On this 158th Anniversary of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, DutchRoot presents a profile of W.W. Gorthy (1842-1930), the last surviving member of the posse that captured Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth.
Gorthy's association with the dramatic end of the Civil War is what made him notable to folks beyond Missaukee County, Michigan, where he spent most of his adult life. But to the locals, Gorthy was already a known and colorful character among many veterans of the American Civil War.
Eventually, Gorthy had three wives, eleven children, and at least three scrapes with the law. He helped pioneer a town in northern Michigan, and was instrumental in Moorestown's innovative logging railroads in the rush to harvest the old forests.
Gorthy wasn't particularly rich of influential, and not many have rushed to write his biography, but his consistent colorful presence in the story of Missaukee's origins runs like a shiny vein of ore through the foundational history of the area. It's a tale worth telling.
Linked below is a document that captures details of W.W. Gorthy's life as compiled from original sources, along with transcriptions of his narrative of encountering Booth (appearing in the National Tribune, 10 February 1927) and his obituary (Cadillac Evening News, 26 April 1930).
As a follow up to the Early History of Missaukee, I've been researching some of the shocking events of the 19th century in Missaukee County. I hope to publish them as a book called Missaukee Murder & Mayhem. It's a project I work on in my spare time, so it's taken me years to squeeze out a few pages. And I feel like I'm about halfway after several years.
One of the well-known stories of the early days was the murder of Jan and Catalina Jagt, who were murdered in their home near Vogel Center in 1884. The basics have been often repeated through the years in various publications. But recently, after visiting with folks for the Vogel Center Christian Reformed Church 150th Anniversary in the summer of 2022, I found several rich sources that filled in a much colorful detail surrounding the investigation, arrest, and trial of the killer. One of the keys was finding Dutch-language sources that followed the events closely, as Vogel Center was a Dutch-speaking community at the time. I was also able to find more genealogical data on several of the players in this story, deepening their back stories and the aftermath of these events.
Since my process is slow and the story fascinating, I'm sharing a draft of the chapter on the Jagt murders as it currently stands. It may well change if I find new sources, but there's plenty to chew on here already.
UPDATE: The latest draft of this chapter is dated 26 October 2022, linked below:
One of the first works regarding Missaukee history that I discovered was George Stout's history, which covers the years from 1871-1917, beginning with the political organization of the county. The version I first found had been re-typed and photocopied in the Fred C. Hirzel collection of papers. Hirzel, in his transcription, added a number of his own comments and observations, creating something like a conversation between them.
Because Stout's history ends abruptly in 1917, both Hirzel and I assumed that Stout wrote it in 1917 and simply ran out of material. However, back in 2016 I found and photographed in the Lake City Ardis public library a hand-typed dog-eared version of Stout's work that seemed more original. And yet, it wasn't until 2022 that I took a good look at the photographs. Upon examination, I believe this copy is Stout's hand-typed and hand-corrected original--the very first copy that Stout composed even as he typed.
This original manuscript is typed on the backside of spare “Northern Michigan Road Commissioners' Association” stationery, which dates to 1939. Stout, who served as a Missaukee road commissioner through the 1930s, is himself listed on the stationery masthead as the association’s Secretary. The president noted in the masthead is Frank N. Smith, who served one year, in 1939 (County Road Association of Michigan, “2019-2020 CRA Member Directory,” page 12, 2019). In the document itself, Stout comments about the state of Missaukee roads in 1941 on page 30, so the work is at least as recent as 1941.
Notably, this original also corrects a number of typos, words, lines, and paragraphs that were corrupted by the time Hirzel had found a poor quality copy and retyped it as best he could. Elements that were confusing in Hirzel's version make more sense in this original.
A transcribed version of Stout's 1941 history was included in my 2016 "Early History of Missaukee County: A Reader," and this new updated transcription will be included in whatever next version of the Reader I might manage to publish.
For now, here's a standalone updated version of that chapter and Stout's 1941 history.
One of the sources Stout used for his 1941 work was his own publication from 1892, called "The Story of a Year in Missaukee County." It was a booklet published by the Independent in January of 1892. It was reprinted in January 1936 in the Republican.
An updated transcript of that work is also available here.
The first celebration of the Fourth in Moorestown was within the year it was founded, 1882. A lumber camp had been established in the Summer of 1881, and a they struggled to install a workable railroad all winter. They started with wooden rails and horse drawn carts. By March 1882, J.H. Moores had officially platted Moorestown, and as late as June, his crew continued to lay track that could sustain a full locomotive rather than just a car pulled by horses.
