Wednesday, July 16, 2014

COVERED-WAGON BABY: Roswell Harmon Post

2nd GGUncle Roswell Harmon Post, brother to 2nd GGFather John Franklin Post, Jr.
The following obituaries were discovered by Dan Houser, a 'cousin' to whom much credit is due for his years of dedicated work on our Post family tree. Countless hours and untold expense were involved as he combed library microfiche, acquired official documentation piece by piece, and visited long-abandoned graveyards.  Thank you, Dan!

Post, Roswell Harmon
The Detroit News, Dec 15, 1934, Page 3, (Detroit Lib)
Death Ends Long Career of Covered-Wagon Baby
A covered-wagon baby whose life spanned the development of Detroit and Michigan is dead.
Following a brief illness, Roswell H. Post, building contractor for 45 years, died Friday afternoon in his home, 949 Alexandrine avenue west.
Mr. Post, who was 88 years old was the youngest of seven sons of John Franklin Post, pioneer Monroe lumberman, and was born July 4, 1847 in a covered wagon while his parents paused for the night on the banks of the Miami River in Ohio, during their long wagon trek from New York State to
The family proceeded to Monroe, where Mr. Post's father cut a homestead out of the forest and established a mill. When the boy was 14, the Civil War broke out and he worked far into the night firing the furnaces of the mill while thousands of feet of lumber were converted into stocks for the guns of Union soldiers.
In later years, Mr. Post became a builder and among the buildings he constructed were the present Union Station at Third avenue and Fort street; the old Peninsular Stove Works, several Detroit churches and the early giant grain elevators at Duluth. His office and shop stood on the site of the present Detroit Trust Co. on Fort street west.
Mr.Post's ancestors were prominently identified with the early days of the Republic. His great-great-grandfather was a captain in the Revolutionary War and his great-grandmother was a niece of Benjamin Franklin. He leaves his wife, who was Mary Trueman, of Indianapolis.
He was a member of Zion Lodge No.1, F & A.M: Monroe Chapter, No 1,R.A.M; Monroe Council, No. 1 R & S. M.; Detroit Lodge No. 128, and Michigan Encampment, No. 1, I.O.O.F, and Mabel Rebekah Lodge No. 44.
Funeral services to be held at 2:30 p.m. Monday. will be under suspects of members of Zion Lodge. Note--> There is a picture with this notice.

Post, Roswell
The Monroe Evening News, Monroe, Michigan (Monroe H.S. & Ellis Lib.)
Dec 17, 1934 Page 7
ROSWELL POST DIES IN DETROIT-Son of Pioneer Monroe Family Was Born in Covered Wagon-Roswell Post, 88 years old, building contractor in Detroit for 45 years, whose father Franklin Post was a pioneer Monroe lumberman, died in his home at 949 Alexandrine avenue in Detroit, Friday.
Mr. Post, who died after a brief illness, was born July 4, 1847 in a covered wagon while his parents paused for the night on the Miami River in Ohio, during their long wagon journey from New York State to Michigan. The Post home here was at the northwest corner of Washington and Fifth streets. The house is now owned by Mrs Winifred Sisung.
When the family reached Monroe, Mr. Post's father cut a Homestead out of the forest and established a mill here. When the Civil War broke out the boy was 14 years old and he worked far into the night firing the furnace of the mill while thousands of feet of lumber was converted into stocks for the guns of Union Soldiers.
Mr. Post constructed a number of the larger buildings in Detroit and several Churches.
Mr. Post's ancestors were prominently identified with the early days of the republic. His great-great-grandfather was a captain in the Revolutionary War and his great-grandmother was a niece of Benjamin Franklin.
Mr. Post leaves his widow. He was identified with the Masonic Lodges of Detroit, and Encampment No. 1, I.O.O.F. Funeral services were to be held this afternoon in Detroit.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


