry at La Porte County, Indiana on 21 August 1861. Sadly, nearly four-years later he died on 20 June 1864 at Kennesaw Mountain, Georgia on the second day of what would be the biggest battle of the Civil War in Georgia. The battle was fought from June 19, 1864 until July 2, 1864. Lemuel was originally buried where he died but was later reinterred at the National Cemetery, Marietta, Georgia in Section N, Grave Number 4578. 

Union soldier figure atop monument at Baxter Springs National Cemetery; Bivouac of the Dead plaque at Wood National Cemetery; Flagpole and graves at Togus National Cemetery

By 1863, the family had moved to Mukwonago, Waukesha County, Wisconsin. On 16 February 1865, Erastus enlisted in the Union Army 48th Regiment, Wisconsin Infantry On 22 March it departed for St. Louis, Missouri. In April, the Regiment marched to Kansas. Erastus was a private in Company A which was assigned provost duty at Fort Scott until 25 August. In September, Company A was dispatched to Fort Zarah then assigned garrison duty at Fort Larned until December 1865.

According to this website, Legends of America, the role of Fort Scott during the Civil War was to house captured Confederate troops, however, its main purpose, before, during, and after the Civil War, was to serve as a “permanent Indian frontier” to “kept peace between white settlers, native peoples like the Osage, and relocated Eastern tribes.”  This was also true of Fort Larned where great-grandfather Erastus was stationed. 

His pension file shows that on 15 Apr. 1865 he was ruptured while fording Bear Creek on a march between Sedalia and Warrensburg, MO. Treated at Ft. Scott, KS. He was mustered out with his company at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, 30 Dec. 1865. In 1870 Erastus was residing at Poygan, Winnebago Co., a farmer, and was still there in 1877 when he applied for invalid pension for his service. Neighbors testified as to the “sad condition” Erastus was in since his return from the war: bronchitis, ulcerated liver, unable to do manual labor. Erastus and Betsey Ann went to live at the Wisconsin Veterans’ Home in Rural, Waupaca Co. in 1891, where they resided until their deaths. (Disbrow, p. 197)

WVH Chapel 1.jpg
Veteran’s Home Chapel — A Designated National Historic Site.

I have also located information in the 1895 State of Wisconsin Census which gives the name of E. Disbrow as a resident of a veterans’ home in Farmington, Waupaca County, Wisconsin.  This facility was later renamed as the Wisconsin Veteran’s Home. At the left is a photo of the Veteran’s Home Chapel established there by the Grand Army of the Republic.  

Erastus & Betsey had three children: Eugene Benjamin born. 24 January. 1859, Ashland, Ashland County, Indiana; William Henry born  1 May 1866, Eaton Rapids, Eaton County, Michigan; Georgianna born 1868, Oshkosh, Winnebago County, Wisconsin.

I end this account of my maternal 2nd great-grandparents, Erastus and Roxanna (Rogers) Disbrow by referring you to this account of our earliest ancestral immigrants to New England: Arthur & Susanna (unknown) Holbridge and their daughter Mercy whose second husband was Thomas Disbrow 1st:  Holbridge ~ Disbrow: Our Earliest New England Ancestors 

**The name of Erastus & Roxanna’s third daughter is confusing. In the 1850 U. S. Census her name is given as Hannah; 1860 it is Emma E., and another family historian (Michael S. Disbrow) has given her name as Amelia/Emma E., however until I learn otherwise I will accept her name as Hannah Emma. This serves to prove that extra care need be taken when recording ancestral ‘facts’.

I am in the process of annotating the Descendants of Thomas & Mercy (Holbridge) Disbrow: Part One, The First Six Generations & Part Two — Generations 7 through 13 compiled by Michael Disbrow. After I unravel all the loose ends I will post a history of our Disbrow line which begins with Thomas & Mercy as generation one through my generation fifteen..


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Arthur Henry & Jennie Augusta (Bennett) Barker

Oscar & Lena Barker 1908

My maternal grandparents, Arthur & Jennie, married 19 March 1905; he was 23, she 20. My Mother, Lena Mae Barker was their second child born 29 September 1907 at Sodus Township, Berrien County, Michigan.  Oscar was their eldest and after Mom they had Forrest, William, Victor. She also had a younger sister, Leatha, who died at age 13.