On the Fourth of July, 1882, the whole town piled on the cars of the train and rode into the woods for a picnic, celebrating the completion of the railroad.
Fred C. Hirzel recounts a story of celebrating Independence Day circa 1893 in Moorestown, Missaukee County, Michigan, just a decade after the town's founding.
Mr. William Cantwell, Sr. was the life of every Fourth of July celebration. In celebrating this day, Moorestown and Stittsville alternated about annually. Mr. Cantwell would organize and the “horribles,” and the pageant that they put on is something to make one fairly wish for the return of the good old days.
At one Fourth of July celebration held at Moorestown, at least 100 “horribles” trained by Wm. Cantwell took part. They were divided about equally as “Infantry” (White men) and “Wild Indians” on horseback. The village was flanked in those days by dense forest on the west and north edges. The infantry was parading for the entertainment of the celebrators, which had come from as far away as Cadillac and even Reed City and have been estimated to have numbered 1000 on that day in Moorestown.
The “Indians” suddenly emerged from the woods, surprising the “White Infantry” and before the commanding officer could rally his forces and disperse the enemy, several had been “shot” and either “killed” of “mortally wounded.” These troops and Indians had been so secretly and so well trained by Cantwell in the upper story of the J.H. Moores Sawmill that many of the spectators actually believed, for the moment at least, that the fight was “the real thing.” “Captain” Albert Bulson, pierced by a bullet from an Indian’s rifle, plunged headlong to the ground from the back of his horse which was galloping at full speed. Bulson was a wrestler of some local note and was able to take the jolt he got when he came in contact with the earth. The reckless abandon with which he threw himself from the horse caused many to think that perhaps he had really been shot.
At this time, “Doctor” Cantwell dashed up, riding a small Western pony. Cantwell had clothes made to order for the occasion. The trousers had a waist measurement of at least 60 inches and were stuffed with straw or other material. There was no flap on the front to cover the buttons which had been cut from the butts of shingles and measured about four inches in circumference. He had on a pair of shoes which he constructed from cedar splints and tarred paper. They were an excellent imitation of shoes and measured approximately 1 foot in width and three feet in length. He used horse collars for stirrups. When Doctor Cantwell reached the place where the wounded man was already laying on an “operating table,” he pulled his feet from the stirrups, stood erect, and the horse walked from beneath him. Cantwell then quickly administered a couple of huge dough pills, and then, opening his medical kit with a cold chisel and a hammer, produced a rusty handsaw and began to “amputate” Bulson’s leg. An edging (a piece of wood about an inch square and a couple feet long) had been conveniently placed along side his leg for Doctor Cantwell to saw on. This he did without removing the trousers, cutting through them, A woman in the crowd actually fainted dead away.
Bulson, then having “died” in the operation, was doubled up and pushed into a sugar barrel, which was lowered into an already-prepared grave. While the funeral services at the grace were in progress, the Indians again suddenly emerged from the forest, drove away the “militia,” and crashed huge rocks into the grave on the coffin. There was screaming from the spectators and another woman, who had withstood the first ordeal, fainted. Bulson, of course, was safe; his sugar barrel coffin having been placed at the end of another barrel previously buried and with both ends out, he had crawled through same and through a subterranean tunnel to safety under a brush heap. Of course, this was unknown except to those who had planned it.
Mind you, in those days there was only one store in Moorestown. This was owned and operated by my father, Godfrey Hirzel, who was, first, last, and all the time, interested mostly in providing for the people a good time on the Fourth of July, regardless of the cost. My father had the Hon. Perry F. Powers there from Cadillac to deliver the oration of the day. The Cadillac City Brass Band of many pieces furnished continuous music from mid-forenoon until late at night and during the act of shooting off of $300.00 worth of excellent fire-works, all of which was provided at my father’s expense. Of course, he was not exactly trying to see how much money he could throw away. He had in operation a good clean dance hall at which 16 sets of square dancing went on from the morning of the fourth until the morning of the fifth. He had at least three stands besides the store selling pop, ice cream, candy, cigars, fire crackers, etc. Everyone was happy. There were races and games of all kinds with substantial prizes and cash and goods given by my father. This was probably 1893 or 1894.
-Fred C. Hirzel
In an effort to identify gaps in the public record, I've attempted to document the early newspapers of Missaukee county and note which are available in the archives.
By way of summary, here's a shorter list. The more complete document is linked as a PDF.
Missaukee Reporter (1873-1875)
Happy 180th Birthday to my Great-Great-Grandfather, Tamme Jans Koster.
