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Sessions -De Ater 

Family History 



The Settlement of 
Ionia, Mich., 


— BY — 



A History of 

The Sessions Family 

of the Branch 

Alonzo Sessions 


Celia Dexter Sessions 



#rttlf me nt of Soma, iHtrijtgan 

(By Mrs. L. P. BROCK, in Detroit News Tribune, May 
25, 1913.) 

IONIA, Michigan: — The little city of Ionia, nestling close 
to the foot of the hills on the north side of Grand River, 
climbing up their sides, and spreading over the level coun- 
try at their top — charming in name, location and environ- 
ments, will on Wednesday, May 2 8, arrive at the eightieth 
anniversary of the coming of its first white settlers, the 
colony from New York led by Samuel Dexter, and Ionians 
feel that they have much to be proud of, not only in the 
high character of its colonists, but of the interesting Indian 
lore attached to this region, for much as this locality was 
loved by the whites, even as much was it loved by the 
race that preceded them, who hunted in the forests, fished 
in the streams and built their wigwams by the banks of 
the river that was their broad highway, flowing through — 
as they considered it — their Indian paradise. 

Michigan was inhabited by three tribes of the great 
Algonquin nation which inhabited all the land south of 
Hudson Bay, east of the Mississippi and north of the pres- 
ent state of Tennessee, except the state of New York which 
was the possession of the five confederated tribes of the 
fierce and war loving Iroquois. The Pottawatomies lived 
in the south part of the state, the Chippewas in the north 
part and northern peninsula, and for many years the Sauks 
occupied the country around Grand river, but were finally 
overcome by the Ottawas, whose home it became for many 
generations. All of these tribes though so widely scatter- 
ed, often warring desparately among themselves, belonged 
to one great stock, and spoke various dialects of one lang- 

As nearly as can be ascertained at the beginning of the 
eighteenth century the Pottawatomies numbered about 800 
warriors, the Ottawas about 1,200 and the Chippewas, with 
whom these tribes were linked in a very close confederacy, 
numbered more than both of them. 

At the coming of the whites, 80 years ago, its human oc- 

cupants, the Ottawas, some Chippewas, and perhaps a few 
Pottawatomies, remnants of three of the most powerful 
tribes known in what at an early day was designated the 
northwest territory, were mostly to be found along the 
banks of the Grand, where their villages were located at 
the mouth of rivers flowing into it. 

The Ottawas were originally located in the vicinity of the 
Ottawa river in Canada, from which they derive their 
name, but were driven from there by the terrible Iroquois, 
from New York, who were always making war on other 
Indian tribes. They fled to the land of the Chippewas. The 
Iroquois followed them to their new haunts, but the two 
tribes combined and were enabled to repulse the Iroquois, 
who afterward seldom sought a warpath which led so far 
to the north. 

The celebrated Father Marquette visited the northern 
peninsula in 1668 and established a mission for the Otta- 
was at St. Es'prit, near the west end of Lake Superior. But 
in 1670, the Ottawas no longer fearing the Iroquois, estab- 
lished their principal village on the island of Mackinac, and 
then at St. Ignace, just across the strait. Father Marquette 
established a mission for them in 1671. 

From that point the Ottawas spread southward, espec- 
ially along the east shore of Lake Michigan, which was of 
easy access by means of their boats, and thence by paddling 
up Grand river, they first invaded the hunting grounds of 
the Sauks, the last quarter of the seventeenth century. 
These excursions, of course, ended in a series of conflicts 
which culminated in the Sauks fleeing, terror-stricken, from 
the graves and hunting grounds of their forefathers, down 
the river and across Lake Michigan into what is now Wiscon- 
sin, where they located. 

The same year that Father Marquette established the 
mission at St. Ignace, there occurred another scene at Sault 
Ste. Marie of great significance to the occupants of this re- 
gion. The French had obtained a foothold in Canada in 
1535, and in 1670 the intendant of Canada, sent Lieut. 
Lusson, a French officer, into the Lake Superior region to 
hunt minerals. To signalize his expedition by an imposing 
ceremony, he called together all the tribes of the lake 
country to meet him at the Soo, and no less than 14 tribal 
organizations being represented, he made a proclamation, 
taking over the present State of Michigan, and adjacent 
lands in the name of his sovereign, Louis XIV. of France, 

promising the tribes in return protection from their foes. 
"Long live the king," said Lusson. "Long live the king," 
said the Frenchmen present — and the thousands of savages 
yelled in unison. They would not have been so ready to 
turn over their lands in any way, to an unknown potentate 
across the sea, if they had not become afraid of the Iro- 
quois, who by this time were being fitted out with muskets 
and ammunition by the Dutch at New York. Thus the State 
of Michigan, in a way, passed into the hands of the French. 