Arthur Henry Barker
Arthur Henry Barker

The 1910 U.S. Census lists Grandpa Arthur as a Fruit Farmer. He registered for the World War I Draft on 12 September 1918 at which time he was 37 with a wife and four children so ineligible for army service.  He again registered for the draft of World War II but by then he was 61. This record indicates he was 5″9′, weighed 165, had blue eyes, a ruddy complexion with a mole on his forehead, and black & grey hair. Grandma Jennie had divorced him sometime before the 1940 U.S. Census was taken as it listed him as single, however, on 19 September 1948, he married Louise (Brance) Meyers; a second marriage for them both.

His death certificate filed at the Berrien County clerk’s office states cause of death on 15 March 1966 was “carcinoma of sigmoid colon with congestive heart failure”. Sadly, I only have a dim memory of seeing him just once at his farm in Sodus when I was quite young.

Victor Delano Barker

As far as my Barker uncles are concerned, I was closest to Victor who was seven-years older than I. It was because of him I moved in 1951 from Michigan to Wheaton, Silver Spring County, Maryland, just inside the Washington, DC Beltway. I had graduated from Eau Claire High School and was staying at Grandma Barker home in Benton Harbor while looking for work. Uncle Vic and his family were visiting and he suggested I go back to Washington, DC with them and look for work there. I agreed and a few days later left with them. 

I also spent time with Uncle Victor in the years before his death and attended his burial Arlington National Cemetery_Logo@2xwith military honors on Patton Drive at Arlington National Cemetery.  Uncle Victor served under General George S. Patton during WW II but didn’t like him so there is a bit of irony that this was his final resting place! 

Sometime in the 1960s when I was living in Santa Barbara, California, I visited my Uncle Oscar Barker at the pub he and his wife Dorothy owned at Ojai, Ventura County.

Henry L. & Mary Elizabeth (Disbrow) Barker

Grandfather Arthur was the fourth son of Henry L. &  Mary Elizabeth (Disbrow) Barker. On 1 July 1863, they were living at Michigan City, LaPorte County, Indiana when Henry registered for the Civil War Union Army Draft; the record show he was 23, married, and employed as a Teamster. However, I have no information as to whether or not he served in the Union Army and couldn’t find him listed in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database.

The 1880 U.S Census for Sodus, Berrien County, Michigan, taken the year before Arthur’s birth indicate his parents, with their three sons and two daughters, were living on the family farm at Sodus, Berrien County, Michigan. This census record indicated Arthur’s parents, my maternal great-grandparents, were both born in Ohio but, according to the information provided in the census, after marriage they had lived in Indiana & Wisconsin before settling on their farm in Michigan.

Grandpa Arthur was born 24 March, 1881. Sadly, nine-months to the day after his birth, his father Henry died of Typhoid Fever at the age of 44; Great-grandmother Mary was left with six children under the age of 17 and a farm to manage.

The 1990 Census show Arthur is still living with his widowed mother on the family farm and she states both her parents were born in New York. Also, living with them is Mary’s granddaughter Hattie V. Barker. She was born in 1891 in California to Mary’s son, William O. Barker, and his wife, Lizzie T. Venable, who was born in Virginia. On their marriage license William gave his occupation as Goldminer: his residence was North Bloomfield, Nevada County, California; hers was Benton Harbor, Berrien, Michigan. They were married 31 July 1889 by O. F. Landis, Minister of the Gospel at Sodus then went back to California where Hattie was born two-years later. On 17 June 1898, William registered to vote in California at Angels Camp, Calaveras, California.   As of 23 May 2016 I have no more information about why Hattie was living with her grandmother or what may have happened to her parents.

Grandpa Arthur’s grandparents, my 2nd great-grandparents are John H. Barker & Jane McConkey. The 1850 U.S. Census states John was born about 1814 in New York State. His occupation was farmer and the value of the farm was $100 ($33,000 relative 2016 value) and that he could read and write English. His wife Jane who was born around 1817 in Ohio was not literate. At the date of this census they were living in New London, Huron County, Ohio with their three children: Henry age 13; O. Jeanette age 8; Stephen N. age 8 and indicate that all their children had attended school.  I have no date for John’s death but Jane died in 1833 in Sodus Township, Berrien County, Michigan. As of 19 May 2016 I have no further information on the Barker~McConkey lines. 

