03 May 2012

Obituaries--Fred Matthews

One of the many things I like about living in a rural community is the consistency.  Our township has several centennial farms, and others that are close.  Those families that do not have centennial farms, have none the less been living in the same community for many years.  My husband's family, while having family farm, nevertheless settled less than a half mile from my current home.  The original immigrant family lived just down the road.  Their one son, my husband's grandfather had a farm a mile from his parents, across the section.  And my in-laws, Hubby's parents lived a half mile in the opposite direction down the road. 
That all said, today's obituary is about a similar family.  Their name is found on many of our historical plat books, usually in my township, or the one bordering ours to the south. Mr. Matthews story, as told in the obituary is a typical story of many of our local ancestors. 

From the 27 November 1918 Fremont Times Indicator:

Fred Matthews, Who Died at Sitka Nov. 17, Came to this Section in 1861
Fred Matthews was born in St. Barthelemy, Canada, Province of Quebec, October 30, 1835.  Remaining at home until the age of seventeen, he and a friend three years his senior set out for Chicago by way of the canal, Mr. Matthews having fifteen dollars for traveling expenses.  But at the second lock his friend's courage failed him and he returned home.  Under trying difficulties, unable to speak the English language and alone, without friend or relative, Mr. Matthews met a fellow countryman at the docks of Chicago who took him home as his guest for three days until he found employment.  He remained in Chicago one year, going from there to the pineries in Wisconsin where he worked for two years, becoming a skilled worker in wood.
From Wisconsin he came to Muskegon to visit a brother and while he was there he was associated with the George Arms Lumber Co. for several years.  In 1861 he preempted 160 acres of land near Sitka.  Out of this wilderness of forest without road or path, save the trail of the Indians he set about the task of wrestling a farm home from the wilds.
He was married in 1872 at Muskegon to Laura L. Lee, bringing his young bride to his farm home.  To this union were born six children, tow of whom, with the widow, survive him, a daughter, Mrs. Mae Crawford, of Fremont and son, George, of Sitka, also six grandchildren.
Mr. Matthews was always an active worker in all social and civic enterprises, taking an active part in the erection of the Sitka church.  A highly respected citizen, a devoted husband and father and a good neighbor, he leaves a host of friends to mourn his death.  Mr. Matthews died on Nov. 17, 1918, at the age of 83 years and 18 days, after a long and painful illness of stomach trouble.
The funeral services were held at the residence Nov. 19 at 10:30 conducted by the pastor, Rev. H. H. Wliey of Holton, and the body was laid to rest on a southern slope in the beautiful Oak Grove cemetery at Fremont.

This obituary does raise a some thoughts.  You can't trust everything you read in obituaries.  First, the cemetery in Fremont, is Maple Grove, not Oak Grove, and the slopes there face north, not south.  The cemetery in Holton, where many nearby citizens were buried is named Oakwood cemetery--close but not a match. A transcript of that cemetery shows several Mathews (one t) including a Freddy and one other Matthews (Erne H.).  There is another Oak Grove cemetery in Newaygo county, but clear across the county--not likely.  So where is he?  A bit more digging in a rough index to Maple Grove cemetery in Fremont, yields not one but two Frederick Matthews.  And a Laural, which could be his wife, Laura L.  Bingo. 
Even if you cannot always trust everything you read in these old (and new) obituaries, they do make for great reading.

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