Sunday, November 9, 2014

52 Ancestors: #42 Andrew Bennett (1858 – 1925), my great grandfather, Canada East to Michigan, USA

Climbing My Family Tree: Flag of the British colony of the Unified Province of Canada (which existed 1840-1867)
Flag of the British colony of the Unified Province of Canada (which existed 1840-1867), in the public domain
This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

Andrew Bennett was born on November 26, 1858, in the British colony of the Unified Province of Canada in an area that would now be in the province of Quebec, Canada (see post on George Butler Wilcox and Mary Jane (Currier) Wilcox for explanation of the history of the making of Canada as we know it today).  He was the 7th child (of 13!) of William Bennett and Margaret McFarlane/McFarland. His siblings were: Mary Jane (1845-1923), Charlotte M. (1848-1916), Thomas (1849-1934), Elizabeth (1850 - ?), Nancy Ellen (1855-1927), Dorothy (1855-1927), [Andrew], Sara 1858-1877), William (1862 - ?), Janet (1863-1932), John Edward (1865-1935), Lucretia (1868 - ?) and James (1873 - ?).  [I’ll go into more detail about his siblings when I write about his parents.]

Climbing My Family Tree: Baptism record of Andrew Bennett (son of William) 1862
Baptism record of Andrew Bennett (son of William) 1862, found at
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I don’t know exactly where he was born in the Unified Province of Canada, but he was baptized, in 1862, in Valleyfield. It is in what is now the southwest corner of Quebec, about 20 miles from today’s Ontario-Quebec Province line. The delayed baptism likely came about because his parents had to wait for a traveling pastor to come through the area. While people could gather to worship God without an official from the church, things like marriages and baptisms tended to wait until an ordained pastor came through the area.

While Valleyfield was first incorporated as a manufacturing town many years later in 1874, it existed as a frontier settlement before that. In 1858, it was a small hamlet about 40 miles west of the island of Montreal, on the eastern edge of Lake St. Francis, and at the head of the Beauharnois Canal (part of the St. Lawrence Seaway Canal system) on the south side of the St. Lawrence River. The hamlet is now a city named Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. This area was largely settled by Scottish immigrants; even the name Valleyfield came from a paper mill, Valleyfield Mills, in Scotland. Andrew’s mother was born in Scotland, according to most of the censuses (and his father was born in Ireland).

Climbing My Family Tree: Map showing the site of Valleyfield, east of Lake St. Francis, south of the St. Lawrence River and at the head of the old Beauharnois Canal
Map showing the site of Valleyfield,, Quebec, east of Lake St. Francis, south of the St. Lawrence River
and at the head of the old Beauharnois Canal, off copyright
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From 1830 through about 1870 was a period of immigration from Canada to Michigan in the United States called “Michigan Fever”, wherein large numbers of Canadian immigrants came to Michigan, including those newly arrived in the province of Canada. They were tempted by reports of the decline of the Indian population in Michigan, good climate and resources, including good farm land, iron and copper deposits, and a growing lumber industry.

Andrew’s father, William, moved his family to Lapeer County, Michigan towards the tail end of Michigan Fever, in or by 1870. From the 1830’s to 1870 Lapeer County’s main industry had been lumber, but after the trees were gone, the county began attracting farmers like Andrew’s father and became primarily agricultural. According to the 1870 U.S. Census, William and Margaret were living in Burnside in Lapeer County, Michigan in 1870 with William and their oldest son Thomas working as farm labor. Also in the household were the youngest six children Andrew (14) through Lucretia (either 4 or 2 - the census form is hard to read --’s indexer says she is 4, but I think it says she is 2). His oldest daughter Mary Jane was married to John Young and living next door. The youngest son, James, wasn’t born yet.

By 1880, Andrew was 22, and had moved away from home, and was living with his sister Dorothy (called “Dolley”) and her husband, Robert Watson, in the relatively new town of Evart, Michigan in Osceola County on the Muskegon River in the northwest portion of the Lower Peninsula. Both men worked in a saw mill. These would have been good jobs. The 1870’s through 1890’s was a time of remarkable growth for the railroads in the United States and as the first transcontinental railroads were being built, the companies building them relied heavily on Michigan for the wood ties used in constructing the railroads as they crossed the plains states where no trees grew. I don’t know that Andrew and Robert were involved in this industry but as it was a booming trade in Michigan at that time, they may well have been a cog in the trade. [Here is an interesting article on the “timber rush” in Michigan during those years]  

Climbing My Family Tree: Saw Mill on Budd Lake Michigan in the late 1880, about 35 miles north of Evart Michigan
Saw Mills on Budd Lake Michigan in the late 1880, about 35 miles north of Evart Michigan. Found at,
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Andrew was apparently also making visits home to Lapeer County, because at some point he met and wooed Anna Gregor (daughter of James Peter Gregor and Elizabeth Taylor), whom he married on April 16, 1885. I know that he and Anna continued to live in Brown City, on the Sanilac county side (the city straddles the Lapeer County and Sanilac County line), at least through their last child’s birth. Their children were: Benjamin Gregor (born 15 February 1886, married Florence Short, and died 31 January 1970); William John (born 15 April 1889, married Mary Kalbfleisch, death date not discovered for certain yet); Elizabeth Grace (born 8 May 1891, married Arthur Bernard Martin, died 7 February 1920),  Blanche Maud (born in January 1894, married & divorced William John Huston, died 8 February 1948), Russell Andrew (born 26 January 1896, married Olive Gertrude Glover, died 23 July 1969), Anna Mae - my grandmother (born 16 May 1898,married Owen Carl Henn, died 12 September 1977), Margaret McFarland (born in August 1900, died 6 April 1935) and Thomas Edison Bennett (born 19 February 1906, married Lenore M. Griffen, died 1969).  I see the potential for a whole bunch of new-to-me cousins here! If we’re related I’d love to hear from you!