For more information about the Disbrow ancestry see the Disbrow~Rogers Post.

Grandma Jennie Augusta Bennett was born on August 28, 1884 at St. Louis, Gratiot County, Michigan. Her parents were Joseph M. and Fannie (Briggs) Bennett.

Jennie Agusta Bennett
Jennie Augusta Bennett

The following information about our grandmother was compiled by my sister: Carol Ruth (Tollas) Knapp

My grandmother, Jennie, was one of four children born to Fannie and Joseph Bennett in St. Louis, Michigan. A son, Willard, died in infancy. For some reason, she was adopted by her mother’s maternal grandmother, Narcissa Kemp, who married John Waldron after her first husband, James Bennett died in 1881. Her last name was changed to Waldron.

As Jennie Waldron, she was sent to live at the Lenawee County Michigan State Industrial School for Girls in Adrian, Michigan. Her name appears on the June 11, 1900 roster as Jennie Waldron, 16. This was a school that taught girls domestic trades, and she earned a cooking certificate there. She would never say why she was placed there, and the records have been sealed.

According to a description of the school, “when the board and superintendent were satisfied that girls are qualified, morally and otherwise, and it is to their welfare to leave the Home, places are found for them in the families of the farmers of the state. Great care is exercised in regard to these allotments, and girls can be called in at any time. Each girl receives a salary of from $1.50 to $2.50 per week, and a stipulated portion is returned quarterly to the Home and given the proper credit, the amount being returned to them upon receiving their final discharge.”

When she married my grandfather, Arthur Barker, her name on the marriage license was Jennie [Waldron not] Bennett.  Their children were Oscar, Lena (my mother) Forrest, William, Letha (who died of a congenital heart condition in her teens) and Victor, who was a career Army officer and is buried in Arlington Cemetery.

My grandmother was divorced from my grandfather, and later married his first cousin, William Erastus Tritt, whose mother, Emma Hanna Amelia (Disbrow) Tritt, was the sister of my great-great-grandmother, Mary (Disbrow) Barker. She and William had no children.  

In her later years she developed a dowager’s hump and walked with great difficulty. She came to live with her daughter and son-in-law Lena (my mother) and Alfred Tollas (my father) at 1056 Superior Street, Benton Harbor, where they moved after selling their home in Eau Claire in 1964.  After a stroke, she was moved to a nursing home, where she passed away.

[After she and Grandpa Arthur divorced, she obtained work as] the housekeeper for Maurice Scofield, a prominent Benton Harbor, banker who committed suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning in his car on January 5, 1942. He bequeathed the family residence on Broadway Avenue, Benton Harbor to her.

The 1940 U.S. Census indicates Grandma Jennie lived at the Scofield residence at 486 Broadway Avenue. The house valued at $3,000 ($99,600 real value in 2016) was willed by Scofield to Grandma Jennie after he died two years later.

The last time I saw Grandma Jennie was when we spent a Thanksgiving dinner at her and William’s home in Benton Harbor, Michigan around 1957.

Bucky Bernard, Bob Tollas, Lena Tollas, Alfred Tollas, Unknown Child, Phil Tollas, William Tritt, Jenny Tritt, Frank Tollas, Margie Bernard, Don Bernard, Chuck Tollas
Burton Bernard, Bob Tollas, Lena (Barker) Tollas, Alfred Tollas, Carolyn Tollas, Phil Tollas, William Tritt, Jenny (Bennett) Barker Tritt, Frank Tollas, Margie (Tollas) Bernard, Don Bernard, Chuck Tollas

Joseph M. and Fannie (Briggs) Bennett

Grandma Jennie’s father my great-grandfather Joseph M. Bennett was born on 29 January 1854 at Williams County, Ohio to James M. & Narcissa (Kemp) Bennett. He died on 13 November 1923 at Vestaburg Station, Montcalm County, Michigan with the cause of death being cancer of the lip and jaw.

His obituary stated: Joseph Bennett was born in Williams County, Ohio on Jan. 29, 1854 and died at his home near Vestaburg, Michigan on Nov. 18, 1923 at the age of 69 years, 9 months and 15 days. When a boy he left Ohio and moved to St. Louis, Michigan with his parents, where he was united in marriage in 1882 with Miss Fannie Briggs. To this union was born four children: Mrs. Jennie Barker of Benton Harbor, Mrs. Lottie Snyder of Edmore, Charles Bennett of Belding and one son who died in infancy. Besides he leaves to mourn their loss a loving wife and one brother, Alonzo Bennett of St. Louis, Michigan and a host of friends. He also had brothers James, Edward and Charles. He was a machinist.

