PIONEER SOCIETY OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN
ANNUAL MEETING OF 1900
MEMORIALS REPORT-MICHIGAN PIONEER COLLECTION
VOL.XXIX 1899-1900; PAGES 450-456
Mrs. Mary L. Blakely died April 20, 1899, aged 77 years, 1 month and 9 days.
Mary L. Green was born in West Winfield, Herkimer County, N.Y., March 12, 1822. She came with her father, Hezekiah Green, and family in Michigan in 1836 and located in the Grand River Valley. She taught school in the Indian mission house situated on Front street, one block south of Bridge Street, on the west bank of the river, during the summers of 1839 and 1840, succeeding Miss Bond, the missionary, who taught school exclusively for the white children in the valley. In 1842 she married William C. Blakely. One son, of Grand Rapids, survives her. A twin brother, Martin Green, of Ottawa county, survived his sister but three months, when he, too, joined "the innumerable caravan."
Henry B. Childs, well known as a citizen of Kent County for over 70 years, died January 17, 1900, at his home in Rockford. Deceased was the promoter of the Childs paper mill in Rockford and had large farm interests in that part of the county. Of late years he lived in Grand Rapids.
Ex-Congressman, Charles C. Comstock died at his home, Riverside, Grand Rapids, half a mile from the soldiers' home, February 21, 1900.
Charles Carter Comstock was born in Sullivan, N.H., March 5, 1818. He lived with his parents on a farm until he was 24 years old, when he went into the lumber business in his native state. The New Hampshire field, however, was small and, in 1853, he came to Grand Rapids. With E. T. Ward & Co. he brought the first machinery to the city for the manufacture of sash, doors and blinds. Later he bought the Winchester furniture factory, but was forced to the wall by the panic of 1857. By resort to what was known for many years as "Comstock scrip" he pulled through, however, and in 1862 he sold a half interest in the business to James M. and Ezra T. Nelson. Three years later he sold the other half and devoted himself to lumbering and farming, his lumber output for many years being ten million feet a year. In 1863 he was elected mayor. In 1870 he was the democratic nominee for governor of the state. In 1878 he was the pople's candidate for congress and in 1884 he was again a candidate for congress for the democratic and greenback parties, and was elected, succeeding the late Julius Houseman.
Mr. Comstock was liberal in both thought and action, and had the happy faculty of making frineds of all acquaintances. It may be truly said of him that he was most highly esteemed and respected by those who knew him best, and by none more sincerely than his employees, of whom he had a great number during his long business career. At the age of 22 years he was married to Miss Mary M. Winchester in their native town. She was a devoted wife and a christian woman, whose influence made a strong impression on his life. She died in Grand Rapids in 1863, and three years later he married Mrs. Cornelia Davis of that city, who survives him. His eldest daughter and her husband, Albert A. Stone, were lost with the steamer "Brother Jonathan," which fondered in a gale off the coast of California in July, 1865, and his only son, Tileston A. Comstock, a young man of rare promise and ability, died in 1870, leaving a widow, who was a daughter of Aaron B. Turner.
Mr. Comstock met few reverses in his business career. He passed through several panics and crashes, but always maintained his honor and integrity, and leaves a valuable estate as a reult of industry, honesty and energy.
He also leaves a widow and four daughters---Mrs. John Goldsmith, Mrs. Franklin Konkle, Mrs. Lucius Boltwood and Mrs. Huntley Russell, all of Grand Rapids; also an elder brother, Dauphin W. Comstock, of the same city.
The Grand Rapids Herald of May 28, 1900, contains the following interesting article regarding one of its old settlers:
Hery Genia was one of the first, and in many respects the most remarkable citizens of Grand Rapids ever had. Mr. Genia was the father of Joseph C. Genia, of Spring Lake, who was born on the rapids of the Grand River over 60 years ago. He and Louis Campau came to these parts about the same time. Both were Canadian French by birth, and Detroit was their last hailing place. Mr. Genia's most remarkable characteristics were his great physical courage and remarkable personal strength. His height was only five feet four, but his muscular frame pulled the balance into the two-twenty mark.
