The Canadians: William McMullen and Harriet Emlaw Move to Michigan, 1877

By Dave Swayze

William McMullen had been born in Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1808 and although little is known of his early life, by 1842 he was married to Harriet Emlaw - 12 years his junior - and was beginning to raise a family. He was probably a farmer. Harriet’s family seems to have come from around Colchester, Ontario, in Essex County on Lake Erie. Most Canadian Emlaws lived in that area in her time. Both of their elder sons, Alexander and James, were also born in Ontario. “Alex” in 1842 and James in ’45. Their other two sons, George and John, for reasons lost to history, were born in New York, in 1854 and ’56, respectively. There is ample evidence for this aside from family records. Both of their death certificates and death records list their birthplaces as New York. While his living brothers’ Canadian origins are enumerated in the 1900 and 1910 censuses, John is again shown as New York born in those records.

By Steamship to Michigan?

By the 1861 Canadian census the family was again in Canada, living and farming near Seymour, Ontario, in Canadian shield country 20 miles north of eastern Lake Ontario. They remained there for more than a decade, but toward the end of the 1870’s the decision was made in the family to move to the United States and settle in Midland County, Michigan. It’s not known the method of travel taken to get there in 1877 or 78, but there was a steamship service between Goderich, Ontario and Saginaw, from whence it was mere hours by train to the Sanford area via the Pere Marquette. There is no way of knowing if they all came at the same time, but William and Harriet, who were now approaching old age, led a large extended family there - at least 17 and probably more McMullens were living there by 1879.

Eldest son Alexander, born in 1842, brought his wife Anne (nee Leveque, b. 1841) and children John, [Note: Marcel Alexander's father, the eldest son of an eldest son] aged 14; Jane, 13; Mary, 9; William, 5; George Francis, 2 and Alexander Joseph, 1. Anne had been born in 1841, probably in Kingston, Ontario, and her family farmed in Seymour as well. Her generation had been the first of the French Canadian Leveque family in more than 150 years to live outside of Quebec province.

James (b. 1845) was accompanied by wife Anna (nee West, b. 1850) daughter Emma, age 5 and son William Francis, age 3. Anna’s family had lived in the Seymour area for more than 20 years and she married James about 1870

The third son, George W., age 25, came with his 20 year old wife Josephine (nee Christie, b. 1858). The Christie family had also been also Seymour-area residents. The youngest of Alexander’s sons, John V. McMullen, was still a bachelor at age 21.

By 1880 the family had settled in, and most were living in three adjacent plots in the Averill area. William, now 72, and Harriet, 60, were farming and sharing the same house and land with George and Josephine. Nearby were James and Anna and their two children. James was working for the Pere Marquette railroad.

Alexander was listed in the 1880 census as a “laborer” and he and his family were living in another nearby home with children John, Mary, William, George and Alexander. Tragedy struck the household as young Jane McMullen died on 17 January, 1879 of consumption (tuberculosis) and in May infant Charles F. McMullen died after less than two months of life.

Missing from the group is John V. McMullen. A blacksmith by trade, he has moved to Imlay City, Michigan, in Lapeer County, about 90 miles by rail southeast of Averill. There he met and married local girl Cora Strong, age 19, and they were living with William and Emma Haskin, a couple of the same age as they.

Father and son die the same day

On March 10, 1896, William McMullen, 85 years, 4 months of age, died of consumption (tuberculosis) in Lincoln Township. On the same day his son George W. McMullen, still living and farming with his father, died of heart failure at the age of 42 years 9 months. The death of William seemed to trigger the beginning of end of the McMullens in western Midland County. An 1897 plat map of the Averill area shows Josephine as the owner of 40 acres a mile north of the railroad, and George’s estate owns another 40 just to the south. By 1900 the 80-acre McMullen farm had been sold and Harriet had moved to Imlay City to live with son John’s family. She passed away there November 15, 1907.

According to the sexton's records of Jerome Township Cemetery, Midland County, both William and Harriet are interred there, but there appear to be no stones for them and I have been unable to find the exact location despite a thorough search. There are many McMullens and other family members in that cemetery including three of Harriet's sons, their wives and at least 30 others (maybe as many as 45). We live about 20 miles from Averill and the Jerome Twp. Cemetery.

Check out these links:

Lots of maps! geology.com

A non-dogmatic encyclopedia: Infogalactic

Visit Learn Out Loud and get free history audio and video.

Words have history too: Online Etymology Dictionary

OK, I'm a sucker for dictionaries: Merriam-Webster

Will Rogers quotes (just because): Goodreads

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