He was born in Hornhuizen, De Marne, Groningen, Netherlands on 29 Dec 1841 to Jan Pieters Tammes Koster and Aaltje Dijkhuis, very near the coast of the North Sea. Father JPT and mother Aaltje had 5 children, but the first died as an infant, leaving Tamme the oldest of four.
Tamme's mother Aaltje died when he was 15, and his father JPT remarried a year later, to Johanna Pilon.
At age 25, Tamme married 20-year-old Grietje Blaauw in April of 1867, and a month later they were on a boat, bound for America, along with several other families from their area. They settled in Spring Lake Michigan, which was at the mouth of the Grand River; there lumbering and mill work was plentiful as the logs came down the river. They had 8 children, but lost 2 of them. After about a decade, they bought a farm east of Spring Lake in Crockery township, just off the Grand River, along with Tamme's father and step-mother.
But, after about 5 years, Tamme died on 1 May 1882, leaving Grace as a 35-year-old widow with 6 children. Furthermore, this is about the time the lumber work dried up on the Grand River and the area became economically depressed. Tamme probably bought the land because he could see the end coming. Widow Grace shortly eventually remarried to Jakob VanderLaan, and they moved north to Missaukee county, along with some of the same families that came as a group from the Netherlands twenty years earlier. Kosters, Blaauws, and Vanderlaans have been a part of Missaukee ever since.
Tamme is likely buried in the Koster family plot in Spring Lake cemetery. His father JPT and step-mother Johanna have markers, as do later relatives, but Tamme and his two deceased children do not, at least not anymore. However, JPT had bought the plot at the same time Tamme's first child died, which was probably the first death in the extended family in America, so it stands to reason that JPT bought the plot for that first infant and all the Kosters that followed.
Happy 175th Birthday to my 2nd great grandmother, Grietje "Grace" Blaauw Koster VanderLaan! She was born on 17 Jul 1846 to Wietse Blaauw and Neeltje Bolheem, the 3rd of 4 children, in Niekerk, Grootegast, Groningen, Netherlands. Her father died when she was 6 years old. Her mother remarried 8 years later, when Grace was 14.
She married Tamme Jans Koster at age 20 in 1867, and was on a boat for America within a month of the wedding, along with several families from her hometown.
She and Tamme settled in Spring Lake, Michigan, where lumbering and mill work was plentiful. After a decade, they bought a farm in Crockery township in north-western Ottawa county, Michigan. Together they had 8 children and lost 2. After 20 years in the Spring Lake area, Tamme died, leaving Grace a widow at age 35 with 6 children.
The lumbering industry in the Grand River valley was depleted, and after two years she married a widower, Jacob VanderLaan, and moved to Missaukee county along with some of the same families with whom she immigrated. She had three more children with Jake, and lived most of her life as a VanderLaan in Missaukee.
Around age 78, she went back to Spring Lake for a visit, and died and was buried there, across the street from the probable grave of her first husband. Her grave was paid for by her second husband, VanderLaan, but the marker names her as a Koster.
Happy 220th Birthday to my great-great-great-grandmother, Harmina Jans Boom!
Harmina was born in Beekbergen, Apeldoorn, Gelderland, Netherlands on 29 September 1799, to Jan Evarts Boom and Janna Harmens, and baptized in the Reformed church in Beekbergen on 6 October 1799. She was 5th of 11 children born, only 5 of which lived to adulthood. Her mother Janna died when Harmina was only 11 years old. Her father remarried, and his second wife had another 6 children.
At age 25, Harmina married Derk Jan van der Meij, who already had three children and had been widowed at age 29 when his first wife, Aaltjen Frederika Westerhuis, died in March of 1824. Harmina and Derk married 5 Feb 1825, and had the first of ten children together that November. Sadly, their first three children were either stillborn or died in infancy. Their other seven children lived to adulthood. Most of them never left Gelderland, but their youngest, Jan Willem van der Meij, born 25 Jan 1842, eventually immigrated to America.
At age 23, Jan Willem married Johanna Hendrika Groenouwe in 1865. They had two children in Gelderland and boarded a boat in 1871, eventually settling in Chicago, but wife Johanna appears to have died either on the journey or shortly after arrival. In Chicago, Jan Willem remarried in 1872 to Anna Jeltes Nederhood, who already had a son. They had a daughter in Illinois, and then moved to Missaukee county in northern Michigan, around 1873. There they had three more children.
Back in Gelderland, mother Harmina died on 13 Nov 1875, at age 76. After a couple decades in Missaukee, Anna died in 1895, leaving Jan widowed again, at age 53. He married a another widow that same year, Marrechien Martens Brinks, his third wife.
