Monday, July 8, 2013

Searching For Luther in Allegan, Michigan

Last week, I started this story in great hopes the questions were answered. I was very curious what land g-g-grandfather Luther Fowler owned when living in Allegan, Michigan, but the more I looked at the latest "gatherings" (from a short trip the middle of June) the longer it took to write this posting. What I thought I saw, I didn't. What I thought I proved, I didn't. So for the last few days I've been doing more "looking" at –– studying –– the deeds and city map. I'm not there yet, but getting close.

Call me superstitious, but if I plan too far ahead to go on a genealogical trip to a town or a cemetery, it's always surely to be either too hot, too cold, too windy, to stormy; the weatherman knows how to curtail my trips. This time I fooled him -- did it before the weatherman had a chance to blink! I pretended to want the trip a week later than I actually picked! This must have worked because the forcast was for perfect weather the next week -- my week -- and we only wanted the first three days of it! I'm sure the genealogical gods had something to do with it, too...

Before I told Bob, I checked the calendar and blocked out three days. I called the hotel in Plainwell and made reservations asking if they allowed dogs -- yes -- good. Then I got the idea of boarding Abby at a kennel up in that area. That worked out great, the price was the same per day as was the hotel's. So why not? Then both Bob and I would be free to do and go where we wanted and Abby could have some friends to play with. Quickly I put together a list of a few things I needed to get at the Allegan county courthouse, Allegan city hall, and library. A couple days later we were on the road with the doggie. We left our cats with enough food and water for four days and an extra kitty litter pan. We were in the car and out of town by nine in the morning! Weatherman had no clue we were gone!

I had less than three days to "hunt and gather" information on Luther. Not only will I verify previously gathered information with documentation, but I'll seek some new information, too. I want to get pictures of the town and land Luther owned, too.

I've written about Luther before in Proving a connection to Luther posted July 8, 2012 and then Finally! The Connection – Luther son of Abel Fowler posted May 6, 2013.

Little by little I have been putting his life in Allegan into context -- "fleshing out the bones." There are a few questions likely never to be answered like: when did his first wife Lydia die and where is she buried, when and where did he marry Hannah whose maiden name I'd also like to know, but that's not what I was up there for. I was looking for information mainly on the land he owned.

After an uneventful and rather pleasant drive up to Allegan, we dropped the doggie off at the kennel then stopped at City Hall. It's a beautiful building tucked into a row of older buildings on Locust St. -- the main drag. I asked a few questions and all led to the court house. I'd come back before we leave to look through the burials book for Oakwood cemetery (a city cemetery) when I had a little more time. The courthouse was about to close so we went back the next day. That worked out good since we had to check into the hotel and find a place to eat dinner.
City Hall tucked between two older buildings in
the middle of the block on Locust St.
Allegan is the county seat. It's a quaint town about in the middle of Allegan County on Highway 89 between Plainwell and Holland, Michigan; about an hour southwest of Grand Rapids. The downtown area had a major fire around 1884; the buildings were torn down and rebuilt on the intact foundations. One building on the block was dated -- 1884 -- on the front. The Kalamazoo River winds through the town and at 2nd St. there is a one-lane iron bridge. There's a section of buildings which were for manufacturing, milling, furniture, and various other company businesses; some are still in operation. Some of the empty buildings are now being used as an art gallery or lofts. There is redevelopment going on which is nice to see. Allegan is a beautiful place with a board walk winding with the river through the town.

Bob and I walked around the downtown area visiting stores, buildings I know my great grandmother must have entered at one time or another. One store we went into was an old-fashioned dime store with toys, fabric, lamp shades, cards and stationery with school supplies, small appliances and kitchen wares. They even had the rack of plastic table cloth sold by the inch! That was nice to see. We need more stores like that. I bought a plastic covered pitcher perfect size for my orange juice and to fit into my refrigerator's door shelve.

Main street - Locust St. - The City Hall is located on the right of the stop signs. We ate lunch at the Downtown Bakery & Deli a couple doors down from the city hall. At the end of the block you can see a gray round-roof turret...that has a nice restaurant where everyone knows everyone...we had a wonderful lunch there also -- $2 hamburger that was not a franchise one. Bob and I went for coffee or lunch at various places in the town. The people, food, and scenery are very nice.
The townspeople are friendly even though we were "strangers." As we were to our car, a man stopped us and started talking..."I'm so glad to see someone from Illinois!" he said, "Where ya from?" We told him and he got all excited. He used to live not too far south in Chicago and used to work a few blocks east of us. I guess he was homesick; he said his wife was the one who wanted to move up there.

Bob and I decided to stop at the grocery store for carry-out dinner so we could come back to our room to watch the third game of the Stanley Cup finals between the Chicago Blackhawks (my boys) and Boston Bruins. Hawks didn't have a good night. 

The courthouse is just another square, light colored brick building with security at the door checking bags, purses, pockets and asking questions about weapons and alcohol...and just like at the airport, I had to walk through a detector (not the body scanner!). I did pass quietly and thanked them. The only thing I carried that shoots was my camera.

I visited the Vital Records office and was able to go into the back room to look through the marriage and death indexes and record books. That was nice because I would be able to not only get digital images of the M & Ds to verify names and dates I already had, but I hoped I would find some I didn't know about, too. There was one marriage -- my g-g-aunt Sarah Fowler who lived in Chicago, but came back home to get married in Allegan, and I thought they were married in Chicago. That was nice surprise. I also got a certified copy of my great grandmother's death record. That was nice, too. I didn't find g-g-grandmother Lydia's death date or her burial information; nor did I find Luther's second marriage record. Maybe he and Hannah married in Chicago.