After this date the Indians comprising the Michigan 
league usually acted together in their war-like expeditions, 
and with the aid of the French, held comparative peaceable 
possession of this their home for nearly one hundred years. 
But the English wanted territory. And in 1754 was begun, 
the "Old French and Indian war," which finally resulted in 
the acquiring by the English of all the French territory east 
of the Mississippi and in February, 1763, the treaty of peace 
was signed between France and England. When the In- 
dians were told of this they were furious, and a great up- 
rising was planned by Pontiac, a full blooded Ottawa and 
head chief of the tribe here — then about 50 years old. His- 
tory points him out as excelling in sagacity and strategy any 
Indian chief known. He gathered all of the nations of the 
lakes and rivers of the north together and the destruction 
of all the English forts and garrisons were to take place on 
a certain day. The feeling of the Indians is well expressed 
in the following historically authenticated facts. Major 
Rogers with his Rangers, was sent to Detroit to replace the 
French with an English garrison and on nearing the post 
he was met by Pontiac. "What is your business in my 
country, and how dare you enter it without my permission?" 
was the haughty demand of the Indian chief. Rogers told 
his errand. Pontiac replied with dignity: "I stand in the 
path," and again in part of a speech of another chief to an 
English trader: "Englishman, although you have conquer- 
ed the French, you have not yet conquered us. We are not 
your slaves. These lakes, these woods, were left to us by 
our ancestors, they are our inheritance and we will part 
with them to none." But the face that was to usurp them 
was at hand, and needless to say after numerous attempts 
to foil the English, Pontiac renounced forever his great 
scheme, and the greatest chief that ever walked the trails 
through this beautiful valley had to give way to the great- 
er race. He was murdered near St. Louis by an Illinois 
Indian, hired to do so by an English trader, it is said, and 

was buried with all the honors of war by his friend, St. 
Ange, French commandant at St. Louis, but the Ottawas 
sprang to arms to avenge his death and almost extermin- 
ated the Illinois tribe. 

Then came the war of the Revolution and the formation 
of a new government, but it was 1796 before the British 
surrendered the post at Detroit to the United States, and not 
until then did the government obtain any control of the 
territory known as the State of Michigan. In 1807 General 
Hull made an agreement with the chiefs of the Ottawas, 
Chippewas and Pottawatomies, by which they ceded a large 
portion of their lands in eastern Michigan to the United 
States government. In 1812 war was again declared in 
which the Indians joined forces with the British, but with 
the victory of the United States all hopes of the Indians 
for holding onto their lands were vanquished — peace and 
protection were generously extended to them by the gov- 
ernment and then the war-like career of this great league 
which had extended for more than a hundred years was at 
an end. They no longer kept strictly to tribes, and when 
the whites came here it was no unusual thing to find bands 
made up of Indians from all three tribes. Soon after the 
close of the war of 1812, it became evident to General Cass, 
then governor of the territory, that more land would have 
to be acquired from the Indians to accommodate the im- 
migration spreading in all directions from Detroit, so he 
planned to secure further cessions from the tribes, laid his 
plans before the government, obtained authority to proceed 
in the matter, and called the chiefs together in council at 
Saginaw in 1819, this cession to include our own locality. 
The council was held in a large bower, which by direction 
of General Cass, had been built by Louis Campau, the 
French trader. Great opposition resulted but in the end 
the Indians acceded to the United States six million of 
acres which included most of Ionia county and were to re- 
ceive annually forever one thousand dollars in silver coin, 
also annuities from other treaties to be paid in silver, the 
Indians reserving the right to hunt and fish so long as the 
government owned the land, and they were permitted to 
make sugar, until the lands were sold to settlers, but with- 
out any unnecessary waste of trees. In 1821, at Chicago, 
that part of Ionia county that was not covered by the treaty 
at Saginaw was purchased by the government. 

Many Indians were still here when the first white set- 
tlers came, hut according to treaty stipulations they had a 
right to be here, until actual settlers purchased the land, 
after which the Indians, as they had agreed, retired read- 
ily, yet mournfully, from their old haunts, their cultivated 
patches and their villages, to still deeper wilds in the 
northern wilderness. 

