History of GRATIOT CO., Michigan. Historical Biographical, Statistical

By Willard D. Tucker pub. 1913 Press of Seemann & Peters, Saginaw, Michigan

Village of Ashley;  pgs.  1063-1094



Martin Wilber Coon, postmaster at Ashley, and a prominent resident of that thriving village, was born in Rockport, Ohio, March 4, 1849. He is the youngest of a family of ten, children of Joseph S. and Julia A. (Prosser) Coon. The former was born May 26, 1811, in New York State, and died in 1893. The latter was born December 11, 1809, in the same state, and died in 1884. Martin W. and one other, Mrs. Adaline Sutton, are all of the children now living.

Mr. Coon came to Gratiot in 1869, settling on a farm in Washington Township. He remained there engaged in the arduous labors incident to the farmer’s occupation in a new country till 1896, when he removed to Ashley, at that time a small burg, where he has since resided.

Mr. Coon was married in Ithaca, July 4, 1870, to Jennie L. Carothers, who was born in Thurston, N. Y., January 10, 1853. She is the daughter of William V. and Sarah (Jack) Carothers, who settled in Washington Town­ship in 1854, among the earliest of Gratiot County’s pioneers. Mr. Carothers was born in Jerusalem, N. Y., February 14, 1827, and died November 6, 1901, on the farm, which he located in 1854. His wife, Sarah (Jack) Car­others, to whom he was married October 17, 1850, was born July 17, 1831, and is still living. Their experiences as pioneers of Gratiot were similar to those of many others. Mr. Carothers was for many years prominent in township affairs, and was many times elected to the office of highway com­missioner. The children of Mr. and Mrs. Carothers were as follows: Minerva E., born in Michigan, February 24, 1857, and Armena M., born in Michigan, February 4, 1860, both died on the same day—September 11, 1863. The parents, with their little daughter, Jennie L., then reutrned to the State of New York, where, at Thurston, Ada E. was born April 18, 1865. Returning to Gratiot after three years’ residence in New York State; George W. was born November 12, 1871, and died June 28, 1874.

Mr. and Mrs. Martin W. Coon have had a family of thirteen children. Two sons died in infancy. One daughter was a graduate of Ithaca High School and taught school for a number of ears. She was married in 1896

and died in 1900. Five others are married, four of them living in Michigan and one in California. The others still live at home with their parents.

While a resident of Washington Township Mr. Coon was elected to various positions of responsibility, holding the offices of school inspector and township clerk several years, and was supervisor five years. Since his re­moval to Ashley in 1896, he has served five years as supervisor of Elba Town­ship. In 1908 he was appointed postmaster, a position which be still holds.

Mr. Coon, who is a veterinarian by profession, is a member of the I. 0. 0. F. and Rebecca lodges. Mrs. Coon is a member of the Baptist Church and of the Rebeccas.

It is gratifying to be able to present to the readers of this volume this interesting family sketch.



David Duncan a well-known citizen of Gratiot County, especially in the southern part of the county, is now living a retired life in the Village of Ashley, having, on account of failing health, given up active business. He is the son of David Duncan and was born June 3, 1844, at the Mill of Clinter in Aberdeenshire. Scotland. The father was the son of George Duncan and was one of a family of ten sons and two daughters. George Duncan was forester to the Mrs. Lomans who owned a large estate about two miles from Tendarne O’Neal. David Duncan, the father, left Scotland for Canada in the month of April 1853, on a vessel named the Jane Boyd. One year later the mother, with David and three other children, left Scot­land on the same ship—the Jane Boyd—for Quebec, Canada. The mother’s name was Christina (Mortimore) Duncan. They arrived in Hamilton, Can­ada, about the 1st of June 1854, and remained in Canada until the spring of 1858, when they removed to Detroit. At that time there were six children—David, Peter, Christina, Margaret, Elizabeth and George.

The family moved to Washington Township, Gratiot County, in 1859, settling on the west half of the southwest quarter of section 17, the place now owned by Oliver McEnderfer. The father died October 11, 1860, when David Duncan, the subject of this sketch, was 16 years old. In April, 1861, two more children were born, twins-—James and Mary Duncan. James Duncan married Lillie Gray and they are now living in California. Mary Duncan married George Miller and they, also, reside in California. Peter Duncan died in 1863. Christina Duncan married George English, of the Township of Washington. Margaret Duncan married Henry English who afterward was killed by his team running away in the Township of Elba. Margaret afterward married Burton Bradley. They now reside in Pasadena, California. Elizabeth Duncan married James Welch, now living in Detroit. George Duncan died in February 1859.

David Duncan, the subject of this sketch was married April 22, 1874, to Miss Emma J. Whitney, daughter of Joshua and Mabel Whitney. Five children have been born to David and Emma Duncan. George F. is mar­ried to Mina Church, of Alma, and they are now residents of that city. Mary is married to Benjamin Zigler and lives in Washington Township. Carrie is the wife of Bert Palmer, residing in Owosso. Blanch is married to Simon S. Lindley and is living in Elba Township. Whitney M. is living in Detroit working at the barber’s trade.

While living in Washington Township David Duncan held various offices of trust—township clerk several years and township drain commissioner two terms. He removed from Washington Township to Elba He was postmaster at Ashley for a period of six years, finally resigning on account of ill-health. He has also held the office of township clerk of Elba, and was one of the county superintendents of the poor for three years. In all of the positions he has held he has served his constituents faithfully, and in a manner to merit their approval. In addition to the incidents of his life here mentioned, he served his country three years as a soldier in the War of the Rebellion. He was a member of company A, 23rd Michigan Infantry.

