Ransom C. Myers

(1842 - 1897)

 

My family has roots in upstate New York that go back to the colonial era.  My great-great-great-grandfather was a man named Solomon Myers who was born in 1794 in Lyons, New York, near Rochester.  Solomon's family was among the earliest settlers of upstate New York.  Think of the movie (or book) "Last of the Mohicans" for the era and the area and you'll get the idea.  I don't have any pictures of Solomon, unfortunately, and haven't been able to learn anything about his ancestors, but according to a description that was written many years later, Solomon had a "light complexion with dark hair."

 

Above:  Lyons, New York, near Rochester during my visit in 2001.  The Erie Canal, which opened in 1830 linking Lake Erie with the Hudson River, runs through the town.

In 1813 Solomon enlisted as a private in the U.S. Army during the War of 1812 and fought against the British army, mostly in the upstate New York area around Buffalo and Niagara Falls, and into the Canadian province of Ontario.  Solomon told many exciting stories in later years about his interesting adventures during that conflict.

 

After the War of 1812, the 20-year-old Solomon Myers returned to Lyons, New York and married 13-year-old Charlotte Blackmore, an age difference that wasn't uncommon back in that day.  They lived in the Lyons area for the next 16 years, where Solomon and Charlotte farmed, probably on rented land.  Wanting their own land, in 1830 the family – Solomon, Charlotte and their seven-year-old son, Christopher – packed up and headed west to Michigan, which was mostly unsettled wilderness at that time.  The U.S. government had deeded Solomon farmland from his service during the War of 1812, a common form of payment back in those days from a government that was rich in land but poor in cash, and he decided to redeem it in Michigan.  And so, repeating the story that's common among my ancestors in the 1700s and 1800s, Solomon and Charlotte moved west in search of land.

 

Traveling with their son Christopher, they settled in Redford, Michigan, west of Detroit.  I'd like to think that the Myers family used the Erie Canal to travel from Lyons to Lake Erie (and then on to Michigan) because Lyons is located along the canal and the canal opened that same year, in 1830.  Solomon could well have said to his wife something like, "Hey Charlotte, let's take that new canal out west to Michigan and find us some land!"  Or maybe not.

 

Above:  Ransom Myers, my great-great-grandfather, many years after the Civil War.

Either way, in 1841, and now farming in Wayne County, Michigan, Solomon and Charlotte had another son, my great-great-grandfather, Ransom Myers, the third of eight children eventually born into the family.  Nine years later, in 1850, Ransom's father Solomon applied for a land grant in Wayne County, Michigan, after attesting to the fact that he had fought in the War of 1812.  I'm not sure why he waited so long to claim his land, but he was 60 years old then so maybe, to him, it was like a form of Social Security, providing him economic stability in his later years.  But imagine starting a farm when you're 60 years old!

 

The Myers family prospered on their farm in Wayne County for many years.  When Ransom was 18, in 1859, he married 19-year-old Hannah Chaplin, whose family had been among the earliest settlers of North America (see News, August 6, 2001), her ancestors having arrived from England in the 1630s.  The Myers families all moved north in 1861 to Tuscola County, in the "thumb" of Michigan; Solomon and Charlotte were well into their 60s by then and Ransom and Hannah were in their early 20s.  Solomon gave his son Ransom 80 acres of farmland near the small village of Fostoria, a farm that Ransom would eventually grow to 140 acres.

 

Above:  Solomon Myers' 1850 application for a land grant.  This signature may be the only physical evidence of his existence.

About this same time, in 1861, the Civil War broke out and shortly afterwards Ransom volunteered for the Union Army, joining the 10th Michigan infantry regiment as a private, just as his father, Solomon, had fought in the War of 1812.  I've heard through family stories that Ransom was a drummer, which was one of the most hazardous positions in a regiment, marching out in front of the troops and being ordered to stand erect drumming signals while the enemy fired upon them, instead of hugging the ground for cover, as most of the troops wisely did.

 

Before leaving on my trip around the U.S. in 2001 to research my family's history, I found a website devoted to Michigan Civil War regiments and learned that soon after the 10th Michigan infantry regiment was formed, in April 1862, they were sent up the Tennessee River via steamboats.  They landed at a place called Pittsburg Landing, in southern Tennessee, a few weeks after the Battle of Shiloh nearby, which had been an important though bloody Union victory early in the war.