During the latter part of the 17th and earlier part of 
the 18th century the present State of Michigan contained a 
widely scattered class of inhabitants, called Indian traders. 
Generally French, their business was buying fur and pelts 
from the Indians, and in exchange selling them calico and 
other commodities, and they were governed by certain rules 
issued by the respective governments that had controlled 
this region. Their trade must be confined to their own 
section; they must be fair and friendly in trade; attend no 
council held by Indians; convey to them no liquors; no 
traders allowed without a license; inculcate ideas of peace 
among the Indians; and assure them of the protection of 
the government, etc. The commodities they gave to the In- 
dians sometimes came from Detroit on Indian ponies, but 
more often from Montreal by boats, portaged through the 
lakes and streams of upper Canada, then to Mackinac, when 
they were distributed to the various traders. Along the 
Grand River at about the time of the settlement here of 
the first whites were Louis Campau, who had lived since 
182 8 at what is now Grand Rapids with his wife, Sophie 
de Marsac — for whom the D. A. R. chapter of that city is 
named. At Lowell was Rix Robinson, who married an In- 
dian princess, a daughter of one of the great war-chiefs of 
the Ottawas, who was own cousin to Pontiac. 

Robinson was one of the few who remained true to his 
Indian wife, whom he married in accordance with tribal 
custom, and a short time ago the residents of that section 
raised a memorial to his name in the locality of his old 

East of Ionia there was established the post of Louis 
Genereaux, who had been here some years when the set- 
tlers arrived. He was quite successful as a trader, and 
owned a large batteaux, with which his goods and peltries 
were transferred up and down the Grand. He also had an 
Indian wife and half-breed son, Louis, Jr., who was a wild 
youth, and brought sorrow to his father by killing or roast- 

ing to death an Indian, for which he was sent to prison for 
a long term and soon after the father removed from the lo- 
cality then known as Genereauville. 

While many of the Ottawas in other sections had been in 
the habit of leaving for Mackinac at the close of the sugar- 
making season, assembling by boat at the mouth of the 
Grand, then proceed in company up the lake, to return by 
some route in the fall — it is said the Indians in this locality 
stayed here the year around. The rich bottom land gave 
ample facilities for raising their garden stuff, while fish 
and game were to be had in abundance. In 1830 the chief 
Indian village was just east of here at the mouth of the 
Maple and numbered some 800. The principal chief was 
Cocoosh, while Black Cloud was second in command. There 
was a small village at Ionia, whose chief was Cobmosa, an 
Indian of much dignity and manliness, who was second in 
command of the Flat river band, and their principal encamp- 
ment was near Lowell. 

The importance of Grand river during these days was 
great, and sometimes the craft upon it presented a very im- 
posing sight. It was about 1856 before the railroad was 
built and as this section was very isolated, about 150 miles 
from Detroit, the country between unsettled, the roads ter- 
rible during the greatest part of the year, to say nothing of 
unbridged rivers and streams, no wonder the river was look- 
ed upon as the surest way of access to the outer world, even 
if it was by way of the straits. Then were the boats of 
the Indians, the serviceable craft of the traders, Campau, 
Robinson and Genereaux, furnished with mast and sail and 
looked handsome going up and down the waters of the 
river. December 1, 1837, a sidewheel steamer, the "Gov. 

Mason," came up to Ionia, then on to Lyons, when the water 
was high. But with the coming of the railroad the great 
need and use of the river was ended. 

In the early thirties the fame of Michigan lands reached 
the east, and as ever, adventuresome souls were eager to 
push out into the new west. In the fall of 1832 Hon. Sam- 
uel Dexter of Herkimer, N. Y., came on a prospecting trip 
and in company with his friend, Dr. Jewett, later of Lyons, 
Ionia County, rode horseback through southern and west- 
ern Michigan, looking up government lands. After follow- 
ing the lake shore to Chicago he came back to Michigan 
and located lands at what is now Grand Rapids, on the east 
side of the river across from a large Indian village, and 


