James Anderson Rumsey and Family
Early Settler Of The Grand Rapids Area


JAMES ANDERSON6 RUMSEY - son #162 Daniel A.5 & Sarah (Thomas) Rumsey,(Jonas4, Daniel3 Simon2,1)b 8 Nov 1814 - Newburgh (GRM) (poss Blooming Grove instead), Orange Co, NY; d 16 Mar 1906 (HWB) - Grand Rapids, Kent Co, Mich(gs-yr, no b date) Fulton Cem, Grand Rapids Tp; m 17 Dec 1847 (DAR papers of Martha Rumsey Simonds) - Kent Co, Mich

CORNELIA LOVISA STONE (HWB) - dau Henry & Mary Ann (Campbell) Stone
b 4 Oct 1829 (HWB)(gs-yr) - NY; d 5 Oct 1905 (HWB)- Grand Rapids, Kent Co, Mich; (gs-yr) Fulton Cem, Grand Rapids Tp
Children: (RUMSEY) (b Kent Co, Mich)#162-
6 i GEORGE A. - b 26 Dec 1848; d 6 Aug 1929 - Grand Rapids, bur Paris Tpm1-CLARA WINCHESTER - by 1880 - m2-LILLIAN H. (NEWTON) HOLMES - aft 1900 census

7 ii JAMES L. - b 16 Jan 1851; d 20 Jan 1933 - Grand Rapids, Mich m1- --- --- - (she d bef 1900) m2-FLORA M. NEWTON - ca 1908 -

8 iii ELLEN MARY - b 25 Jan 1853; d 10 Sep 1940 - prob Bristol, Tenn; m HARVEY PLATT WYMAN - 4 Mar 1875 -

9 iv MARTHA ELNORA - b 15 Aug 1858; d 2 Apr 1937 - Fennville, Mich; m OSSIAN COLE SIMONDS - 12 May 1881 - Grand Rapids, Mich

(10) v HENRY STONE - b Oct 1869 (1870 census, gs-yr) - Grand Rapids, Kent Co; d 1873 - (gs) Fulton Cem, Grand Rapids Tp, Kent Co, Mich

An article (incomplete, undated, in possession of Mrs. Roberta L. Simonds 1990), tells of James Rumsey's early life in Grand Rapids. (See Xerox copy.)



Biographical Sketch of a Pioneer Resident

Recalling Old Days of the City and This District.

We show herewith a picture of one of the earliest pioneers of the Grandville Avenue district, James A. Rumsey, who came to Grand Rapids during the year 1837, coming down Grand River from Jackson via. a flat boat built by himself and Dea. Henry Stone, and upon which they brought their tool chests, and other earthly belongings. At the time of Mr. Rumsey's arrival in Grand Rapids, the place was very small and crude. An Indian mission had been established and the place was a trading post for the Indians, probably less than 500 white people were then living here, and the only highways consisted of the river and a road cut through the woods from Jackson via. Yankee Springs.  Mr. Rumsey's first work consisted in assisting Deacon Stone to build a house upon a couple of lots which he purchased soon after his arrival and which were located upon the north end of Kent street, upon the then newly platted Kent plat. After the house was finished Mr. Stone returned to Ann Arbor, for his family and Mr. Rumsey obtained (James A.6 & Cornelia Lovisa (Stone) Rumsey, cont) #162-2a  employment on the "old Sweet Flouring mill," which was then being erected upon what is now the site of the Berkey & Gay Furniture factory upon the west bank of the canal. After the mill was completed, Mr. Rumsey who was a cooper by trade engaged in making flour barrels and made the first barrel ever made in Grand Rapids.

After two years in Grand Rapids, he returned to his old home near Canandaigua New York on a visit, returning soon to Grand Rapids, he entered the employ of John W. Squier, who had erected a flouring mill upon the east bank of the canal about where the Leitelt Iron Works now stands. This mill was built of stone, and the grinding was done with the old style burr stone. Here Mr. Rumsey was employed as a miller.

After a few years he went to Grandville and assisted in the building of a flouring mill at that place, and for a time was the miller there. In those days the millstones had to be dressed or sharpened with steel picks operated by hand and it required a man of experience to properly lay off a stone for dressing and in this he was an adept.

In 1842 Mr. Rumsey entered the employ of Henry R. Williams who was engaged in the mining, grinding and calcining of gypsum-plaster near where the Alabastine No.1 mill now is. Mr. Williams afterwards became Grand Rapids first Mayor. Mr. Rumsey's part of the business was to attend to the grinding of the gypsum rock, and the calcining of the ground plaster. The calcining was then done in open kettles, and the plaster as it was then called had to be stirred by hand, instead of by machinery as at present.

