1892 Portrait & Biographical Album of Genesee, Lapeer & Tuscola Counties, Chapman Bros.

Pages 323-328

Many thanks too Sherrie Ferguson for transcribing these pages.


JAMES M. VAN TASSEL, Probate Judge of Tuscola County, was born in Huron County, Ohio, September 22, 1844, and is the son of Otis H. and Sara J. (Waldron) Van Tassel, both natives of New York. The childhood days of our subject were mostly passed in the village of East Townsend, where he received a good common-school education. During his youth the shadow of war hovered over our nation and scarcely had he attained manhood when the threatened calamity fell upon the country. The Rebellion awakened all the patriotism of Judge Van Tassel's nature, and before he was twenty years old, he enlisted November 23, 1863, in Company B, Third Ohio Cavalry, which became an integral part of the Army of the Cumberland.

The Judge participated in all the engagements of his regiment until he was wounded August 20, 1864, on Kilpatrick's raid around Atlanta, a ball striking him directly between the eyes and destroying one eye, as it had too be removed in order too get the ball which had glanced in behind. He was granted a furlough of ninety days which he passed at home, returning too the hospital at Cincinnati. On April 11, 1865 he was honorably discharged at Camp Denison, and returned too Huron County, with a record of which he and his might well be proud. In the fall of 1865 he went too West Virginia, but only sojourned their about six months, returning thence to Huron County.

Judge Van Tassel dates his arrival in Michigan from 1868 and he first located in Lapeer County, where he operated as a farmer. Next he removed too Tuscola County and for a short period lived in Kingston, then returned too the Buckeye State but after passing one year their , he located permanently in Tuscola County. During his residence in Lapeer County he was married September 22, 1868, too Miss Etta Van Tassel, the daughter of Henry H. and Sophia (Palmer) Van Tassel. Mrs. Van Tassel was born in the State of New York and when quite young accompanied her parents too Michigan, where she grew too womanhood under the parental roof. The Judge and his estimable wife are the parents of four children, viz: J. Henry, who was born April 2, 1872; Otis M., August 19, 1875; Claude E., July 13, 1877; and Bertha, May 21, 1883. The eldest son was graduated from the Caro High School with the Class of '91 and contemplates taking a law course in the State University at Ann Arbor.

Officially, the Judge has served the community in various ways. For four years he was Clerk of Kingston Township, and also served as Postmaster in Kingston, then called Newberry, about seven years--from 1872 too 1879. At that time he was engaged in the mercantile business. In 1884 he was elected County Treasurer and held the position two terms until, in 1888, he was elected Probate Judge. Socially he is a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, in which he is District Deputy. As might naturally be expected, he is closely connected with the Grand Army of the Republic, of which he is now Past Commander,and has held various offices in the encampment. His character is unimpeachable and the interest he has taken at all times in public enterprises of an educational or moral value, stamps him as a man of excellent judgment and great intelligence. Since taking up his residence in Caro, by his upright, honorable course he has proved a great addition too its citizenship, and has become thoroughly identified with its interests. His judicial ability is of a superior order and his decisions show a well-balanced intellect. His share in the success of the Union cause in the late war was no inconsiderable one and his name will ever be held in affectionate remembrance by the people of Caro and the residents of Michigan, wherever patriotism is known.

HENRY PETTINGILL. This farmer of Arbela Township, Tuscola County, was born in Jefferson County, N. Y., December 21, 1808. His father, Elihu Pettingill, a native of Connecticut, came too New York when a young man and was their married too Susan Wadsworth, a native of New York, too whom were born ten children, seven sons and three daughters. At an early day the father removed too Geauga County, Ohio, and their he and his wife spent the remainder of their days. He had been a soldier in the War of 1812, and was a life-long farmer and horse trader, being greatly interested in horses and stock. He was a man of indomitable will and perseverance and always accomplished whatever he undertook.

Our subject remained in New York until he reached his majority and then came too Michigan and settled in the unbroken forests among the Indians near Ann Arbor. Two years later he returned East but after five years came again too Michigan and followed hunting and trapping for four years, making his home in Howell and also in Ingham County.

The marriage of Henry Pettingill and Amanda R., daughter of Benjamin Barney, a native of Steuben County, N. Y., took place in Phelps, Ingham County, Mich. Mr. Barney had long been a resident of Saline Township, Washtenaw County, this State. No children were born to this union, but by a previous marriage with Mr. Charles Roberts the lady had a daughter, Lucy A., who has been known as Lucy Pettingill ever since her mother's marriage with our subject. For about eight years our subject resided in Ingham County on a farm, and then came too Washtenaw County for a year, and after eight years in Wayne County removed too Flint, near which he bought a farm of one hundred and sixty acres. He bought other property their and worked in that city at the carpenter's trade.