Founder of Ionia, Michigan Wife of Samuel Dexter 

near the home of Louis Campau and his wife, the French 
trader. He entered a tract of land two miles long and 
eighty rods wide, near where is now the very heart of the 
City of Grand Rapids (afterward giving to Kent County 
ground for their court house site), and then came on east 
to Ionia, where he located a quarter section. He then re- 
turned to his home in New York to make preparations for 
removal, to the new home, he had chosen, selling out his 
possessions, inducing others to join him, and preparing him- 
self, his wife and nine children for a life in an unbroken 
wilderness, miles from any sign of civilzation. He was then 
47 years of age, and had been a member of the New York 
legislature for one or two terms. He was the seventh in 
descent from Sir Gregory Dexter, who came from London 
with Roger Williams to Providence, R. I., in 1643. Sir Greg- 
ory Dexter owned a printing establishment in London and 
printed Roger Williams' dictionary of the Indian language, 
a copy of which is in the library of congress, a very rare 
specimen. The two men formed a close friendship, so great 
that Dexter sold his business and came back to the colonies 
with Williams. The king granted him a charter of the 
whole State of Rhode Island, and he was the first accom- 
plished printer in America and printed the first almanac 
for the meridan of Rhode Island. He also became a preach- 
er and at Roger Williams' death succeeded him and there- 
fore became the second Baptist preacher in Providence. 

Samuel Dexter's father was also named Samuel Dexter, 
who married Candace Winsor, a lineal descendant of Roger 
Williams, and he was a revolutionary soldier and ensign in 
Col. Lippitt's Rhode Island regiment. They had thirteen 
children, the fifth, Darius Dexter, being the grandfather of 
Mrs. William Jennings Bryan, the wife of our present Sec- 
retary of State. Samuel Dexter, whose colony settled Ionia, 
being their seventh child, John and Darius, the fourth and 
fifth sons founded the village of Dexterville, which is now 
a suburb of Jamestown, on Chautauqua Lake, New York, 
and the house in which Darius Dexter lived still stands 
there. These two brothers went west in 1838, and Darius 
settled in Pike County, Illinois. His daughter Lavina mar- 
ried John Baird, the father of Mrs. Bryan. John went to 
Wisconsin, near Kenosha, and settled on a farm which to- 
day is owned by his grandson, now seventy-one years of age, 
and is known as "Dexter Farm," George and Stephen, the 
twelfth and thirteenth children came to Michigan and lo- 
cated land on the north bank of Whitmore Lake, north of 
Ann Arbor, but quite soon removed to Ionia county, and 

about 18 35, located farms in Easton township, a few miles 
from the new settlement their brother founded, in which lo- 
cality they afterward lived and died. 

Upon Mr. Dexter's return home from his Michigan trip, 
he interviewed people, and wrote many letters in praise of 
the "west" as it was then and his enthusiasm induced oth- 
ers to join him in the new enterprise of securing land. He 
sold his farm for twelve thousand dollars, quite a bit of 
money to bring into a new territory, especially as it was all 
in gold and silver. It was packed in bags labeled "axes," 
and there was always the watchful eye of two men, on 
guard over it. 

The colony when it got under way, April 22, 1833, num- 
bered 62 people consisting of six families. Samuel Dex- 
ter's, Erastus Yeoman's, Oliver Arnold's, Darius Winsor's 
1 1 Edward and Joel Guild's, also five young men, Wm. B. 
Lincoln, a young practicing physician, and four others, who 
left the colony soon after its arrival at Ionia. They char 
tered a canal boat for use as far as Buffalo, put on board 
only such articles as would be actually necessary to them 
in their new home, their own teams drawing the boat on the 
Erie canal. 

To many of their neighbors, such an undertaking seem- 
ed one of folly, but the resolution had been deliberately 
taken and although the abandonment of old home and 
friends was a severe trial, it was bravely met. Their ven- 
ture had become widely known, so that the first day or 
two they found the landing places along the canal crowded 
with old friends who had come to take a last look and say 
a parting word. At Buffalo they transferred themselves to 
a steamboat, in due time arriving at Detroit, and then the 
real hardships were to begin. Most of the household 
goods were shipped by boat via the straits of Mackinac 
to Grand Haven to be brought by small boat up Grand 
river, but the rest of the goods and the families were loaded 
on the wagons, teams attached and with a guide, who as as- 
sistant surveyor, was familiar with the country, they struck 
out into the wilderness, most of the way cutting the road 
as they went. The first day out of Detroit they could make 
but seven miles, the roads were so heavy. They stayed one 
night at Pontiac, at that time a very small place, having a 
hard name, so much so that if any one wanted to send a 
person to a bad place, he would say "You go to Pontiac." 
Nearly two weeks were consumed in the journey from De- 