Early in 1841 he purchased the east half of the north-east quarter of Section 14, Walker township and started to clear up a farm. He afterwards abandoned the making of a farm there but retained possession of the land. This realty is now a part of the city and the larger portion of it in the possession of his children.  It was in the year 1848 that Mr. Rumsey acquired the farm on Grandville road, known as the Rumsey farm and in 1850 moved upon same and became a farmer once more.

At about the same time he acquired eighty acres of land, being the south-half of the north-west quarter of Wyoming township [where he was enumerated in 1850] and erected thereon, near the mouth of Silver Creek, a Mulay saw mill, where he did custom sawing, and carried on a lumbering business. This mill which was known as the "Red Mill" about 1860 was converted in to a mill for the grinding of plaster. This was about the time that Geo. H. White & Co. came into possession of what was then known as the "Old Plaster Mills."

For ten years Mr. Rumsey carried on the plaster grinding business, and during a portion of this time occupied the position as Superintendent at the "Old Plaster Mills." . . .

In 1847 he was married to Cornelia L. Stone, daughter of the man with whom he first arrived in Grand Rapids, and his first employer here. With his wife he lived for 58 years until her death in October 1905.

It was during the year of 1858 that Mr. Rumsey built the large brick farm house upon Grandville Ave., shown at the head of this column. This at that time was ...[missing]...for the interior finish  (James A.6 & Cornelia Lovisa (Stone) Rumsey, cont) #162-2b;  of this house was sawn at the Red Mill by Mr. Rumsey. During 1908-9 this old landmark of more than fifty years was torn down, and a large part of the material entered into the construction of the building corner Grandville avenue and B. street, and now the home of the Michigan Exchange Private Bank.

About the year 1880 he having acquired a competency retired from active business. He spent a good share of his time after this at Mr. J. Stryker's feed store corner of Grandville Ave. and Rumsey street or at Henry Haan's shoe store on the corner of Grandville ave. and A. street, where he loved to talk about the good old pioneer days of early Grand Rapids, when every man knew every other man and there was no distinction of caste.

He loved the plain farmer and rugged woodsman. He had always been a hard worker himself and he admired the man who worked. Mr. Rumsey never cared for style or dress yet he and his wife were ready to assist a worthy one in distress.

Born Nov. 8, 1814; he died on Ma...[missing]

Another article provided by Mrs. Simonds, dated 1936 and primarily about James R.8 Rumsey (see xerox), said that James A. Rumsey also "labored making salt blocks at the old salt wells here", when he first came to Grand Rapids....[His son George A. Rumsey], at the death of his parent, was named administrator for the estate. One of the things he did which will serve to immortalize the name of Rumsey in Grand Rapids, was to donate to the city the land lying on Godfrey ave., between B. and Franklin Sts., which formed the basis for the present Rumsey playgrounds, named in honor of Grandfather Rumsey. The city also paid the old gentleman tribute by naming Rumsey St., SW., after him....

In the 1850 census of Kent Co,, James A. Rumsey was in Wyoming Tp. (On present maps, the city of Grand Rapids is on its northeast border, the Grand River on its northwest border, and the township of Grandville at its west.) James was a miller who owned $4000 in real estate. His birthplace was given as Connecticut, as also in 1860 for James and his sister Agnes, but elsewhere it appears as New York. (Their mother was born in Conn.) He was 34, Cornelia S. was 21 and George was 1 year old. With them were two 17 year old laborers. One was Franklin Stone, possibly a brother of Cornelia.

In 1860 they were in the 1st Ward of Grand Rapids City, his sister Agnes Rumsey living next door with a Neal family. James A. Rumsey was a farmer with $8000 in real estate and $1000 in personal property. His age appeared to be 42 though should have been 45, Cornelia L. was 30, George A. 11, James L. 9, Ellen M. 7, and Martha E. 2. With them were two young people, probably a domestic servant and a farm hand, and Sarah Anson 69, born in Connecticut, who was mother of James. "We always called her grandma Anson. She came to Grand Rapids to live with her son, James, after [her second husband] Mr. Anson's death." (HWB)

Still in the 1st Ward of Grand Rapids in 1870, farmer James A. Rumsey now had $20,000 and $5,000 in real and personal property. He was 54, Cornelia was (James A.6 & Cornelia Lovisa (Stone) Rumsey, cont) #162-2c  50 and had $200 in personal property of her own, (her father had died in 1864). George A. was 21 and farming, and had $500 in personal proprty (probably livestock on his father's farm). James was 19, Ellen 17, Mattie 12, all attending school, and Henry who was 8 months old, born in October. Listed next to them was the family of John W. Anson, who was a half-brother of James Rumsey. The Rumseys have not been found yet in the 1880 census. With no children under 10, they were not in the Soundex.