Old timers remember many marvelous stories of Mr. Genia's performances. It is said that on one occasion Louis Campau offered to give him a barrel of pork if he would wade Grand River with the meat on his head and carry it in that manner to his home, half a mile farther.
"How many times can I rest?" asked Mr. Genia.
"As often as you please."
The pork was raised to his head and the husky Frenchman started on his toilsome journey.
The bed of the Grand River does not afford the best walking under favorable circumstances, but Genia got his load to his home with only three rests.
Returning to the store, Genia offered to take a barrel of flour on the same terms, agreeing to pay for both in case he failed.
Campau declined, however, saying:
"You ought to be satisfied with making forty-five dollars in one day."
On one occasion Genia was attacked and badly lacerated by a savage bear. He succeeded, however, in breaking the brute's jaws with his hands, and thus saved his life.
Fighting and wrestling men from near and far came to try conclusions with Genia, but they always got the worst of it. The Frenchman could pretty nearly floor an ox with a blow of his fist. He was a good natured man and would take an insult rather than strike a man of ordinary strength.
Henry Genia's wife died in 1839, and Michigan lost its charm. Leaving his little children in the family of his brother Joseph, Henry struck out for the Mississippi river, where he again became famous for his physical prowess.
Early in the war Genia went west, and in 1863 he secured a contract for laying a scetion of track of the Union Pacific. While getting out ties he was ordered off the land by three men, who finally attacked him, but were badly whipped by the Frenchman. The next day the fellows renewed the fight with revolvers, Genia having in the meantime armed himself with a rifle. A bloddy wild western affray ensued, in which Genia lost his life. The body, which had been ever invincible before animate creation, became vincible indeed when a leaden bullet entered it.
Martin Green, twin brother of Mrs. Mary L. Blakely, died July 21, 1899, three months after the death of his sister, aged 77 years, 4 months and 9 days.
He was born in West Winfield, Herkimer County, New York, and came to Michigan with his parents in 1835, locating in the Grand River Valley. Later he married Harriet Freeman, and on Christmas Day, 1896, they celebrated their golden wedding annversary.
His wife, a son and a daughter survive him.
Luman Jenison, the veteran democrat, one of the pioneer lumberman, mill owners and farmers of the Grand River Valley, died October 8, 1899, at his home in Jenison. Mr. Jenison had been despondent and not entirely himself in health or spirits since the death of his twin brother, Lucius Jenison, in March of the same year and during the last two weeks had been failing rapidly. The cause of death was a general breaking down of the system from grief and old age, he being in his 77th year.
The Jenison twins were born in St. Lawrence county, New York, on April 25, 1823. They followed their brother, Hiram Jenison, to Michigan in 1836, and settled on the banks of Grand River, about seven miles from Grand Rapids, in Ottawa county. With their father and brother they engaged in the lumber business near the present site of Jenison, which was named after the family. The twins formed a partnership in their boyhood, and they lived and worked together all their lives. All that they had was held in common. The two prospered in the lumber business, and afterward, when settlers began to locate on the lands they had cleared, they stated a mill and store. A village grew up around the two institutions, and was named Jenison.
The two were so prominently indentified with the growth and developement of the Grand River Valley and of Grand Rapids that they were looked upon as quasi citizens of the Valley City. They were well known there, both in business and social circles. Luman was perhaps better aquainted in the city than Lucius. Luman looked after the store at Jenison and the manufacturing interests of the firm. Lucius managed the farming interests of the two. The twins never married, and were never separated until death took Lucius away six months before Luman's death. Lucius caught cold when his house burned in March and died in three weeks. The death was a shock from which Luman never recovered.
The remains were laid in the Jenison mausoleum by the side of his brother.
Mrs. Asa Norton, who died May 20, 1900, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. D. N. Beebe, on Gold street, Grand Rapids, was among the oldest women alive in Michigan, having been born in 1809, three years before the war of 1812. Her native state was Connecticut. When 19 years old she married and came to Michigan. After a brief residence at Plymouth Mr. and Mrs. Norton went to Cooper, near Plainwell, where they established the tavern so well known to the old settlers who traveled the old stage road between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo.