James M. & Narcissa (Kemp) Bennett

Great-grandfather, Joseph was the second son born to James M. & Narcissa (Kemp) Bennett who are my 2nd great-grandparents. In 1860 U.S. Census gives their address as Coe Township, Isabella County, Michigan. As their first child, Alonzo, was six-years of age indicates James and Narcissa may have married around 1854. 

During the Civil War, James enlisted from Waverly, Michigan on 29 February 1864 into the Union Army. He was part of Company H, Michigan Thirteenth Infantry which was with General Sherman on his famous “march to the sea” that ended at Savannah, Georgia which surrendered on 16 December 1864. He also participated in the victory march at Washington, DC shortly thereafter. James was hospitalized on 5 July 1865 at Harper Hospital, Detroit, Michigan and was discharged from service there on 18 July.

The following is from Michigan Volunteers in the Grand Army of the Republic:

“The Michigan Thirteen Infantry was organized at Kalamazoo on 17 January 1862 under Col. Charles E. Stuart, Kalamazoo; U. S. Army Captain Orlando H. Moore, Schoolcraft; Maj. Frederick W. Worden, Grand Rapids; Surgeon, Alexander, Dexter; Asst. Surgeon, Foster Pratt, Kalamazoo; Adj. John B. Culver, Paw Paw; Quartermaster George F. Kidder, Kalamazoo.

“In January, 1864, the regiment veteranized, 173 re-enlisting, and returned to Kalamazoo, where it arrived the 12th and was furloughed for thirty days. It returned to Chattanooga on the 12th of April with a large number of recruits, [one of whom was 2nd Great-Grandfather James M. Bennett. (MTB)] and was soon actively engaged in the construction of military hospitals on Lookout Mountain, and in the pursuit of General Forest, until November [1864], when it joined the army under General Sherman and was assigned to the Second Brigade, First Division, Fourteenth corps. It marched with Sherman to the sea and reached Savannah on the 16th of December [1864]. After the city surrendered, the Thirteenth marched with Sherman’s army through South and North Carolina, meeting the enemy at several points and fighting a pitched battle with General Johnson and Hardee’s forces in Bentonville, N. C., the 19th of March [1865], where the regiment sustained heavy loss, the last battle of importance fought by Sherman’s army.

“After General Johnson’s surrender the Thirteenth marched to Richmond, Va., and thence to Washington, D. C, where it took part in the grand review.

“On the 9th of June [1865] the regiment proceeded to Louisville, Ky., where it was mustered out of service July 25, and arrived in Jackson, Mich., July 17, 1865, where it was paid off and disbanded.”

Major battles 2nd great-grandpa James Bennett would have been engaged in were:

  • October 8, 1864:  Florence, Alabama
  • December 17, 18, 20, 21 1864: Savannah, Georgia
  • February 28, 1865 Catawba River, South Carolina
  • March 16, 1865 Averysboro, North Carolina
  • March 19, 1865 Bentonville, N. Carolina

In the 1880 U.S. Census the family was living at St. Louis, Gratiot County, Michigan. This being the first census in which the birthplace of parents are required, James gives Vermont as the birthplace of his father, New York for his mother. Narcissa lists both her parents as born in Ohio. They now are a family of five sons all single: Alonzo (27), Joseph (24) who were born in Ohio & three, James (18), Edward (16) and Charles (8) born Michigan.

After James died in November 1881, Narcissa married John S. Waldron a year later. As the widow of James, Narcissa filed for his Civil War pension in September 1910, a year before she died. Then in October 1916 the right to receive his pension was contested by Elizabeth Emerson. I have no information about Elizabeth Emerson so who she was and how this was resolved remains a mystery.

Second Great-grandmother, Narcissa Kemp, born in 1835 in Richland, Vinton County, Ohio as the third child daughter of Jacob M. Kemp (1811-1881) & Harriet Hoy (1810-1891). Jacob first had a farm in Ohio, then Michigan, and mid-life owned a grocery.  For information about these ancestors see the Kemp~Hoy Post.