 

Ransom's first military engagement occurred a few miles away at Corinth, Mississippi, an important railroad crossroads for the Confederacy, where the Union Army had besieged the rebel troops.  They skirmished almost constantly, with the Union Army slowly advancing towards the city before the Confederates suddenly withdrew and evacuated Corinth.  After occupying Corinth for a while, Ransom's unit was sent to Kentucky and in September, 1862, near a place called Hickman Bridge, about 10 miles south of Lexington, he was shot in the left arm by the Confederates.  Ransom's arm was amputated and he was sent to a hospital in St. Louis, then he returned to his home and farm near Fostoria, Michigan to recover, where Hannah nursed him back to health.

 

   

Above left:  Pittsburg Landing on the Tennessee River.  This was main offloading point for Union troops during the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.  A few weeks after the battle, Ransom landed here with the 10th Michigan infantry.  I took this picture during my visit in 2001.

Above right:  Here's another picture from my 2001 trip around America.  This is Corinth, Mississippi, an important railroad crossroads during the 1860s and the reason for the Battle of Shiloh.  After defeating the Confederate army at Shiloh, the Union forces slowly advanced towards the city and eventually captured it.  Ransom and the 10th Michigan infantry regiment were stationed here during the summer of 1862.

One-Armed Ransom Re-Enlists

By this time, early in 1863, many men in the northern states were being drafted into the Union Army.  Having only one arm Ransom could have justifiably sat out the rest of the war, but he felt so strongly about the Union cause that he decided to re-enlist.  Of course, now having only one arm he couldn't carry a rifle.  But he was a good horseman so Ransom figured he could deliver messages between officers and offered to become a courier.

 

Above:  In 1864 Ransom's unit helped capture the notorious Confederate General, John Hunt Morgan, in this building in Greeneville, Tennessee.  I took this picture during my visit in 2001.

He volunteered for the 10th Michigan cavalry regiment (another Michigan cavalry regiment, the 7th, was led by a 24-year-old general from Monroe, Michigan named George Custer).  Ransom enlisted as a sergeant with the 10th cavalry and, beginning in the spring of 1863, his unit fought in the Ohio River valley, primarily in eastern Tennessee, dashing from one place to another while skirmishing with Confederate troops.  I have visions of the one-armed Ransom galloping from one officer to another delivering messages while holding the reins of the horse in his teeth.  In 1864 Ransom's unit cornered and killed the notorious Confederate General, John Hunt Morgan, in Greeneville, Tennessee, whose troops had caused a great deal of calamity and grief among Union families in the Ohio River valley.

 

Ransom mustered out of the Union Army in Memphis, Tennessee at the end of the war in 1865.  Many years later Ransom's oldest son, Henry, who was a little boy then, recounted the story of seeing his one-armed father returning home after the war.  He remembered seeing his father Ransom riding his horse on a dusty road on a hot summer afternoon and his mother, Hannah Myers, running out of the house excitedly to greet her husband.  Ransom reached down with his right arm and lifted Hannah up and put her on the saddle, and together they rode back to their farmhouse.

 

   

Above left:  Map of eastern Tennessee showing some of the locations (underlined in red) where the 10th Michigan  cavalry regiment fought the Confederates during the Civil War.

Above right:  Map of Ransom's 140-acre farm.  I've also indicated the Watertown cemetery where he and many of his relatives, including his parents, were buried.

 

   

Above left:  Mayville, Michigan, the main town in Tuscola, County, Michigan and a few miles from Ransom's farm.

Above right:  This was during my 2001 visit to Ransom's former farm in Michigan.  It's the field of corn in the distance. 

Life After the War

Ransom returned to his farming tasks after the war, though I'm sure farming was a challenge for him, having just one arm.  He also became an itinerant Methodist minister, traveling from town to town while giving sermons.  Oh, and he also served as a public official.  I get the impression from reading all this that Ransom was quite a dedicated, focused and motivated guy, and from his many capacities he indeed became one of the most noted and respected persons in Tuscola County, Michigan during those years after the war. 

 

Above:  My great-grandparents, Minnie and Harrison Plane, around 1889.  This was shortly after they eloped.