 3rd GGF Titus Dort played a pivotal role in a legal matter that traveled by appeal all the way to Michigan's Supreme Court in 1858.  In 1851, while completing the appointed tasks as administrator of Alanson Thomas' estate, Titus uncovered documents that revealed a monumental flaw in the land deed that Aaron Thomas had provided to his son, Alanson, leading to years of contentious litigation and revealing testimony following the deaths of both father and son in 1848 and 1850.
[note: This case was initially confusing because I assumed that Titus was tending to the estate of his father-in-law, Alanson, whose father was Aaron Jr.  As I continued to read the court case it became clear that Aaron was actually Aaron III, another son of Aaron Jr. and father to a different Alanson, Thomas Alanson Thomas, cousin to Titus' wife, Deiadamia.  Farm census reports show that Titus' and Aaron Jr.'s families had adjoining properties and were, undoubtedly, long-time friends.]
The court records show that Aaron had made plans in 1838 to sell all his property to his son Alanson although there was no record of the monetary exchange since, at the time, Alanson was unemployed due to a chronic eye ailment and was supported by his father.  With Aaron living out the next ten years on the old homestead there, Alanson was deemed by all -neighbors, customers, friends and family- to be the rightful owner, running the farm and sometimes selling parcels of the land to others.  Although the deed was recorded, it apparently was not scrutinized by anybody and so both father and son went to their graves believing that the deed was a valid reflection of the original patent of 437 6/100 acres (minus 100 acres already sold).  What Titus discovered was that, when the deed was drafted in 1838, important acreage information was missing from the document and, as a consequence, only a small fraction of the farm was actually legally conveyed to Alanson.  A plat presented in court revealed that only a small triangle of owned land was covered by the deed as written; four of the 14 originally-patented courses were missed.  It was always understood and communicated by Aaron and Alanson that the deed was for the whole property, indicating this error was unintentional and undetected.

With notification of Titus' discovery, Aaron's widow, heirs, and the angry purchasers of property sold under this deed, went into a whirlwind of court actions attempting to right this wrong -each to their advantage.  What resulted was a steady barrage of complaints by the purchasers requesting that the widow and heirs be restrained from reclaiming and/or reselling properties the land holders had bought from the defective, or some said, deceptive deed.  Even Titus Dort filed a bill to have the deed description corrected but was denied since the whole matter was now under question.

In their attempt to build favor in the unresolved case, the widow Betsey (now remarried) along with at least one heir, sought to cast suspicion on both Aaron and Alanson by alleging that the property deed of 1838 was only made to defraud Aaron's creditors.  With that, the door swung wide open to admit a steady stream of hearsay testimony into the courts that soon turned the original topic of clerical error and omission to scrutiny of a possible act of deception and fraud.

Despite the fact that witnesses consistently testified that Aaron made it clear that Alanson was the sole owner/operator of the farm and property, they also consistently revealed that "it was whispered in the neighborhood" that the property was conveyed to keep it safely out of reach of a specific creditor, Dr. Hurd.

Titus Dort also testified that as supervisor of Dearborn, he assessed the property under Alanson's name with the exception of a span of horses and a wagon claimed by the father.  Dort reported that Aaron had told him that he did not intend to be "forced to pay" Dr. Hurd for physician costs but that he would pay the debt.  (Hurd had filed suit against Aaron to recover payment for services provided and the judgement of $468 was awarded in 1834.  The next year Aaron's property was levied to satisfy the unpaid judgement.  But the battle must have been on-going between Hurd and Thomas because Aaron and Alanson signed affidavits in 1846 stating that the judgement had been satisfied by payment in farm produce from the property.  The court deemed the debt satisfied.)

The widow Betsey continued to assert to the courts that Alanson never paid for the deeded property and that it was done simply to keep Dr. Hurd from getting anything from Aaron.  Now here is where it starts getting interesting...Betsey also claimed that "it was understood" that Aaron expected the property to revert back to him when things were settled with Dr. Hurd.  Although the property did not revert back to Aaron -even after the court found the debt settled in 1846- Betsey explained that was because there was "another liable claim" that prevented it returning to her husband.  If so, it was never brought up in court.  But, after Aaron's death, Betsey apparently threatened Alanson with legal action and, as a compromise, he paid her property taxes.  

What seems most interesting is that the widow (who signed off on dowager rights when the deed was written) was so outspoken about the "deceptive deed" between her now-dead husband and her step-son Alanson.  Wouldn't her knowledge of the proposed fraud from the start make her implicit in the act, too?  Since that question didn't appear in the court record, I'm guessing that her testimony was not looked upon as fully credible or that the burden of proof wasn't met.