In 1900, A.James and L.Cornelia Rumsey were living at 374 Granville Ave, in the 12th Ward of Grand Rapids. He was 85, his parents' birthplaces unknown. He had been married 52 years to Cornelia who was 70, the mother of 5 children, one of whom had died. Only "L.James" was with them, a widower aged 49. He was a notary public. They had a domestic servant of "Netherland" parentage.

Probates of Kent County, Michigan have not been checked.From a Grantor Index of Kent Co Deeds, abstracted by The Sophie de Marsec Campau chapter, DAR, the following were found by Judith A. Longley of Detroit:

RUMSEY, James A., to Carlton Neal, both of Grand Rapids, 6 Nov 1861, land in Sec. 36, Walker Twp. 26:493
James A., & wife Cornelia to Agnes N. Rumsey, all of Grand Rapids, 31 Mar 1862, land in Sec. 36, Walker Twp. 31:144
James A., & wife Cornelia of Grand Rapids, to Detroit & Milwaukee; RR Co., 25 Apr 1862, land in Sec. 13 & 14, Walker Twp 20:482
Agnes N., to Georgiette E. LeRoy, both of Grand Rapids, 3 June 1863, land in Sec. 36, Walker Twp. 31:156 (Agnes was married the following year.)

There are inscriptions in the Rumsey lot in the Fulton Street Cemetery, on a central stone, with small headstones, for: Sarah Rumsey Anson, Henry StoneRumsey, Elizabeth B. Rumsey, James Anderson Rumsey, Cornelia Stone Rumsey, and individual stones only for James R. and Irene with their dates.











Baxter, Albert - History of the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan (1891)

p.60 (biog), 110,417-8,424,426,496,557 (GRM)

Rumsey, Mrs. James R., Grand Rapids, Mich (1959) (JRR)

Bradley, Harriet (Wyman), Ann Arbor, Mich (1960) (HWB)

DAR, Sophia de Marsec Campau Chapter - Kent County Cemetery Records,

Grand Rapids Township (typescrpit, n.d.), Fulton Cemetery,

verified by Robert L. Simonds 1990, with photos




One of the Historic Residences of the Grand Rapids of Early Days to

Give Way to the Press of the City's Demands


I will receive bids until March 31 for the old Rumsey homestead, No. 374

Grandville avenue, the purchaser to remove same by June 1, 1908.


In reading the above advertisement recently appearing in the newspapers

recently every old settler who has lived in Grand Rapids for a period of 50

years or thereabouts will experience a feeling of sorrow, which is not uncommon

in these days of progress when old landmarks must eventually yield to the

inevitable hand of advancement and give way to more modern structures and the

hammer of the real-estate auctioneer.

In the sale of the old property on Grandville avenue, near Fifth, which has

been for half a century the property of the Rumsey estate, there passes one of

the oldest and best known landmarks in Grand Rapids. In the days "when knights

were bold" and Indians made their haunts and held their pow-wows in the

outskirts of the city; when deer, wild turkey and other game was plenty in many

parts of the city now taken up by big business blocks and fine residences, the

old Rumsey mansion was regarded as one of the finest and most elegant residence

structures in the city. A two-story red brick structure, flat-roofed and

furnished with wide piazzas, set back from the street now amid a group of fir

trees and in the midst of what was once as fine an apple orchard as could be

found in the country hereabouts, for the old house was on a farm then, the

imposing old building presents even today an appearance of luxury and home-like

beauty when viewed from the street that is equaled by few modern homesteads.

As a matter of real estate the old home is by no means a fruitless investment

either, as the interior is every whit as substantial and even as lumber is

worth vastly more today than it was when erected 50 years ago.

Fifty years ago to the month James A. Rumsey built this old structure of

red brick on his farm and finished it off inside with the best procurable

Michigan pine. There are six or seven rooms on both floors of the house and

the dining room of the quaint old mansion is entered by as many as ten doors

opening into adjoining rooms. The house is approached from the outside by a

dilapidated tar sidewalk, which leads through a lane of fir trees to the steps

and the large piazza.

The history of the structure is a most interesting one. It was built in

1858 by James A. Rumsey, who in connection with a man named Van Allen had

purchased a farm of 160 acres on both sides of the Grandville road and

extending across the large valley in which the Grand Rapids & Indiana railway

now has its right of way, between Buchanan street and Godfrey avenue, and

through the woods from Fifth aveneu to Hall street on the south. This large

tract was purchased in 1850 and a small wooden log house, the picture of which

is shown herewith, was put up by Rumsey. Here two of his children, including



George, the present owner of the property, were born. In 1858 Rumsey built the

more substantial structure of brick. The historic little wooden residence

stood on the property for 50 years and was torn down but two years ago.