Across the hall was the land records office. I was thrilled when I got copies of some deeds. I was even more thrilled that I remembered to bring my list with the Libre numbers and pages of the ones I wanted! I have most of my genealogical information in the "cloud" but sometimes it is nice to have that paper. I'm still a little old fashioned that way...I'm not quite paperless, yet!

Other side of the street was the library. A very helpful genealogy savvy librarian brought out many items for me to look through. One item was a 1877 directory showing Luther was in residence at 9 Wilbur St. and was a cabinet maker. I took digital images of the directory and an old city plat map for home reference. 

1877 Allegan Village Directory, page 54
Partial of the Allegan city plat map. I don't know how old it is.

The table was stacked with reference books, history books, directories, and map books which we plowed through; we looked at the city map for particular pieces of property listed in those deeds; I wanted to go to the locations to take pictures. One of the first deeds I looked at was this one from 1869. Lots 43 and 44 were most visible.
Elizabeth Booth Et al, to Luther Fowler > Received for Record, May 5th A.D> 1869, at 1 o'clock....
This Indenture, Made this Fifth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and Sisty Nine BETWEEN Elizabeth Booth Widow & Diane M Booth and Laura Broun Sisters all of Allegan Mich the Sole and only heirs at Law of the Late Henry H Booth Deceased of the firt part, and Luther Fowler of the same place of the second part....three hundred Dollars....Allegan Village Lots Numbered on the Recorded plat of said Village of Allegan forty three (43) & Forty four (44) Being on Section Twenty Eight [??] North Range & thirteen West.....
The librarian and I searched the plat map and deduced where the two parcels of land were at the corners of Pine and Cutler Streets. She made a paper copy for me and after more rummaging through a few more books and catalogs Bob and I set out to find the property called Lots 43 & 44. We met the owners of the brown house Karen and Doug, Bob and I had a nice talk about the house's history and the area. Karen made a copy of a picture she had of the house taken very early 1900s. I let her make copies of my deeds. I took pictures of the house. Karen is also into genealogy and understood why we stopped.

Houses located on Lots 43 & 44 at the corner of Pine and Cutler Streets. The brown house has several additions to it, but the owners told us the 
front part was the oldest being from about 1850. The out buildings aren't there, 

but we were told the barn and outhouse would have been on the back of the lots. 
The white house would have had the barn and probably the front 
could have been used as garden or pasture. 
This all seems so cut and dried. We have the deed and we have the plat map and we have images of the two lots, one with a house that was fairly new around 1850. Well, by the time I got home and started to look at all these again, I realized there were several sections of that Allegan map where 43 & 44 were located. ARRGGHH! You'd think the librarian and I jumped to conclusions...but did we? These lots pictured are correct. They are in the "Original Town" area written on the map. Yet, it's not conclusive Luther ever lived there. Just one more question I must ask in a letter to the county land records.

I knew from the directory, Luther was living at 9 Wilbur St. in 1877. Why I didn't see Wilbur St. (on the map above) while I was up there I will never know. I did notice it a few days ago as I revisited the deeds and maps for this post. But that's not all I saw a little while later when I was reading another deed dated 1883. 

This deed below is between Luther Fowler and A. F. [August Ferdinand] Buschick, both of Chicago in 1883. The transaction was for two hundred dollars. The description of the property is: Village Lot number Seventy eight (78) Davis Addition to the Village of Allegan according to the recorded plat of said... At first I thought the property was located near the courthouse on Hubbard St., but that parcel looks like it belongs to the Episcopal Church. I looked at the map again and that is when I found Wilbur St. and Lot 78 in DAVIS ADD.

I'm sure I have the correct lot 78 and the street location. I don't know if lot 78 is "9" Wilbur St. though. One of the people I had talked to over the three days mentioned street names had changed, but she couldn't tell me when; Wilbur St. did change and now is Park Dr. on a modern city map. So for now, I would say this is most probably where Luther lived in 1877 as a cabinet maker. Google Maps hasn't photographed it yet. I guess I will have to make another trip up there to get images of this piece of property and maybe some more questions wish list is growing! 

On our way back to the hotel, we stopped at a roadside stand where fresh-picked strawberries were for sale! Oh, were they good!

I had images of the cemetery from a couple years ago. They were taken by someone else. Well, there's no better feeling to a family historian than to visit the gravesite to get a "feel" for the area and say a prayer for those buried there. I also wanted to take my own pictures in Oakwood Cemetery of the plot of 12 graves where my great grandmother Susan was buried. This I did succeed in doing, but I'm still at a loss for information on #1 (owner), 3, 7, 9, 10, and 11. How is N. Abrams connected to my family? I've never heard of him.

There are only four headstones in this plot of 12. Susan (Fowler) Buschick is #2. The cemetery card I have lists the occupants in all 12 graves, but only names for nine. There are three rows of four graves. The numbers showing above the circles gives you a visual of the plot map.

Susan A. Buschick, 

Mar. 25, 1841, 

Aug. 28 1915, 
Susan A. Buschick -- daughter of Luther Fowler
my great grandmother

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