Fire destroyed the building in 1868, and they moved to Dorr, where they lived until Mr. Norton died in 1885. Since then Mrs. Norton had lived with her daughter in Grand Rapids. Five of her nine children survive her, Edward Norton, of Fort Scott, Ark.; Mrs. C. M. Belcher, of Ann Arbor, Michigan; Frand and Fred Norton, and Mrs. D. N. Beebe of the Valley City.
James and Thomas Sargent, Jr., twin sons of Thomas Sargent, early pioneer of Kent County, died a few years ago, but their death was not chronicled in the memoirs of the pioneers of the county. Yet they were conspicuous figures of the earlier days, because of the close resemblance of each to the other. So marked and close was this appearance that their most intimate friends could not name them correctly with any degree of certainty. For several years they were employed on a steamer plying between Grand Rapids and Grand Haven, and when referred to by travelers or teamsters were always as "Tom or John, I declare I don't know which."
After the death of their father they succeeded him in the street-sprinkling and ice business, and for years were well known figures upon the streets of that city. The close resemblance continued through life.
Gen. Israel C. Smith was shot and instantly killed by the accidental discharge of his own gun while hunting, November 27, 1899.
Israel Cannon Smith was born in Grand Rapids March 12, 1839, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Cannon Smith, having settled there two years previous to his birth. The family was of Quaker descent, having lived up to 1837 in Rhode Island. Mr. Smith was educated in the public schools of Grand Rapids and completed his education at Albion College. His first commercial experience was gained in the lumber business in Muskegon, but later he conducted the same kind of an enterprise in Chicago. The business venture lasted a year, when he returned to Grand Rapids and began the study of law. This he pursued for another year, when he succumbed to an attack of gold fever, and in 1859 joined a party bound for Pike's Peak,but finally landed in California. After a short but exciting experience in the mining camps of California, he returned home via the Panama isthmus. After ashort experience as bookkeeper on a Mississippi steamer, he settled down to the study of law in Grand Rapids. His studies were, however, interrupted again, this time by the outbreak of the civil war, at the beinning of which he enlisted as a private in Company E of the " Old Third" Michigan infantry. Before the command left the state he was promoted to a second lieutenancy, and after the first battle of Bull Run he was again promoted, this time to first lieutenant and adjutant. In January of the next year he was made captain of Company F of his own regiment which had already established a national reputation as a body of the fiercest kind of fighters.
He saw hard service and the stiffest kind of fighting with his regiment in the siege of Yorktown, the Peninsular compaingn, and was mentioned in general orders by Gen. Phil Kearney for gallantry at the battle of Fair Oaks. Soon after this he was wounded twice, while leading a desperate charge at the second battle of Bull Run, and one of the bullets he carried with him to his death. For his gallantry he was again promoted, this time to the rank of assistant inspector general. At the battle of Chancellorsville he again distinguished himself, and later, at the battle of Gettysburg, at a decisive moment in the great charge of Longstreet, rallied his men, who were weakening under the dreadful onslaughrt, leading them back to their original poition, and incidentally being wounded in the leg with a ball which fractured the bone. This bullet he also carried with him all the rest of his life.
Later in the year he was appointed a major of the Tenth Michigan infantry, and with it saw hard service in the south. When the war ended he was colonel of his regiment, and shortly after its close he was breveted a brigadier general. He refused a commission in the regular service, preferring to return to civil life.
After being mustered out he returned to Grand Rapids and assumed the management of the National Hotel, which stood where the Morton house is now located. In 1867 he married Ada Elizabeth Meeker. He had only one child, Moron Fitz Smith, who is now serving as a second lieutenant in the Twenty-second United States regular infantry in the Philippine campaign.
Gen. Smith was appointed city fire marshal in 1876 and in 1881, when the police and fire board was first organized, he was appointed one of the members. In 1887 he was appointed superintendent of police, serving in that position for two years.
In 1892 he was appointed collector of internal revenue for the western district of Michigan by President Cleveland, and served a full term of four years.
Gen. Smith, upon the organization of a National guard in the city, took command of the local company, and was appointed the first colonel of the Second regiment when it was organized. In 1884 he was made brigadier general of the state troops, serving in that capacity for five years. Gen. Smith was also active in fraternal life of the city, and for a number of years occupied the position of commander of the Michigan division of the Loyal Legion.