Jan Willem’s oldest, Dederika Willemina van der Meij, who was born back in Gelderland, married Roelof Geerts Brinks in Vogel Center, Missaukee, Michigan, on 04 Apr 1885. Their youngest (of six) was my grandfather, Herman Brinks.
Happy Birthday to my great-great-great Grandmother, Annegien Hendriks Rosema. She's 200 years old today!
She was born in Oosterhesselen, Coevorden, Drenthe, Netherlands on 13 Aug 1819 to Harm Hendriks Rosema (age 31 at the time) and Hilligjen Egberts (age 28). Her parents had been married almost four years, and Annegien would likely have been baptized in the church at Oosterhesselen.
Annegien married at age 31 to Albert Velting, age 40, 3 April 1850, likely under a bit of pressure as they had a son, Berend, three months later that July. They had five children over 13 years, but only son Berend and daughter Hillegje Velting survived into adulthood.
After almost 20 years of marriage, her husband Albert died in 1869, leaving Annegien a widow at age 49. Son Berend married Mary Joling over a decade later, in 1881.
Two years later, in April 1883, Annegien (now age 64), 26-year-old daughter Hillegje, and son Berend with his wife Mary and infant daughter Annigje, all boarded the steamship Schiedam in Amsterdam and sailed for America in steerage.
They settled in Missaukee county. Within a couple years, daughter Hillegje (Helen) Velting married Roelof Lutke and started a family of their own. Son Berend Velting and wife Mary Joling had three more kids, Jennie, Albert, and Johanna Velting. (Jennie Velting grew up to marry Egbert Eising and give birth to my grandmother, Margaret Eising Koster.)
Annegien sadly outlived her son Berend, who died in 1891 at age 40. Widowed daughter-in-law Mary Joling Velting remarried to Harm Schoo.
In the 1900 census, Annegien reports that she is age 81, does not speak English, can read and write, and lives with her daughter and son-in-law.
Annegien Hendriks Rosema Velting lived to age 85, dying of influenza in Prosper, Missaukee, Michigan on 05 Mar 1905. She is buried in Vogel Center.
Happy 200th Birthday to William Henry McConnell, Grand Rapids Pioneer.
He was born on November 12, 1818, in Newbury, Berkshire, England, to William & Sarah D. McConnell.
His family immigrated in his teen years, and he grew up in Danville NY.
By 1842, he was living in Mount Morris, New York, and married Eunice Hopkins in Grand Rapids, Michigan, on July 11, 1842, when he was 23 years old. The wedding was at Central Reformed Church, officiated by H.E. Waring.
His daughter Mary H. McConnell was born in May 1843 in New York.
His wife Eunice passed away on June 10, 1846 in Grand Rapids, at the age of 26. They had been married 3 years.
By 1848, he was serving as Village Trustee and was in the hardware wholesale business. He later claimed to have built the first business building made of brick in Grand Rapids.
McConnell married Margaret R Sommers in New York on September 3, 1849, when he was 30 years old. The wedding was at Oliver St. Church, and officiated by Rev C.G. Sommers (her father). It was noted in the New York Post.
In the 1850s, he owned a dry-goods store and a metal factory, with inventory of tin, copper, and iron.
His daughter Sarah Skelding McConnell was born on June 9, 1851, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His daughter Eliza S McConnell was born in June 1853.
W.H. McConnell had two brothers who were also well-known in Grand Rapids. One was John McConnell, who was a partner in the hardware business and owned a prominent home on the corner of S. Division Ave and Wealthy St (where the Roman Catholic Diocese building stands in 2018). Another brother was Daniel McConnell, who had a prominent career in the military and as a capitalist.
In the 1860s, McConnell was on the board of (Park) Congregational Church and instrumental in launching the construction of the church building that still stands today.
In the 1860s, his daughter Sarah went to Vassar college in New York.
In the 1870s, his daughter Sarah married Robert Corson, a Scottish immigrant and sales executive at Berkey & Gay Furniture. They had two sons (one in the photo with grandma Margaret, below) and a daughter.
By 1880, McConnell lived in in the city but also owned a small 30-acre farm in Caledonia, Michigan. In October 1887, at age 68, McConnell had a Going Out of Business Auction of his fabrication business.
William Henry McConnell died on February 10, 1888 when he was 69 years old, of "Brain Fever." His funeral was mostly for family and held at his daughter's house on Madison Ave. (which is now The Parsonage Inn), where William and his wife had been living in their retirement. He was buried in Fulton Cemetery.
After his death, his wife and daughters carried on with his real estate business, frequently taking clients to court to avoid being taken advantage of.