While I don’t know for certain what Andrew was doing to support his family during those years since the 1890 census was burnt in a fire in Washington, DC, and there seems to be a dearth of Michigan records for the same time period (courthouse fires, I’m told), family stories tell me he was a farmer, and I have a map showing the land he owned & likely farmed in 1894 (see below). This makes sense because agriculture was the main industry for Sanilac County after the logging period, like it was in next door Lapeer County, and because he listed himself as a farmer in the 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses. It would have been a tough time to be a farmer as farm produce prices went down as the transcontinental railroads were completed and as the Great Plains states were settled towards the last quarter of the 19th Century, leading to an abundance of product making it to the stores, and in the Panic of 1893 which began when the Reading Railroad company declared bankruptcy, causing a severe economic depression. Stock prices declined, and over $1 billion worth of bonds were defaulted. Hundreds of banks closed, 15,000 businesses failed, and numerous farms went under. The unemployment rate in Michigan was at 43%. The U.S. economy began to recover in 1897, after the election of President McKinley and the discovery of gold in Alaska.

Climbing My Family Tree: 1894 Land Ownership Map of Maple Valley Township in Sanilac County Michigan, showing Andrew Bennett's farm
1894 Land Ownership Map of Maple Valley Township in Sanilac County Michigan, showing Andrew Bennett's farm,
 found at
Click to make bigger
In the 1900 census, Andrew reported he had been married 15 years, was 46 years old, and he was a farmer.  Also in the household were  his wife Anna, 41; Benjamin, 14; William, 12; Elizabeth, 9; Blanch, 5; Andrew, 4; and Anna, 2. They lived in Maple Valley Township in Sanilac, County, Michigan. He also stated that he owned his farm but that it was mortgaged – likely as a result of trying to live through the bad times.

By 1910 Andrew had paid off the farm and owned it free and clear, and was farming with the help of his oldest son still at home – William (15). Benjamin had gotten married and started his own household the year before. Both Andrew and Anna reported their age as 51, Also at home were Elizabeth (18), Blanch (16), “Russle” A (14), Anna (11), Maggie (9), and Thomas (7).  

In the 1920 census, Andrew and Annie reported that they were 61, and that they became naturalized citizens in 1899. Andrew and William (31) are farming the property together and the farm is described as a general farm. Elizabeth had married and was working as a servant in a boarding housing at which she, her husband, and her infant daughter also boarded, in Muskegon, Michigan. Sadly, she died of pneumonia, complicated by influenza, a month after the census was taken. Andrew’s daughter Blanche (25) lived at home and worked as a public school teacher. Also at home were: Annie (21), Margaret (19), and Thomas (17).

Andrew died on January 30, 1925, at the age of 66. I don’t know of what or how he died. He was survived by his wife Ann, and seven of their eight children (his oldest daughter Elizabeth having died 5 years earlier).


I’d like to find out more about the missing years in the late 19th Century, and about how he died. I’d also like to know more about the farm. I must remember to check the land and probate records (if they still exist). I’d love to find a photograph of him and Anna (I would love to see my great-grandparents!). There’s a lot more I’d like to know, but it runs to the details that make a personality or a life, and would take too much time to explain. If you are related to any of these people and would like to connect and/or share your stories, suggest corrections to my information, or pictures, I’d love it if you would contact me by leaving a comment below or by sending me an email at the address in my “Contact Me” page.

------------------------------------------- Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. ( Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.); U.S. Federal Censuses for 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920; Genealogical Research Library, Ontario, Canada. Canadian Genealogy Index, 1600s-1900s [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005. (original source: Cadastres abreges des Seigneuries du District de Montreal (Vol 1) No 2, Beauharnois, Quebec, 1863.); U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. (Collection Number: G&M_64; Roll Number: 64); Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1952," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 05 Nov 2014), Andrew Bennett, 30 Jan 1925; citing Brown City, Sanilac, Michigan, United States; 00552; Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing; FHL microfilm 001973091.; Encyclopedic Canada, or, The Canadian album: Men of Canada; or, Success by example, in religion, patriotism, business, law, medicine, education and agriculture; containing portraits of some of Canada's chief business men, statesmen, farmers, men of the learned professions, and others., Vol. 5, William Cochrane, John Castell, Hopkins, W.J. Hunter (The Bradley-Garretson Co., LTD, Brantford and Ontario Canada, 1896.) [found as an e-book on Google Books];Quebec History, Valleyfield:;;; “Michigan Fever”, part 1:; Michigan Fever, part 2:; Lapeer County Condensed history:;;

Also I’m currently listening to the History of the United State, 2nd edition, by The Great Courses, (which I’m getting in 6 CD installments from my local library), in the car on my way to work. This is where I learned about Michigan supplying the railroad ties for the building of the transcontinental railroads, and the Panic of 1893.

I also have the sources of my information on the kids; if you want it, please contact me,. Otherwise, I will include it whenever one of them gets their own post.

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