Vassar Biographies J - Z

Taken from The History of Tuscola County, Biographical Sketches and Illustrations, H. R. Page Co., Chicago, 1883. Transcribed by Bonnie Petee.

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James Johnson (deceased) was born in Pittsford, Monroe County. N. Y., September 1, 1834, and in 1844 with his parents and family, moved to Armada, Mich., where he received his education. In 1855 he came to Vassar, and the following year bought out the drug business of Doctor Bissel, which he continued until his death, which occurred March 10, 1879. He had previously provided plans and material for a new drug store which was erected by his executor the summer following his death, - the old building was removed in June and the new building occupied the following December. He married Miss Mary E. North, eldest daughter of Mr. T. North. They had four children – two sons and two daughters, all living. Mr. Johnson for several years held the office of treasurer of Vassar, and became widely known and universally respected. His death is mourned by a large circle of friends and relatives.

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John Johnson, merchant of Vassar, was born in Surrey, England. His family emigrated to the United States in 1834, and settled at Pittsford, N. Y., where they remained for ten years, during which time Mr. Johnson received the principal part of his education. From there they removed to Armada, Macomb County, Mich. In 1854 he came to Vassar, of which village he has continued to be a resident until the present. His first employment was transcribing the records of the then new county of Tuscola. In doing so it was necessary to visit the register’s office at Lapeer and Saginaw City, as the territory of which Tuscola is composed was at one time a part of Lapeer County, and afterward of Saginaw County. In 1857 he succeeded his brother as register of deeds, and held the office for four years. He also was county clerk for two years. He was married in 1859, and has a family of seven children.

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Truman H. Lake was born in the town of Gorham, Ontario County, N. Y., in 1824, and in 1836 moved to Washtenaw County, Mich., where he engaged in farming until the spring of 1850, when he came to Tuscola County and settled on eighty acres of a section of land in Juniata Township, purchased by Levi Rogers, his father-in-law. After remaining on the land nine years he returned to Washtenaw county, which he made his home for eight years, when he came to Vassar, where he has since resided. He married Miss Martha Ann Rogers, who was a native on Ontario County, N. Y. They have had three children, of whom but one son is now living.

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J. B. W. Lewis, M.D., is a native of Moravia, Cayuga County, N. Y., where he was born in 1821. At fifteen years of age he moved to Green, Trumbull County, Ohio, with his parents, and remained there three years, at the end of which time he returned to New York, locating at Virgil, Cortland County. In November, 1839, he removed to Marengo, Calhoun County, Mich., and 1847 to Ceresco, where he remained until 1882, when he came to Vassar. Doctor Lewis has been twice married, first to Miss Maria E. Hughes, by whom he had two daughters, both of whom are married; one living in Marshall, Mich, and the other in Joliet, Ill.; second, to the widow of G. S. Harrington. He was born in Green, Trumbull County, Ohio, and died in Vassar, August 7, 1875. It will be remembered that Mr. Harrington had a factory in which he manufactured sash, blinds, doors and furniture, and also kept a furniture store. Mrs. Lewis’ maiden name was Clarissa Ann King, and she was born in Bennington, Genesee County, N., Y., in 1825, but has been a resident of Vassar for the past seventeen years. The doctor is a graduate of the Cleveland Medical College, where he attended in 1847-48, and has since practiced his profession.

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L. C. Merritt, of the firm of Merritt & Hedden, merchants, is a native of Metamora, Lapeer County, Mich., but has been a resident of Vassar since 1871. He first engaged in mercantile business on the corner of Pine and River Streets, where he continued two and one-half years, when he pulled down the old store and erected a brick store on its site, which was the first of its kind in town. Forming a partnership with Mr. Hedden they built a handsome brick store on the opposite corner of Pine and River Streets, which they have occupied since December 17, 1882. Mr. Merritt is a member of the executive committee of the county agricultural society, and as a public officer has served the township of Vassar five years as treasurer, and since the spring of 1882 as supervisor.

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John L. Miller was born in Oakland County, Mich., in 1835, and in 1840 came to Tuscola County with his parents, who settled in the township of Tuscola, his father purchasing 320 acres of land and clearing it up from what was then a dense wilderness. and in the early years of his settlement has shot deer from his door step. Mr. Miller has experienced all the hardships of pioneer life, having had to live a week at a time on potatoes and salt, and now owns a fine farm in the township of Vassar, the result of his labors. He was married to Julia Whiteman, a native of New York, and has two children. On account of poor health he has given up farming and is now a resident of Vassar village. His father, who is eighty-eight years of age, is now living in Bay County.