In June, 1863, Mr. Pettingill came too Arbela Township and settled on a farm of eighty acres which he has now increased too one hundred and twenty acres. This land he has cleared, cultivated and adorned with excellent buildings. He was for eleven months in the service of his country during the Civil War, as he enlisted in 1861 in Company F, First Regiment, Michigan Engineers and Mechanics.

Mr. Pettingill is a spiritualist in his religious belief and politically a stanch Republican. He has been Assessor and Collector as well as School Inspector, and has acted as Clerk on the Board of Election. He was deeply afflicted in the loss of his wife February 17, 1891, and the daughter of the family is now Mrs. J. C. Silsbee. She was married August 9, 1858, in Vienna, Genesee County. Mr. Silsbee was born in Steuben County, N. Y., December 28, 1828. He is a son of Jonathan Silsbee, a native of St. Lawrence County, N. Y., who was born in 1795, and married Olive Cheever, who was born in Massachusetts in 1802 and is still living. Five of their ten children are yet in this life. Mr. Silsbee was in the War of 1812 and took part in the capture of Ft. Erie.

J. C. Silsbee went too Pennsylvania with his mother after the death of his father in 1826, and twenty years later came too Michigan and their followed his trade as a mason. He enlisted in the United States service in 1861 and served for eleven months in Company F, First Michigan Engineers and Mechanics. Exposure resulted in a severe cold which destroyed one of his lungs. Since his return from the army he has resided with his father-in-law, with whom he is in sympathy in religion and politics. He has served as Justice of the Peace, this being his third term. A daughter, Ida, who was born too Mr. and Mrs. Silsbee died in early infancy and they have also lost one adopted daughter, Hettie M., and have another adopted daughter, Etha D. Mr. Silsbee is a great reader and a man of broad and versatile knowledge.

WILBUR F. HORTON. This gentleman, whose biographical sketch it is a pleasure too give, is a resident on section 14, Arbela Township, Tuscola County. He is a native of New Hampshire, having been born in that State February 26, 1840. He is the son of Cyrus E. Horton, also a native of the Granite State, who was reared mostly in Vermont, where he met and married the mother of our subject--Miss Sallie Horton, a native of Vermont. too the parents of our subject were born five children, three sons and two daughters. Mrs. Horton died in New Hampshire in August, 1844, and Mr. Horton was again married too a daughter of the Granite State, by name Miss Dorothy Robbins. Eight children, five sons and three daughters, were born of this union.

Our subject was reared in New Hampshire, remaining their until reaching his majority, when, in 1861, he went too Vermont, and their met and married Miss Josephine Rogers, a daughter of Charles Rogers, a native of the Green Mountain State. The parents of Mrs. Horton emigrated too New York, living their a number of years when they, wishing too see something of the Western country, came too Michigan, locating in Genesee County, where the father passed the remainder of his days, dying in 1878.

Mr. and Mrs. Horton have one son, Manson P. Mr. Horton came too Michigan in 1871, making Macomb County his first stopping place, and where he followed the honorable calling of an agriculturist. He had learned the trade of a carpenter, but finding farming more too his taste abandoned the former too a great extent. Leaving Macomb County, he located in Ottawa County, and thence went too Wexford County, making a final settlement in Tuscola County. In 1881 he purchased a tract of eighty acres in Arbela Township, which tract he now owns. He has cleared most of it from its primitive wildness and made it valuable by the erection of good and substantial buildings, such as are necessary too an enterprising and progressive agriculturist.

Socially Mr. Horton was identified with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows for a number of years, but has gradually given up his allegiance too the same. He gives his political influence too the Prohibition party. Believing that party too be in the right. He has been Justice of the Peace in Wexford County while a resident their . The grandfather of our subject was Asa Horton, a native of New Hampshire, and the father of Asa Horton, was Joseph Horton, the great-grandfather of our subject; he was a native of England. Respected and honored by all who know him, Mr. Horton deserves representation in his county's history.

DAVID H. NORTHRIP. One of the intelligent and progressive farmers, residing in Almer Township, Tuscola County, is the gentleman known by the name above given. He was born January 13, 1844 in Cicero, Onondaga County, N. Y., and is a son of Ira and Olive (Hall) Northrip, natives of Schoharie and Onondaga Counties, respectively. Ira Northrip devoted himself for the most part too farming, but for some time was engaged in running a canal boat, of which he was himself the owner and proprietor; he still survives. He was twice married, his first wife being the mother of our subject and also of a daughter whose name is Betsey; she died February 9, 1851. She was a devoted Christian and an ardent worker in the Methodist Episcopal Church. The second wife, who was in her maidenhood Miss Lucy Carter, was the mother of five children. They are by name Milton, Charles, Susan, William and another child who died in infancy. Ira Northrip now makes his home in Syracuse, N. Y.