troit to their destination and to the women and children 
unaccustomed to hard fare, wild scenes, exposure and severe 
fatigue, the labor was almost overwhelming. They had 
much trouble in crossing marshes and fording streams. 
Many women walked and sometimes when they got stuck in 
the marshes the men had to carry them ashore. At night 
the men would build great fires and the women would then 
cook and they baked biscuits in the bakers set up in front 
of the fires. At Shiawassee, there were three children sick 
with the scarlet fever, a son of Edward Guild and Provi- 
dence and Riley Dexter. Two of the children got better, 
but on May 26 about four in the afternoon, Riley, the young- 
est child of Samuel Dexter, died when the company was 
about 30 miles east of Ionia. Mr. Guild had a small trunk 
which he gave for a coffin and the child was laid in the 
grave by the light of the camp fires, his father making a 
feeling prayer, before the coffin was lowered. They piled 
the grave high with logs to protect it from the wolves and 
also carved his name, age and date of death on a large tree 
at its head. 

The second day after, May 28, they arrived "home" about 
10 o'clock in the morning and their first meal was dinner 
eaten a little way south of where the large armory now 
stands. As they could not expect their household furnish- 
ings that were sent around the lakes by boat, for some time, 
the men drove stakes in the ground and put sticks across 
them, then laid the side boards of a wagon box on for a 
top so had the first extension table in Ionia county. 

The Indians, who founded the village here, numbering 
about 500 inhabitants, and who had known of Mr. Dexter's 
intention to return, from the visit among them the fall be- 
fore, had given up his coming on account of the late arri- 
val of the colony, and had put in their gardens of corn, 
melson, squashes, etc. There were five wigwams that were 
built of bark, four down by the river near the present Pere 
Marquette car shops — not more than 10 feet square, two 
bunks on one side, one above the other. The other was a 
little way northwest of these and about 14 feet square. The 
Indians disliked to give up their homes and gardens, but 
knowing they were simply holding their lands by suffer- 
ence until actual settlers arrived, they readily, though 
mournfully, gave up, after Mr. Dexter paid them for their 
bark wigwams and gardens, he doing business through a 

guide, who acted as interpreter. The largest wigwam was 
then occupied by the women and children of Mr. Dex- 
ter's family, the others were occupied by the families of 
the rest of the colonists, the men occupying tents, wagon 
boxes and such other shelter as circumstances would per- 
mit. Two log houses were immediately commenced, one 
for Mr. Dexter and one for Mr. Winsor, and very soon after 
one for Mr. Yeomans. Mr. Dexter's was built where the 
Jacob Schmoltz brick block now stands, Mr. Winsor's just 
west of the creek that crosses East Main street, and Mr. 
Yeoman's in what is now Easton on land still held by his 

In a few days after their arrival, some of the men of the 
colony started for the land office at White Pigeon. They 
met Louis Campau, who begged them to come to settle at 
Grand Rapids where he and his wife had lived so long 
alone. So Joel Guild decided to go — took up some land there 
and within a month "Uncle Louis" and some of his help, 
came up to Ionia in bateaux for the Guild family, they ar- 
riving at Grand Rapids, June 23, that being the day Grand 
Rapids called her "birthday," having been started as a white 
settlement by the family of one of the Ionia colony. Edward 
Guild and family some time after joined his brother there, 
as did also Mr. Winsor's where they afterward lived and 

The first white child born in the community was Eugene, 
son of Darious Winsor, whose birth occurred in August, a 
little time after the arrival here, and the first death was 
also in his family — that of his little 6-year-old daughter, 
which took place the same summer, and who was buried 
on the hill, not far from the present central school grounds, 
on the I. H. Thayer property. There were four men of 
the original colony who always made Ionia their home — 
Samuel Dexter, Erastus Yeomans, Oliver Arnold and W. B. 

Oliver Arnold was the pioneer mechanic and foundry- 
man, and chose for his home a spot across the river, at the 
foot of the hills immediately south of Ionia, where has 
grown up quite a burg, called South Ionia. There he took 
advantage of the water power furnished by a creek flow- 
ing down from among the hills, and established a growing 
business, which is still conducted by his grandson. 

Erastus Yeomans lived nearly all his long life of over 
90 years on the land he located in Easton, very near Ionia. 
He was appointed first postmaster of Ionia county, receiv- 
ing the appointment under President Jackson, which posi- 
tion he held for six years. In 1841 he was elected asso- 
ciate judge of the county, serving in that capacity for eight 
years. He was always "Judge" Yeomans after that, and 
lived a highly honored and respected life. In his latter 
years he lived in his large home in the west end of Ionia, 
which still stands. 