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Joshua D. Smith, one of the pioneers of Tuscola County, died at his residence in Vassar, May 18, 1883. Mr. Smith was born at Sackett’s Harbor, N. Y., February 28, 1821. When four years of age his parents settled in Michigan. About fifty-eight years of his life were of a pioneer character, he having resided in Troy, Farmington, Saginaw, and Vassar, when each was new. His last thirty years were spent in Vassar, occupied in locating land, farming, manufacturing, etc. He was twice married; first to Miss Emeline Williams and next to Miss Elizabeth A. Gleason, who remains his widow. Mr. Smith was active in promoting the growth of this new region, and was always an honored citizen. He was a member of the Presbyterian Church for twenty-five years, and an elder for nineteen years.

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Alexander Trotter was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the year 1810. When he was about five years of age his father came to America, and settled in Delaware County, N. Y.  His mother had died in his infancy. At the proper age he attended the academy at Fairfield, Herkimer County. His collegiate education was obtained at Oberlin, Ohio, and his theological education at the Union Theological Seminary, in the city of New York. Emerging from college, Mr. Trotter entered the ministry, but was prevented from continuing it as a life-work on account of the uncertain condition of his health. In the spring of 1863 he came to Vassar and being pleased with the appearance of the place invested his means, and became identified with the place. Soon after coming here he became the pastor of the Presbyterian Church and continued that relation about three years. He was afterward postmaster of the village for some time, and in 1869 purchased the Pioneer printing establishment as already stated. Mr. Trotter was married at Morristown, N. J., May 28, 1843, to Phoebe Day, of that place. They have five children; three daughters and two sons, all married. Mr. Trotter has crossed the line of three score years and ten, but is still vigorous and active, with a seeming promise that his thus far useful life will be prolonged for years to come. His sons have come up to honored positions as business men, and the hitherto successful career of the Pioneer has a warrant of long continuance

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Justin Wentworth, the subject of this sketch, is a native of Hope, Knox County, Me., and was born in 1835. He remained there until twenty-one years of age when he came to Vassar. From Detroit, in company with eight or ten others, he took the old stage route via Flint, Pine Run and Tuscola, stopping at the latter place over night, at a hotel then kept by Dr. Johnson. He first engaged with Merrill & Remick, lumbermen, on Goodwin Creek, and helped to clean out that water course on which they erected two dams. Samuel Sayres was the foreman. After four years service with Merrill & Remick, he purchased a farm in the township of Watertown, and engaged in farming, where he remained four years, at the end of which time he removed to Vassar, and a year later purchased his present farm where he has since resided, with the exception of seven months spent in Minnesota. Mr. Wentworth, in connection with D. G. Slafter, Mr. Dacy, and Mr. Watrous cleaned out White Creek and built a dam at its head. He has been largely identified with the lumbering interests of the county, and at present is lumbering on Rifle River, Muskegon River and on the Mackinaw Division of the Michigan Central Railroad.

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Asa White, lumberman, was born at Fletcher, Franklin County, Vt., in 1832. When about four years of age he moved with his parents to New York, and afterward to Richfield, Genesee County, Mich., in 1849. Mr. White was brought up a farmer and carpenter. In 1862 he came to Tuscola County, and settled in the township of Fremont. In November, 1864, he enlisted in the Fifteenth Michigan Infantry volunteers. He has been in several prominent battles. At the close of the war he returned home. In 1870 he moved to Vassar and engaged in lumbering and real estate. He was married January 27, 1857, to Marinda Todd, of Genesee, Genesee County, Mich. They have lost four children, three girls, and have one daughter living.

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Thos. H. Williamson, of the firm of Williamson & Taylor, tanners, was born in Surrey, England, and came to America in 1849, stopping three years in New York, the coming to Vassar, where he has since resided. The tannery which they now occupy was built in 1853 by a Mr. Ripley, and was operated by the firm of Barker, Ripley, & Co, in which Mr. Williamson was a partner. They also manufactured boots and shoes and had a currying establishment at Flint. In 1873 the firm of Williamson & Taylor was organized, and has since been actively engaged in the business. They employ from five to eight men at the tannery and turn out 6,000 sides of leather annually. Mr. Williamson has served the township of Vassar four years as supervisor. He married Miss Emily Taylor, of New York. They have had three children, all of whom are living in Vassar.

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May 1998

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