of OBITUARIES IN THE
REGION OF SOUTHEAST
ISABELLA COUNTY, MICHIGAN
and surrounding areas.
By: Jane A. COWLES, Melva WILBUR and Paul WILBUR
and donated to the Shepherd Area Historical Society Apr 1980
by the authors.
Transcribed by Barbara Lesser - May 1999
Isabella County, Michigan, was settled beginning in the 1850's. Before that,
neither Indians nor white men lived in the area now called Coe township. Some
of the earliest pioneers moved north from Gratiot County or other more
southerly counties, choosing their land and erecting shelters before bringing
first settlers were men named ESTEE, BRICKLEY, BOWEN, WOOLSEY, CHILDS,
STEWART and WILLARD. They arrrived about a month before the ROBERTS and
FANNING families. There was a great influx of pioneers until about
1855, when the goverment took the swamp lands off the market. People came
from Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Virginia, among other
places, to buy land at very low prices, from twelve and a half cents an acre
to a dollar and twenty-five cents, depending on the quality of the
land. It was largely forest and swamp. "Taken up" land had to be recorded at
Ionia, Michigan, some fifty miles to the southwest of Coe township, a
journey that had to be made on foot.
was platted by Elijah MOORE in 1866.It was named for the stream beside it,
and consisted mostly of mills, blacksmith shops, and hotels to accommodate
the lumberjacks who were clearing the area. The stream, Salt River, was
larger then, and the lumber business flourished.
to carry their indispensable food stuffs from St. Johns, MI by "shank's
mare" via Indian trails until well into the 1880's. There was no trouble
with Indians, whose homes were not being invaded. But the grandmothers of
many people living today in Coe township had baked goods and milk 'borrowed'
by hungry red travelers.
the railroad was built, business began to move toward the west. I.N.
SHEPHERD built his home between the village of Salt River and the railroad,
about half a mile west of the settlement. He owned the land, and also
erected an entire block of buildings, anticipating the additional business
the Toledo and Ann Arbor railroad would bring. In 1887, a fire in
"Salt River" was the final blow to the original town and "Shepherd"
came into being, named for I. N. SHEPHERD, owner of much of the land, whose
foresight was thus rewarded.
living here between the 1850's and 1880's were either pioneers of the
children of pioneers. The area with which these obituries are concerned is
bordered on the east by Midland County, and on the south by Gratiot County.
when people died they were buried on their own property, near the houses
occupied by their families, and the graves were crudely marked. Most
of the first graves have been entirely lost. Many later deaths
occurred in neighboring towns - Alma, Mt. Pleasant, St. Louis, and
Carson City, where the first hospitals were located. Then, too, as
settlers grew older, they tended to retire to settlements for companionship
and conveniences. Mt. Pleasant, the county seat of Isabella County,
lies about eight miles north of Shepherd; Alma is about equal distant to the
south, and St. Louis is a little east and north of Alma.
Most of the
obituries herein transcribed were taken from scrapbooks or newspapers
cherished through the years. We do not know how accurate the
obituaries were, but there is great variation in the spelling of names, and
sometimes two obituaries of the same person, published in different papers,
do not agree.
We take no
responsibility for the accuracy of such news items. All we know is
that they were written, and since newspaper accounts are at best, only a
second-rate source of genealogical information, those transcripts must be
regarded only as clues upon which to build factual records.
Nevertheless, "Lost in the wilderness" can be very frustrating, and small
clues can be of great assistance in pointing the was to missing ancestors.
We hope this
collection of vital community concerns may help someone crossing time and
distance in search of kin.
We owe debts
of gratitude to those who preserved the obituaries, and to those who lent
them to us, and to the members of our families who were patient with our
preoccupation in preparing these lists. The ladies of other years who
clipped and pasted such interesting stories of their neighbors, have both
our gratitude and respect.
*Editor's note: Please click on the
letter indicated for your surname.