He and his wife Hannah raised a large family on their farm in Fostoria, including their youngest child, Minnie May Myers, who was my great-grandmother.  I never met Minnie, who died a few years before I was born, but she was quite a character from what I understand, being very headstrong, independent and determined, much like her father.  When Minnie was 16, she started seeing a local fur trapper, a 17-year old boy named Harrison Plane, much to Ransom's displeasure.  But Minnie was determined, so one winter's night she climbed out of her bedroom window, with Harrison's assistance, and threw her suitcase into a snowbank down below.  Then they gathered up their belongings, rode away and eloped.

 

Minnie's mother, Hannah, was understanding and sympathetic but Ransom, the tall, fiery and intimidating Methodist minister, was furious.  He was a strict disciplinarian and hated the idea of his daughter marrying some fur trapper.  In fact, Ransom was so upset by Minnie's elopement that he didn't speak to her, or even allow her name to be mentioned in their house, for the next few years.  But Ransom also missed his daughter and eventually gave in, and he and his daughter ultimately reconciled.  Minnie was once again welcomed into Ransom and Hannah's house.  Minnie's mother, Hannah, died in 1896 at age 54 and Ransom died the following year, at age 55 after an illustrious and productive life.

 

Minnie and her husband, Harrison, continued living nearby, and now with a baby daughter (my grandmother), who was also named Minnie.  But in 1900 Harrison died of tuberculosis at age 29.  Minnie was heartbroken, having lost her husband and both parents within four years.  The painful memories of that area were too much for her, so several months later she decided to leave.  Minnie packed her bags and, with her nine-year old daughter, rode a train out to Seattle, Washington, where Minnie's sister, Ida, lived.  The younger Minnie grew up in the Seattle area and met my grandfather (George Leu) at a dance when she was 19.  About a year later, in 1912, she married him – and on her 20th birthday, no less.  Minnie and George had six children and the youngest, Donald, was my father.

 

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, Minnie died in Seattle, a year after the death of her daughter (and my grandmother), Minnie May, Jr.

 

       

Above left:  Ransom Myer's farmhouse.  My dad took this picture in 1954.  Minnie's bedroom was upstairs.  On a snowy night in 1889, she opened her window and climbed down a ladder with Harrison's help, then they ran away and eloped.

Above center:  And the farmhouse still stands!  I found this image from Google Street View recently.

Above right:  The Fostoria Methodist Church where Ransom preached in the late 1800s.

My Visits With Ransom

One reason I decided to take my six-month trip around America in 2001 was to trace my family's history and 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 had fought (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, Tennessee and several other towns in eastern Tennessee, an area where Ransom had served as a courier with the 10th Michigan cavalry in the Union Army after losing his left arm.  I also visited the house in Greeneville where Ransom's unit captured the Confederate General, John Morgan.  I've described those visits at News:  July 14, 2001.  Tracing Ransom's footsteps was a memorable experience that was both fascinating and deeply fulfilling.

 

About a month later, in August of 2001 as I was traveling through Michigan, I visited the area where Ransom had lived after the Civil War, near tiny Fostoria.  I did some research in the local library there, in nearby Mayville, and found Ransom and Hannah's farmsite.  I also discovered several Myers' in the local phonebook, who are most likely my distant relatives.  Then I found the graves of Ransom, his wife Hannah, and those of his parents, Solomon and Charlotte Myers, in the Watertown cemetery nearby.  Thus, you could say that I had "completed the circle" for this remarkable man, Ransom Myers.

 

For more photos of my visit to Fostoria and nearby Mayville, see my update at News:  August 10, 2001.

 

   

Above left:  Researching my Myers ancestors in the small Mayville library in August 2001.

Above right:  Then it was off to find Ransom's farm.  I didn't realize it until later but I was parked here on the southern edge of his property.  The Watertown cemetery is behind my truck in the distance.

 

       

Above left:  The graves of Ransom's parents, Charlotte (front, center) and Solomon (front, right), who were born in the 1790s.  Note the cannon statue in the background, a tribute to Solomon's service in the War of 1812.  This is in the Watertown Township cemetery near Fostoria.

Above center:  The graves of my great-grandfather, Harrison Everette Plane (background) and his two-year old son, Emerson (foreground).

Above right:  Visiting the graves of my great-great-grandparents, Hannah (Chaplin) Myers (left) and Ransom Myers (right).  We had a nice family reunion – though I seemed to be the only one talking.