The opinions that follow the written record of this Michigan Supreme Court case reveal some basic findings:
  • despite all the rumors and after twelve years of continuous ownership, Alanson was generally recognized as the owner of the property
  • since the deed was recorded and available for inspection at any time, it was up to the land purchasers to verify the validity of the transaction prior to purchase; "buyer beware"
  • fraud cannot be presumed; it must be proven beyond rumor and hearsay
  • Aaron was steadfast in his conveyance of the deed to Alanson, even declaring under oath to that fact (which doesn't disprove fraud but does suggest the transaction wasn't just a ruse)
  • when used to support testimony, rumor (of which the courts heard volumes) can be a "two-edged sword"

Michigan Reports: Cases Decided in the Supreme Court of Michigan, Volume 6 (Google eBook) October Term, 1858, Detroit

In the 1850 US Non-population Schedule (Farm Census) for Dearborn, the neighboring farms are listing as:

#3-Lorenzo Thomas (242 total acres)
#4-TITUS DORT (120 total acres)
#5-Betsey Thomas (80 total acres)
#6-TA(Alanson) Thomas (140 total acres)
and a little farther down the list:
#9-Edmund Quirk (one of the purchasers of Thomas' deeded land) Lawsuit "Quirk v Thomas"
#27-William Ford (80 total acres) 1846 immigrant and father of Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company-who would later purchase up all the above properties (and more) 


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

BUTTONS, WITCHES & FIRE: 1628 Immigrant Matthias Button

Our Button family lineage:
from 1628 immigrant, Matthias Button through Aaron Thomas, Sr.’s wife Zipporah Button to Titus Dort's wife Deiademia Thomas. (Deiadamia, Alanson, Aaron Jr., Aaron THOMAS Sr.- Zipporah BUTTON, Matthias, Peter, 9th GGF Matthias)

The first 17th century fire recorded in the annals of Haverhill, Massachusetts, completely destroyed the Matthias Button homestead, a thatched roof house. The “burning questions” of why? and by whom? reveal interesting accusations of witchcraft.  Here is some background for that story gathered from various genealogical sources, including an out-of-print book by Nye entitled “Button Families in America”. 

Matthias Button was baptized 11 Oct 1607 at Harrold, Bedfordshire, England.  There has been some speculation that his family may have spent time in Holland as members of the Leydon Separatists, but no facts have surfaced to support this theory 'wishfully' connecting our Matthias with Sir Thomas Button, a noted explorer and Welsh officer of the Royal Navy.  Sir Thomas had spent time in Holland, but he was not related to this family of Buttons.  According to Nye, author of the Button Families of America published in 1971, a different Thomas Button (1558-1617), the father of Matthias, was born and died in Harrold, Bedfordshire, England, the birthplace of Matthias.

As best we know, Matthias came to America with Governor John Endicott's party on the ship Abigail that sailed out of Weymouth England. They landed on the 6th of September, 1628 at a two-year old Massachusetts settlement named Salem which was located at the mouth of the Naumkeag River, the site of an ancient Native American village and trading center. After a voyage of eleven weeks, the group arrived physically exhausted.  Even though they brought cannon and small arms for their protection from Indians, the party of men found it difficult to prepare for the threat of early hostilities due to their weakened condition.  While scouting, they became aware of imminent danger.  They were, however, able to position their weaponry so that the approaching Indians ‘scattered like sheep’ when they fired the cannon.  Matthias Button is remembered in this early incident as one of the few colonists who was fit enough to ‘get and man the big gun,’ likened as a hale and hearty man.  Although his stay in Salem was brief, he spent the rest of his life in the Massachusetts Bay area.  From Salem he soon removed to Boston in 1633, where he is listed among the earliest settlers.  Though possibly not a member, he identified himself with Boston’s First Church and was admitted with his wife on January 26, 1633, where at least two of his children were baptized. He then moved to Ipswich prior to 1639 and then, in 1646, to Haverhill (pronounced HAY-vrill), Mass., where he resided until his death in 1672.