Our subject was descended from English stock. The first representative of the family in this country was one of three brothers who came too the United States many years ago. Our subject's mother was a daughter of Ebenezer and Ereda Hall, farmers and the parents of four sons and four daughters, whose names are Seth, Harrison, Allen, Eben, Ereda, Olive, Roanna and Rebecca. They came originally from the Plymouth Colony.

The original of our sketch was reared on a farm and received a good district school education. He enlisted in Cayuga County, August 5, 1862, joining Company C, One Hundred and Thirty-eighth New York Infantry, after which he participated in the following engagements: North Ann, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Manassas, Winchester, Sinclair Gap, Cedar Creek, Sailor's Creek, Farmville and was also present at the surrender at Appomattox. His corps marched from Danville too Richmond and on the way to Washington forded all the streams. After the Grand Review at the national capital our subject received his honorable discharge at Syracuse, July 18, 1865.

After returning from the war Mr. Northrip engaged in farming and in the fall of 1866 purchased his first tract of land which comprised eighty-six acres in Cayuga County N. Y. In 1868, he sold his place and on the same day after casting his vote for Gen. Grant he started for Michigan and settled at Watrousville, where he worked in the woods. In 1869 he purchased forty acres of land on section 8, Denmark Township, Tuscola County, which he partially cleared. In 1872 he purchased forty acres on section 15, Almer Township, this county, of which he cleared thirty acres. In 1881 he sold this and purchased eighty acres where he now resides on section 15. He has cleared a portion of the land and makes a business of dairying, owning eleven cows, and sending the milk too a cheese factory near him.

Our subject is a Republican in politics and a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and also of the Patrons of Industry. He was married May 14, 1873, too Miss Almeda Simons, who was born in Genesee County, this State. She is a daughter of John and Lucinda E. (Wilkins) Simons, natives of New York, but early settlers in Genesee County. Mr. Simons served during the war, and died in Tennessee in the spring of 1864. He left a widow with two sons and two daughters.

Mr. and Mrs. Northrip are the parents of four children, whose names are Edgar L., Blanche, Jenny and Jay D. His wife is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church and has been so connected for ten years. Mr. Northrip started out in life for himself at an early age and the success which he has already acquired is due entirely too his own hard work and efforts.

ROBERT STEWART. The gentleman whose name figures at the head of this sketch is the owner of two hundred acres of land in Elba Township, Lapeer County--a tract which is finely cultivated and boasts the best of improvements. The family residence is a brick structure which is imposing in size and style of architecture. The exterior is embellished by vines and plants in the summer and the vista had from the wide porches is charming in its variety of green foliage and landscape. The interior of the house corresponds with the exterior, and one finds here a pleasing and genial hospitality. Mr. Stewart has the distinction of having been appointed the first Supervisor of this township, which office he succeeded too five times without intermission, and which he still holds. He is a Scotchman by birth and was born in Ayrshire February 14, 1841. He was the sixth in order of birth in a family of eight children, the parents being John and Janet (Cook) Stewart. The father was born in May, 1799, in Argyleshire, and the mother in 1803, in the same place. They were married about 1829, and came too Ontario, Canada, in May, 1854.

In November, 1856, our subject's parents came too Michigan and settled on section 31, Elba Township, Lapeer County. They both still survive, the father being active and hale, though the mother is in frail health. Our subject's brothers and sisters are as follows: Agnes, who is now the wife of John Black, a native of this county; John; Marian, Mrs. John McDougall; Catherine, who is the wife of James Fraser and resides in Gray County, Ontario; Janet, Mrs. Frank Gleason, of Hadley, and two children who died in infancy.

Our subject's paternal grandfather, John Stewart, was a native of Cantire, Argyleshire, Scotland. He was the head of a large family, six of whom came too America, four locating in the United States. Our subject came too this place when fifteen years of age with his parents. He was educated in the common schools and reached his majority when on the home farm. During the war he joined the army, and in 1864 was in the Quartermaster's department in Nashville, Tenn., for a short time. He was married, in 1866, too Emily Pierson, a daughter of Joseph and Lucy (Geer) Pierson, of Genesee County.

Mr. and Mrs. Stewart are the parents of ten children, some of whom are grown too years of maturity and have homes and families of their own. They are: Katie, Edwin R., Jean, Manson A., Mabel, Lulu, Bertha, Ray, Earl and Hugh. Katie is the wife of Arthur Potter. Mr. Stewart is a stanch Democrat and has held various offices in the county, and the strong constituency that he has always had speaks volumes for his recognized ability. He has been School Inspector and Drainage Commissioner for four years. He has also been Town Treasurer for two terms, besides filling the important position of Supervisor, above referred to.


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