Samuel Dexter, Jr. (1787-1856)
Founder of Ionia, Michigan; son of 1st cousin-7x Candace Winsor and father-in-law of 3rd GGAunt Mehitabel Winsor, the sister of 3GGF Mortimer Winsor
BACKGROUND: Samuel Dexter, Jr. was the son of Candace Winsor, the daughter of Rev. John Winsor. John was a "brother-by-a-different-mother" of our direct ancestor, Joshua Winsor, Jr. "In the early thirties the fame of the lands in the territory of Michigan reached the East, and among others who became interested was Samuel Dexter, of Herkimer county, New York, near Little Falls. He was at that time forty-six years of age, had been a member of the New York state Legislature, and had also had a contract of excavating a large section of the Erie canal near his home. In the fall of 1832, in company with Doctor Jewett, later of Lyons, Michigan, he rode horseback through southern and western Michigan, looking up government lands for himself and friends. After following the lake shore to Chicago and investigating the prospects there he came back to Michigan and located lands on the Grand river at Ionia, and Grand Rapids; taking a quarter section at Ionia and a strip eighty rods wide on the east side of Division street reaching from Wealthy avenue to Leonard street on the north in Grand Rapids. Mr. Dexter went to White Pigeon, in the south part of the state, where the United States land office was then, entered his claims and returned home to New York, and spent the winter in selling his farm, getting everything in readiness and writing letters to induce as many as he could to join him in his new venture - that of making a new home in an unbroken wilderness." (from: "History of Ionia County, Michigan : her people, industries and institutions, with biographical sketches of representative citizens, and genealogical records of many of the old families", 1st volume, edited by E. E. Branch, 1916)
as told in Michigan Pioneer and Historical Society Collections, Vol.28. 1897 (p.145-148) "The Journey of Ionia's First Settlers" by Prudence Dexter Tower, daughter of Samuel Dexter, Jr. [Read at Ionia May 27, 1893, on the Sixtieth Anniversary of Their Arrival.] "Some recollections of my father, Samuel Dexter, and the pioneers that
first settled in Ionia; of their journey and arrival at Ionia:
My father visited Michigan in the fall of 1832, and, through letters
which he published, others were induced to come to Michigan.
He and Mr. Erastus Yeomans bought a canal boat, a scow, and fitted it
up to move the families, and as many of our household goods as possible,
~We started from Frankfort village, Herkimer county, N. Y., April 22,
1833, with three families, Mr. Yeomans', Oliver Arnold's and Samuel
Dexter's, using their own horses to draw the boat.
The boat's name was "Walk-in-the-Water," but some one wrote on
the side of the boat with chalk, "Michigan Caravan."
I think at Utica Mr. Joel Guild and his brother Edward and families
embarked with us. We traveled by day and at night had to go ashore
to sleep at hotels. At Syracuse Mr. Darius Winsor and family cast
their lot with the rest. [NOTES: The above-mentioned boat "Walk-in-the-Water" was named after the first steamboat on the Great Lakes, shipwrecked in 1821. Also, since Candace's brother Darius died in 1784, this namesake may have been a nephew. Sixty-two people left New York for
Michigan on April 22, 1833. There were six families, headed by Samuel
Dexter, Erastus Yeomans, Oliver Arnold, Darius Winsor, Edward Guild and
Joel Guild. They were also accompanied by five young, single men, Dr.
William B. Lincoln, P. M. Fox, Abraham Decker, and Samuel's brothers, Warner Dexter and Winsor
~The boat was a motley sight, as the deck was piled with wagons taken
to pieces and bound on, and every conceivable thing that could be taken
to use in such a country where there was nothing to be bought.
From Buffalo to Detroit we came by steamer “Superior.”
|Prudence Dexter Tower|
[A few of Samuel's siblings and numerous relatives made the migration from New York state to Michigan Territory during this era. One brother, Darius Dexter married Mortimer's sister Mehitabel. Without any proof whatsoever, I have surmised that our Mortimer Winsor may have been raised in their New York home before Mehitabel's death in 1829. Mortimer married Mary Abigail Secord the following year in Michigan. Darius Dexter moved west, remarried, and settled in Perry, Illinois where he died in 1866. The other link to Mortimer may have been the above-mentioned Darius Winsor who was most likely a cousin to Samuel and Mortimer.]References:
MIGenWeb links to Ionia history online resources
The Journey of the Dexter Colony 1833 with map of route through Michigan; Ionia County Historical Society, May 2010.