Researching Ransom's Civil War Record

Little was known, remembered or passed down by our family members about Ransom Myers’ record during the Civil War, so I assume that Ransom rarely talked about his military service.  Nearly one hundred years after he fought in the war, Minnie Leu, Ransom’s granddaughter, returned to Michigan to research her family's history.  She visited her son Don Leu and his wife Anne (my parents) at their home in Michigan in the summer of 1954.  My parents had just moved to Michigan after Don had been hired as a professor at Michigan State University a few months earlier.

 

Above:  My grandmother, Minnie Leu, around 1950.

My grandmother, Minnie, was born in Mayville, Michigan in 1892, to Minnie Sr. and Harrison.  She was returning to Michigan for the first time since she had left as a nine-year old girl in 1901, when she hopped on a train with her mother and moved to Seattle, after the untimely death of her father Harrison, at age 29.

 

Minnie spent a week in Michigan visiting my parents, having traveled from her home in Skykomish, Washington.  During her 1954 visit with my parents in Michigan, they drove up to Mayville where Minnie was raised in the 1890s, then they visited Ransom’s farm where her mother, Minnie Myers, had grown up in the 1870s.  Seeing Ransom's farmhouse once again, where her mother had leapt out of a window into a snowbank to elope in the winter of 1889, I'm sure stirred up many emotions.

 

Minnie spent the next day at the State Capitol in Lansing researching her family’s history.  She worked with a librarian in the state library there who found a large book called "Portrait and Biographical Record of Genesee, Lapeer and Tuscola County, Michigan."  The book had been published in 1892 – ironically, the same year Minnie was born – and to her delight, it included a description and illustration of her grandfather, Ransom Myers (see the drawing above).  Ransom and his wife Hannah were both alive when the book was published in 1892, so I'm glad to know they had read it.  Hannah died four years later and Ransom passed away a year after that.

 

Minnie made a copy of the two-page biographical sketch of Ransom Myers from the book.  Then, and again with the help of the librarian, she found more information about her grandfather’s Civil War record.  She gave a copy of that record to my mother, who typed it up and sent copies of it to all of Don's siblings.  Her summary of Ransom Myers’ Civil War record is below, followed by the 1892 book excerpt about him:

 

Above:  Minnie Plane (left) and her daughter, Minnie Leu, around 1954.  The two Minnies had left Michigan in 1901 and moved to Washington.

MYERS, RANSOM CHATFIELD  (Lapeer, Michigan)

  • Enlisted in Company C. 10th Infantry, November 15, 1861 at Watertown (Michigan) for three years.  Age 20.

  • Mustered Feb. 6, 1862.

  • Discharged for disability at St. Louis, Missouri.  September 30, 1862.

  • Re-entered service in Company C, 10th Michigan Cavalry as Sergeant.

  • Enlisted at Lapeer October 14, 1863 for three years.

  • Mustered October 23, 1863.

  • Mustered out at Memphis, Tennessee.

  • Returned to Jackson, Michigan on July 22, 1865 and on the 1st of August was paid off and honorably discharged.

  • Total enrollment of the 10th Michigan Infantry:  1,514

  • Killed in action:  62

  • Died in prison:  9

  • Discharged for wounds:  178

Book Excerpt About Ransom Myers

The following story about Ransom Myers is from the book, "Portrait and Biographical Record of Genesee, Lapeer and Tuscola Counties, Michigan" (1892).  I found it interesting that very little was mentioned here of Ransom's daughter, Minnie.  I believe this was written during the impasse between Ransom and Minnie which, like I say, was eventually resolved.

 

The gentleman whose portrait appears on the opposite page, Ransom Myers, is one of the loyal sons of America who came forward and offered their services, and life if need be, to preserve the oneness of the Union.  He is now the owner and operator of a fine farm comprising one hundred and forty acres on Section 14, Watertown Township, and is one of the best-known citizens of Tuscola County.  A native of this State, Ransom was born in Wayne County, March 4, 1841 and is the son of Solomon and Charlotte (Blackmore) Myers, both natives of New York, the father having been born in Lyons Township, Wayne County <New York>.

 

Above:  Cover of the book that Minnie found in the Michigan state archives in 1954, which included the story and drawing of Ransom Myers.

