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Completing The Circle With Ransom Myers  (Mayville, Michigan)

(Reprint from News: August 10, 2001)

August 10, 2001

 

I drove across a small part of Canada that evening and entered Michigan after going through U.S. Customs in Port Huron, Michigan, and answering a total of two questions from a very bored Customs Agent: 

 

  Him:

Where are you from?

  Me:

Portland, Oregon.

  Him: 

How long did you spend in Canada?

  Me:

Four hours.

 

The next day, I drove a couple hours north to the small town of Mayville, Michigan, which was where my grandmother was born in 1892.  My grandmother moved to Seattle, Washington when she was young, eventually married my Grandfather Leu, raised a large family, then died two years before I was born.  I never knew her, but everyone in my family has told me what a wonderful and vivacious person she was.  Her grandfather was Ransom Myers, the one-armed Civil War sergeant whose trail I had followed across Mississippi and Tennessee a few months earlier (see News: June 30, 2001).

 

I've heard a lot of colorful stories over the years about my great-great-grandfather, Ransom Myers.  He was strict, religious, a devoted husband, a rigid disciplinarian, and had a strong sense of duty.  After losing his arm during the Civil War, Ransom volunteered again and became a courier with the 10th Michigan Cavalry in northeastern Tennessee.  When the war was over in the spring of 1865, the one-armed Ransom saddled up his horse and headed back to Michigan. 

 

According to a family story that's been passed down through the generations, when his wife Hannah saw Ransom riding up the lane towards their farmhouse in Michigan after the war, she ran out excitedly to greet him with her children, also excited to see their father, following close behind.  When Hannah approached Ransom, he kissed her and then, still on his horse, reached down with his one arm, scooped her up and put her on his horse, then they headed back to the house with Hannah riding side-saddle.

 

 

Above:  Ransom Myers, my one-armed great-great-grandfather, after the Civil War.

 

A few years after the war, Hannah bore a daughter named Minnie May, who would eventually become my great-grandmother.  I've heard that when Minnie May was young, she was pretty "high spirited," as they say, which I'm sure led to more than a few interesting encounters with her very strict father, who also happened to be a Minister, wouldn't cha know?

 

For example, it seems that when she was 16, Minnie was attracted to the son of a local farmer named Harrison Plane, who was also 16.  Not surprisingly, Ransom the Minister strongly disapproved of his daughter Minnie dating this Plane fellow, but despite his threats, Minnie and Harrison met at a dance one night.  Ransom found out about the whole affair, tracked her down, and told her to walk home.  Then, to top it off, during the entire walk home through the snow, Ransom walked right behind Minnie and cracked a whip!  What an image, huh -- this bearded one-armed man cracking a whip behind his daughter!  It's rather funny, actually (although I'm sure Minnie didn't think so at the time).

A short while later, the 16-year old Minnie decided that she'd had enough, so she and Harrison decided to elope and one night by the light of the silvery moon, Harrison put a ladder up to her window and helped her out.  She had to throw her luggage out the window, which ended up in a snow drift, but they scooped it out and rode off together.  Ransom didn't speak to his daughter Minnie for several months afterwards, but finally missed her too much (he apparently had a soft heart, too), so he forgave her and they made amends. 

 

Hannah died in 1896 and Ransom a year later.  Minnie and Harrison continued living in the Mayville area until 1900, when Harrison died, and that's when the heart-broken Minnie left on a train bound for Seattle with her 8-year old daughter, who would become my grandmother some day.

 

With all these vivid stories dancing in my head, I approached the small town of Mayville.  I knew that Ransom was buried around here somewhere, and after following his footsteps for a few weeks in the South, I was determined to find his grave.  And, as it turned out, with the help of the kindly Mayville librarian, I did just that.  I also discovered that Ransom's father, Solomon (the guy who married the 13-year-old in New York) was also buried in the same cemetery, along with Solomon's child bride, Charlotte, who lived until she was 80.  

 

After reading about Ransom and tracing his steps across the South, it was a fulfilling and humbling experience to visit his gravesite, along with those of his parents, bride, siblings, and children.  I knew that the next day in Bellingham, Washington, 2,000 miles away, my family was going to have their annual Family Reunion which I was going to miss for the first time in over a decade.  However, I had my own family reunion that afternoon in the cemetery, just as I had done at a cemetery in Massachusetts a few weeks earlier.  Once again, though, I seemed to be the only one talking.

 

       

Above left:  After driving across Canada for a few hours, I crossed back into the U.S. that night and wrote some e-mails in Port Huron, Michigan.  Yes, I do occasionally splurge for a motel... albeit, a cheap motel.

Above center:  Doc drives a Cadillac. 

Above right:  The next day it was on to Mayville, a small town near the "thumb" of Michigan.  My grandmother (my Dad's mother) was born here over a hundred years ago.  Although I had grown up in Michigan, this was the first time that I'd been to Mayville.

 

       

Above left:  After spending several hours in the Mayville library, I learned where my ancestors here were buried, including Solomon Myers and his son, Ransom.  Ransom was the one-armed Civil War sergeant who's trail I had followed across Mississippi and Tennessee earlier in my trip (see Ransom Myers).

Above center:  Paying my respects to Ransom Myers (right) and his wife, Hannah Chaplin Myers (left), in a cemetery near Mayville.  After following Ransom around the country for the past two months, I had now "completed the circle."  Earlier in my trip, I had learned about Hannah Chaplin's Puritan ancestors in Rowley, Massachusetts (see News: August 6, 2001)

Above right:  The graves of Ransom's parents, Solomon (right) and Charlotte Myers (center).  Solomon was the one from Lyons, New York, who fought in the War of 1812, hence the cannon in the background.

 

 

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