Family History >
My Father's Ancestors >
(1842 - 1897)
great-great-great-grandfather was a man named Solomon Myers. Solomon was
born in 1794 in Lyons, New York (near Rochester) into a family that was among
the earliest settlers of upstate New York -- think of "Last of the Mohicans"
for the era and the area, and you get the idea. I don't have any pictures
of him, but according to a description
written years later, Solomon had a light complexion with dark hair.
Solomon enlisted as a private in the War of 1812, fighting mostly in the upstate
New York area, and told many exciting stories in later years about his
adventures in that conflict.
After the war, 20-year-old Solomon married
13-year-old Charlotte Blackmore and they lived in Lyons for the next 16 years,
where Solomon was a farmer. In 1830, Solomon and Charlotte moved their
family west to Michigan where they were deeded farmland in Redford, Michigan
(near Detroit) for Solomon's service in the war. I assume that
Solomon and Charlotte used the Erie Canal to get from Lyons to Lake Erie (and
then on to Michigan), because Lyons is located right along the canal and the
Erie Canal opened that same year, in 1830.
Ransom Myers, my great-great-grandfather, several years after
the Civil War.
1841, Solomon and Charlotte had a son, my great-great-grandfather Ransom Myers,
and in 1845, the family moved north to a farm near the small town of Fostoria,
in the "thumb" of Michigan. When Ransom was 16, he married
17-year-old Hannah Chaplin, who's family had been among the earliest settlers of
North America (see News, August 6, 2001). When the Civil War broke out, 19-year old
in the Union Army and joined the 10th Michigan Infantry regiment as
a private, just as his father, Solomon, had fought in the War of 1812.
I've read that Ransom was a drummer, which was actually one of the most
hazardous positions in the Army.
Before leaving on my trip around the U.S., I found a website devoted to Michigan
Civil War regiments and learned that Ransom's unit was
shipped up the Tennessee River in April, 1862 and landed at Pittsburg Landing,
Tennessee just a few weeks after the Battle of Shiloh, an important Union
victory early in the war.
Ransom's first military engagement was at the Corinth,
Mississippi, an important railroad crossroads for the Confederacy, where the
Union Army besieged the rebel troops and skirmished almost constantly before the
Confederates withdrew. His unit was
then sent to Kentucky. In September, 1862, Ransom was shot in the left arm
near Hickman Bridge, Kentucky, his arm was amputated, and he was sent to a hospital in St.
Louis. He was then sent back
to Fostoria, Michigan to recover.
only one arm, Ransom could have sat out the rest of the war but he felt so
strongly about the Union cause that he decided to re-enlist. Of course, he
couldn't carry a rifle with only one arm but he was a very good horseman, so he
became a one-armed courier with the 10th Michigan Cavalry
(probably the most famous Michigan Cavalry unit was the 7th Michigan, led by a 24-year-old general named George Custer). Ransom
was enlisted as a Sergeant with the 10th Cavalry and, beginning in 1863, his unit fought primarily in Eastern
Tennessee. In 1864, his unit was involved in the capture of the
Confederate General, John Hunt Morgan, in Greeneville, Tennessee.
was mustered out of service in Memphis at the conclusion of the war. Many
years later, Ransom's oldest son, who was a little boy in 1865, told the story
of seeing his one-armed father riding his horse on their dusty road, returning
to his farm near Fostoria. His mother, Hannah Myers, ran out to greet her husband, who
reached down with his right arm and lifted her up and put her on the saddle, and
together they rode back to their house.
Above left: This is Corinth, Mississippi, where Ransom first saw military
action during the Siege of Corinth. His unit later occupied this town
during the summer of 1862. He was then sent north to Kentucky where he was
shot in the left arm, which was amputated. He rejoined the Army the
following year and became a one-armed courier Sergeant for the 10th
Tommy Lee, a true Southerner and my Corinth guide. Tommy spent
a whole day showing my Corinth and the nearby Shiloh battlefield.