The parental family comprised eleven children:  eight sons and three daughters.  The father <Solomon Myers> came to Michigan in 1830 and settled in Wayne County on a farm of one hundred and sixty acres of Government land.  In 1861 he sold his place and removed to Tuscola County, where his decease occurred in 1870; his wife passed away ten years later.  Solomon Myers served as a private in the War of 1812 and many were the reminiscences that he related of those stirring times in American history.  Both he and his wife were ardent Methodists. 

 

Our subject <Ransom> was reared in his native county until twenty-one years of age, when he came to Tuscola County and was here married to Hannah L. Chaplin, a native of Livingston County, this State, and a daughter of Henry S. and Rebecca (Sweet) Chaplin, natives of New York.  They were the parents of four sons and three daughters, and although of the agricultural calling, their ancestors were also early patriots.  Prior to the union mentioned, H. S. Chaplin was married to Corina Fuller, by whom he became the father of one son.

 

Unto our subject and his wife <Ransom and Hannah Myers> have been born six children whose names are as follows:  Henry S., George L., Fred, Ida B., Willie and Minnie.  All reside in this township except Minnie and George L., the latter of whom is engaged in Ohio in the manufacture of butter and cheese.

 

The eldest son, Henry S., who was born January 8, 1861, lived under the parental roof until after he was of age.  He attended school in Adrian for one year and followed teaching until his marriage, which took place in Tuscola County, his bride being Miss Roxie L. Johnson, a native of Canada and a daughter of David D. Johnson, of whom a fuller history will be found elsewhere in this work.  He makes his home in Watertown Township, and follows farming as his calling.  He <Henry Myers> is a Master Mason, socially, belonging to the lodge at Mayville, and he is also a member of Fostoria Lodge, No. 22, I.O.O.F. <Independent Order of Odd Fellows – a non-political and non-sectarian fraternal organization>.  In his political sentiments he is a Republican and has served as Township Clerk four years successively.  He and his wife have two children, George H. and Clarence Roy.

 

Willie Myers, the fourth son of our subject was married in Watertown Township to Lillian B. Sears, a native of Canada and a daughter of William Sears, also born in Canada.  She was one of ten children born to her parents and is now the mother of one son, Clinton Ransom.  George L. married Alice Gilson, of Ohio, and they have one daughter, Gertrude.  Fred, the third child in order of birth, had the misfortune to lose his eyesight at the age of eighteen years.  He and his sister, Ida B., are unmarried and at home.  Minnie became the wife of Edwin E. Plain and resides in Genesee County, Michigan.

 

In 1861, our subject <Ransom Myers> came to Tuscola County and his father at that time gave him eighty acres of land.  He has since added a tract containing sixty acres and has erected good buildings on the place.  Upon the estate he devotes himself to general farming and pays particular attention to the breeding of graded Merino sheep.

 

Above:  My dad (left) with his children during his 1954 visit to Fostoria, Michigan.  The guy on the right is, I believe, Clint Myers, a relative who owned Ransom Myers' farm then.

In 1861 he enlisted in the army, joining Company C, Tenth Michigan Infantry.  He received his discharge in 1862 and the following year re-enlisted in Company C, Tenth Michigan Cavalry with which he remained until the close of the war.  He took part in the battle of Corinth <Mississippi> and for a month previous was engaged in skirmishing.  He was also a participant in the capture of <Confederate General John Hunt> Morgan and served as a Sergeant until the close of the hostilities.  At Hickman Bridge, Kentucky, directly over the place where Daniel Boone’s cave was said to be, he was wounded and lost his left arm.

 

Ever since the war Mr. Myers has been an ardent Republican.  Socially he belonged to the St. Charles Lodge I. O. O. F. in Saginaw County, is a member of the Caro Encampment and the Fostoria Lodge, No. 33 K.O.T.M. <Knights of the Maccabees – a fraternal organization>.  He has held various local offices, having for nine years been Highway Commissioner and serving as Drain Commissioner for one year.  He is also a member of the Board of Review.  For a period of eight years, he officiated as an itinerant minister in the Methodist Protestant Church, and has for many years been active in church work.  He and his estimable wife and children hold a very high place in the esteem of their acquaintances and occupy a prominent position in social circles.

 

 


 

More pages about my father's ancestry:

 

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