From Vital Records of Haverhill
Matthias Button married four times:
(1) Lettice; by 1633; died 1635-1639.
(2) Joan, widow of John Thornton of Ipswich; around 1639; died by 1650.
(3) ANN TEAGLE; around 1650 (our lineage is through a child of this marriage, Peter); died in Haverhill 4 February 1662/3 as a result of the burning of their house by John Godfrey.
(4) Elizabeth (Wheeler) Duston; 1663; daughter of John Wheeler, and widow of Thomas Duston; died in Haverhill 16 July 1690.

 [The following facts were collected from other sources, based on corroborating primary written records] [EQC=Essex Co. Quarterly Court records]

·         Matthias Button maintained an unfortunate association with the notorious John Godfrey. Owing him a bond dated 12 January 1663/4, at June Term, 1668, Button was sued by Godfrey for debt and the jury found for Button. The court disagreed and set the verdict aside. In this case John Hutchins and Abraham Whitaker deposed that four years before, Godfrey had them accompany him to Button's to demand the cattle valued to £12 that Button owed him.  Button said, "I will now look up my cattle and pay thee." Godfrey told him to bring them to town to Goodman Kent's before twelve o'clock where they would be appraised, and he would give up the bond. Godfrey chose Stephen Kent for his appraiser and Button chose Bartholomew Heath. The cattle were brought before the time and appraised, but Godfrey would not come to receive them, although deponents remained till almost night [EQC 4:29].  Even with the verdict set aside by the court, Godfrey evidently harbored his first grudge.

·         From the deposition of Edward Clark, we learn that Button gave Godfrey an acquittance, or payment-in-full (9 January 1662/3), before the burning of Button's house [EQC 4:152]. Godfrey was accused, in the course of testimony, of being in two places at once, provoking suspicions of witchcraft.

·         Godfrey was found legally not guilty of witchcraft by the Court of Assistants, but was found "suspiciously guilty."  Hence, Grudge #2.

At the April Term, 1669, Button sued Godfrey for "firing his chimney which caused his house to burn and the goods therein, also the death of his wife Ann, and for running away as soon as he had done it." *
Essex County Court, which did not have the power to rule in a case of wrongful death, brought a verdict anyway, and awarded Button £238 2s damages and costs. [EQC 4:130-31].
More detail about this case is seen in the June Term, 1669, when Godfrey sued Matthias Button for "unjust molestation." Button won, but the court again set the verdict aside.  Grudge #3 and #4.

Representing Button, Ela sued Godfrey for "willful firing and burning of the dwelling house of Matthias Button, which was the cause of the death of said Button's wife." Godfrey replied, "Why should I bely myself; there be the witness: and asked whether he should go and execute himself; ... protested that he was cleared of firing the house and knew not of it: and that he went to Corlis his house, and there remained until Button came with his family" [EQC 4:185]. In a calmer deposition, Godfrey "acknowledged that he was at Button's house the day before the house was burned and went about ten or eleven o'clock to Corlis' house; that he said to Goody Button, lying upon the bed, `Woman weigh me out some meat,' and she arose and gave him meat and brought in water; also that he made a little fire of small wood upon the hearth" [EQC 4:186].  Although the role of colonial women was undoubtedly very different than that of today’s ‘homemakers,’ it still seems a bit odd that Godfrey would see nothing wrong with getting the mistress of the house out of bed and demanding a meal, of which she obliged –all while he is fixing a “little fire of small wood upon the hearth” which would later be seen as the cause of (or contributing to) her death. 

Button apparently paid Ela for his services as deputy and attorney, and the court found Ela's charges to be excessive. During testimony at November Term, 1669, it was revealed that Button had agreed to give Ela one third of all he "should return of John Godfray for the burning of my house and goods" [EQC 4:199].

*We can assume that the lingering, central cause of Godfrey's enmity towards Button was chiefly due to the fact that four years earlier, Mr. Button and others were witnesses against Godfrey when he was arrested through a complaint of Job Tyler and John Remington on suspicion of witchcraft and tried in the court of Boston in March, 1665. [The court record indicates a pattern of unusual behavior by Godfrey witnessed by others, including what appears to be another ancestor, 10th great-grandfather William Symonds/Simonds.] 

(A list of Godfrey court proceedings can be found in John Putnam Demos’ book, Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England, published by Oxford Univ. Press, 1983. Appendix A, pp. 402-9)

(revised: 2/23/13 and 4/21/2018)