At the time of the building of the present brick structure, which is about

to be sold to meet the demands of real estate growths, the house was the only

one within a radius of a mile. It was just outside the city limits and on the

high hill in the center of a thick oak woods, in which George Rumsey remembers

vividly of going hunting for deer, wild turkey, squirrels and other small and

sometimes large game. At that time the Grandville road ran straight through to

Monroe street, going along with a [slig]ht jog where Ionia street now is. The

Rumsey home was just outside the famous "Shanty Town" district and was near the

old fair grounds on Goodrich street.

Many are the stories that George Rumsey, son of James A., who first owned

the tract, tells of the visits of the Indians who camped near his home on "pay

day," when the government officials gave them their monthly stipends. And

vividly does he remember the struggles of the few farmers round about to keep

the Grandville road open and protected from the excursions of the Irish in

"Shanty Town," who were determined to close it to traffic, and who finally

succeeded between Ellsworth avenue and Monroe street.

The 70 acres owned by Rumsey on Grandville avenue cost him just $900 --

barely enough to purchase a single lot in the same neighborhood today. The

property at present consists of some 15 acres, and it is the intention of Mr.

Rumsey to plat it into lots and sell it for residences. An alley which extends

through from Fifth avenue would run directly through the old house if extended,

and it is for this reason that the mansion will be sold to the highest bidder,

perhaps to be erected again, perhaps to be put into the construction of other

modern buildings.

Much of the property between Fifth avenue and Hall streets, and on both

sides of Grandville avenue was originally owned by James Rumsey, and his son

tells interesting tales of the property litigation and land troubles which at

that time were the talk of the town.


Now the last remnant of the Rumsey estate is to give way and be cut up into

innumerable lots and several streets. And the historic old homestead, with its

square roof and old French windows reaching from ceiling to floor, is to ring

with the hammer of the prosaic and unsentimental auctioneer.


James A.6 (#162-2)

1850 CENSUS - KENT CO, MICH (microfilm Roll 353 Vol. )

WYOMING TWO - fol.237A (473) - 2 Sept

L 16 - James A. Rumsey 34 M Miller $4000 CT

D1052 Cornelia S. " 21 F NY

F1052 Geo. " 1 M Mich

Franklin Stone 17 M Laborer --

David Robinson 17 M Scotland

1860 CENSUS - KENT CO, MICH (Roll 550 Vol.10)

GRAND RAPIDS, 1st Ward - p.307 (37) - 7 June

L 32 - James A. Rumsey 42 M Farmer $8000 $1000 CT

D302 Cornelia L. " 30 F NY

F277 George A. " 11 M Mich

James L. " 9 M "

Ellen M. " 7 F "

Martha E. " 2 F "

Elizabeth Bates 16 F NY

Sarah Anson 69 F CT

William Kearsey 19 M NY

1870 CENSUS - KENT CO, MICH (Roll 681 Vol.12)

GRAND RAPIDS, 1st Ward - p.5 (214) - 1 June

L 18 - Rumsey, James A. 54 M Farmer $20,000 $5000 NY

D 35 " Cornelia 40 F Keeping House $200 "

F 34 " George A. 21 M Farming $500 Mich

" James 19 M At School "

" Ellen 17 F " "

" Mattie 12 F " "

" Henry 8/12 M At Home (b Oct.) "

1900 CENSUS - KENT CO, MICH (Roll 721 Vol.41)

GRAND RAPIDS TWP, Grand Rapids, Ward 12 (ED90)- Fol.30 (13) - 374 Granville Ave

L 30 - Rumsey, A. James Head M Nov 1814 85 M52 NY Un Un ----- OFH

D248 " L. Cornelia Wife F Oct 1829 70 " " 5 4 " " "

F255 " L. James Son M Jan 1851 49 Wd MI NY NY Notary Public

Kool, Anna Serv F Jan 1880 20 S " Netherlands HseWork



(Sophia de Marsec Campau Chapter, D.A.R. (at Detroit Lib)


RUMSEY, Cornelia Stone 1829-1905

(on stone with J.A., H.S., Eliz.B. and Sarah R. Anson)

ANSON, Sarah Rumsey 1787-1862

RUMSEY, James Anderson d. 1906

(RUMSEY monument,from photo by Roberta L. Simonds 1990)

RUMSEY - Sarah Rumsey Anson 1787-1862

Henry Stone Rumsey 1869-1873

Elizabeth B. Rumsey 1883-1906