Thus we have given some of the main features in the life of one of Gratiot County’s most respected citizens; quiet and unassuming in manner, but justly recognized as a man of solid worth by all with whom he comes in contact in a business, official or social way.




Joseph Bickford and wife, among the early settlers of Gratiot, came to the county in time for the 4th of July celebration at Ithaca in 1856. Mr. Bickford bought his land on section 25, North Star Township, for 50 cents an acre, paying $40 in gold for his 80 acres. The certificate, issued from the Ionia land office, was signed by President James Buchanan, and is still in the family. When he came to Gratiot to look at the land he walked from Lansing, covering the distance of more than 40 miles in one day, following blazed trees as guides. He was one of the 12 men who organized North Star Township. When his family came they were drawn from St. Johns on a wooden “pung” hauled by oxen to Maple River, crossing the river in a log canoe paddled by an Indian. The remaining six miles was con­tinued with oxen and sled through the dense Gratiot woods.

They withstood the hardships of pioneer life four years and then moved to the State of New York, remaining there five years and then returned to the Gratiot farm. After a residence on the farm nine months they again pulled up stakes and moved to Wisconsin where they resided 12 years. Then in the spring of 1878, they returned to the farm.

Joseph Bickford was born in Vermont. June 22, 1827. He was married July 5, 1847, to Miss Rhoda C. Cornell. His death occurred at his home in North Star, March 25, 1883. His wife, Rhoda C., was born in New York State, June 17, 1828. Eight children were horn to this union Jonathan, died in infancy; Myron L., Francelia O., deceased; Marvena; Solon E., deceased, and Olen E., twins; Carrie L.; Devillow E. The mother died May 13, 1906, at the home of her son, Devillow E., and was buried beside her husband in North Star Cemetery. She was an earnest and energetic Sunday school worker until her health failed in the later years of her life.

Devillow Ellsworth Bickford, youngest son of Joseph and Rhoda Bick­ford, was born in the State of New York, November 25, 1862. When a young boy he came with his parents to Gratiot, and did his share in clearing up and cultivating the new farm. Being the youngest of the children and the only one at home during his father’s declining years, he was the chief support and mainstay of the widowed mother after his father’s death.

Devillow E. Bickford was married July 2, 1885, to Cecilia M., daughter of Charles H. Medley, deceased, late of Ithaca, Mich. She was born in Washington, D. C., September 9, 1862, and was educated in the Ithaca High School. For six years thereafter she was one of Gratiot’s most successful teachers. Six children have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Bickford: Charles Joseph; Bernice Blanch, died April 26, 1890, at the age of two years;Ethel Pearl and Devillow Earl (twins); Eugene Everett;Mamie Marvena. Charles J. learned the shoemaker’s trade with his grandfather, C. H. Medley. He attended Yerington’s College several terms. He was married to Miss Alice Meredith, and they have one son, Charles Devillow. He worked at his trade several years in Saginaw;now resides on his father’s farm in Hamilton Township. Ethel Pearl was married to J. Vinton Gibson, of Far­well, Mich. He served as principal of the Perrinton School, and is now serv­ing his third year at North Star. They have two children—Ilah Cecilia and J. Vinton, Jr. D. Earl married Miss Zella Kerr, of Hamilton, and now resides on a farm in that township. They have a daughter, Ethel Pearl. Eugene Everett is a Gratiot County teacher. Mamie Marvena is a student in Ashley High School. The children were all born on the old homestead, section 25, North Star.

In 1901, Devillow E. Bickford removed with his family to his farm on section 30, Hamilton Township, remaining engaged in agricultural pur­suits until 1910, when he removed to Ashley and took the management of the pickle salting station. In the spring of 1912 he bought the grocery business of Bert Wight.

Mr. Bickford has held various positions of responsibility in his town­ship, and in societies of which he is a member—school inspector and overseer of highways in Hamilton Township, Commander in the K. of P., Commander in the K. O. T. M. M., Master of the Grange, and is a member of the Masonic fraternity. He has many times represented the various orders as a delegate. Mrs. Bickford is of a literary turn of mind, a concise and forceful writer when occasion demands or suggests. She is an active member of the L. O. T. M. M., of the Grange, of the O. E. S. and is president of the W. C. T. U. of Ashley.

Charles H. Medley, father of Mrs. D. E. Bickford, was a veteran of the union army in the Civil War, a shoemaker by trade and a man of superior intelligence. His wife, Susan N. Medley, was a woman of fine character, deeply religious, and loved and respected by all who knew her. Their four children were as follows: Cecilia M.; Charles E., (deceased);Joseph Eugene and Philip E. The two last mentioned graduated with honor from the Ithaca High School. Eugene taught two years in the county and then took a course in the University of. Minnesota. For about twenty years he has held responsible positions with the Minneapolis Tribune Company. He married Mamie Lucile Lyman, of Minneapolis, and they have one daughter, Marjorie Lucile. Philip Medley was for several years manager of the Akeley Lumber Company of Northern Minnesota, his office located at Park Rapids. He is now manager of the Blakely Lumber Co., of Bagley, Minn.

This sketch includes the biographies of several well-known and well-remembered citizens, and will be highly appreciated by many in the localities in which they lived or are now living.

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