Above right: During the last two years of the war, Ransom's cavalry unit
fought in eastern Tennessee near Knoxville. In 1864, his unit helped
capture the Confederate General, John Hunt Morgan, in this building in
Greeneville, Tennessee. After the war, one-armed Ransom became a farmer and
Methodist minister near Fostoria, Michigan.
After the War
the Civil War, Ransom returned to his farming duties, became an itinerant
Methodist Minister, and served in numerous civil servant capacities, becoming
one of the most prominent citizens of Tuscola County, Michigan. He and his
wife Hannah raised a large family on their farm in Fostoria, the youngest of
whom, Minnie May Myers, was my great-grandmother.
Minnie was 16, she eloped with a local French fur trapper named Harrison
Everette Plane, much to her father's displeasure (Ransom was a rather strict
disciplinarian), though Minnie's mother, Hannah, was much more
understanding. After a while, though, Ransom reconciled with Minnie was
she was once again welcomed into Ransom and Hannah's house.
died in 1896 and Ransom died the following year. In 1900, Minnie's husband
Harrison died of tuberculosis at age 29 and Minnie was heartbroken, having lost
her husband and both parents within four years. No longer able to bear
living in that area, Minnie packed up her belongings and, with her 8-year old
daughter (also named Minnie May, my grandmother), took a train to Seattle,
Washington where her sister Ida lived. Minnie May Jr. grew up in the
Seattle area, met my grandfather (George Leu) and married him on her 20th
birthday in 1912. Their youngest son was my father, Donald Leu. As
for Minnie May Sr., she married three more times in the Seattle area but never
found the true love that she had known with her first husband, Harrison.
In 1958 at age 87, she died in Seattle, a year after the death of her daughter,
Minnie May Jr., and a year before I was born.
Visits With Ransom
One of the reasons that I decided to take this 18-month trip was to trace my
family's history and to learn as much as I could about my ancestors, including
Ransom Myers. I visited Corinth, Mississippi during a very hot and humid
weekend in June, 2001, to see where Ransom fought (for more information on my
visit, see News: June 30, 2001).
The weather, I'm sure, was similar to when Ransom and the 10th Michigan Infantry
occupied Corinth, in June of 1862. A week later, I visited Greeneville
and several other towns in eastern Tennessee where Ransom fought after he lost
his arm and re-enlisted with the 10th Michigan Cavalry. I also visited the house
in Greeneville where Ransom's unit captured the Confederate General Morgan.
I've described those visits in News: July 5, 2001. Needless to say, it was a pretty interesting and
fulfilling experience retracing Ransom's footsteps.
a month later in early August as I was traveling through the Midwest, I visited
Ransom's farmsite near the small town of Fostoria, Michigan, where he returned
after the Civil War and where he lived out the rest of his life. Through
research in the local library, I found Ransom and Hannah's farmsite near
Fostoria and discovered several Myers' in the local phonebook, who are probably
my distant relatives. I also found
the graves of Ransom, his wife Hannah, and those of his parents, Solomon and
Charlotte Myers, in the local cemetery. Thus, I "completed the circle"
on this remarkable man. For more photos on my visit to Fostoria and nearby
Mayville, see my update on
Above left: Ransom's farmland near Fostoria, Michigan. This land had
previously belonged to Solomon.
Above center: The graves of Ransom's parents, Charlotte (front, center) and
Solomon (front, right), who were both born in the 1790s. Note the cannon
statue in the background, a tribute to Solomon's participation in the War of
1812. This is in the Watertown Township cemetery near Fostoria.
Above right: Nearby, Ransom (right) and his wife, Hannah Chaplin Myers
(left), are buried. They died a year apart in the 1890s.
Left: The graves of my
great-grandfather, Harrison Everette Plane (background) and his two-year
old son, Emerson (foreground).
Left: Map of the Watertown
township cemetery, north of Fostoria, Michigan. This shows the
location of the Myers plot. I've also shown the location of the
graves for Ransom Myers' son-in-law, Harrison Everette Plane and
Harrison's young son, Emerson.