Dr. W. B. Lincoln was Ionia county's first physician, and 
had his hands full from the start, being called from every- 
where, over a large territory, rapidly filling with settlers. 
He had a large practice for years, extending from Grand 
Rapids, 40 miles west of Ionia, to about an equal distance in 
other directions. He was also first school teacher. Mr. 
Dexter hiring him to teach the children of the community 
at his home, and old letters from these children speak of 
him as "having a most gentle and fine influence over the 
young people, looking well after their language." He also 
built the first frame house in Ionia, erected in 1834, still 
doing duty as part of Dr. Allen's residence. 

He was the first township clerk, chosen at the meeting 
authorized by the legislative council, to be held on Monday, 
April 6, 1835, at the home of Antoine Campau & Co., pur- 
chasers, a short time before, of the business of Louis Gene- 
veaux, the fur trader. He was also the first bridegroom of 
the community, his marriage to Cinthy, daughter of Oliver 
Arnold, taking place at the residence of the bride's father, 
on Sunday, July 5, 1835, 'Squire' Dexter performing the 
ceremony. They lived a long and happy life together, hav- 
ing three daughters, one of whom, Mrs. Dr. H. B. Barnes, 
has always resided in Ionia. 

Samuel Dexter always busied himself in doing all that 
he could to better the condition of the new community, in 
which he was so interested. The corn, that matured the 
first summer, was at first pounded in a mortar dug out by 
the Indians in a hollow stump, but Mr. Dexter went to De- 
troit and brought back a large coffee mill, having a handle 
on each side, by which two men could grind corn, making 
meal instead of the course samp produced by the "stump" 
process. That winter all the new settlers around, so rapidly 
coming into this new country, used this mill, coming from 
Lyons and as far away as Portland. In September, follow- 
ing the colony's arrival in May — Mr. Dexter (according to 

a letter written by his daughter, Prudence, many years ago) 
built a sawmill, on the plat of ground just west of the arm- 
ory, now called Dexter park, that was at least the second 
mill built in Ionia county, though history is not very defi- 
nite about that. H. V. Libhardt (father of Mrs. H. R. 
Wager, of Ionia and Washington, D. C.) came with his 
family in July, 1833, to settle at Lyons, and soon built 

a little sawmill which might have been the first. Mr. Dex- 
ter used the waterpower from the creek, crossing Main 
street at Dexter street, it being carried to the mill in an 
overhead race, a big wooden trough up on stilts as high 
as the second story windows, a splendid slippery place 
where his grandchildren used to have gay times wading up 
in the air. The next year (according to the letter) Mr. 
Dexter put into the sawmill a small run of stone that 
ground the first wheat raised in Ionia county. The first 
grist belonged to Asa Spencer, and that hour was a joyful 
one for the settlement, as the people had occasionally been 
compelled to go to Pontiac for flour, sometimes making the 
journey on foot owing to bad roads, and a relief from such 
a condition must have been a very welcome one. 

Mr. Dexter was exceedingly generous in the use of his 
money and lands. He gave land to the Baptist society to 
build a church on which the present edifice stands. Also 
the west part of the present court house grounds to the 
county for a court house site, and lots in Ionia to any one 
who would build a house thereon, and many of its later 
wealthy citizens got a start in this way. 

He was entrusted largely with the affairs of the grow- 
ing community. A land office was early established in 
Ionia and once, when Mr. Dexter carried the funds to De- 
troit for deposit, he had an unfortunate experience. He 
was at that time accompanied by his son-in-law, Jonathan 
Tibbitts. The money, $200,000 and over, was placed in 
kegs and was carried by ox teams. The teams waded and 
swam Grand river — the wagons and money kegs were car- 
ried across in canoes by Indians and one canoe loaded with 
kegs tipped over in the river, but after much difficulty the 
heavy kegs were finally recovered. 

He was ever a miller, and from his little sawmill finally 
evolved the large Novelty mills, that a few years ago, burn- 
ed down, now replaced by Dexter park and the large state 
armory, in excavating for which one of the old grinding 
stones was found. 

As has been stated before Mr. Dexter brought nine child- 
ren with him from the east, and one daughter was born after 
they came here — but very few of his descendants live here 
now. His daughter Celia, married Alonzo Sessions, at one 
time lieutenant-governor of Michigan, and their youngest 
daughter is the wife of Major Arthur P. Loomis, formerly 
private secretary to Governor Warner. They live in their 
fine farm home, a short distance over the hill from South 
Ionia, and Mrs. Loomis is the nearest kin to Mr. Dexter left 

He was a short stout gentleman of genial, kindly disposi- 
tion, very fond of his family. He was a strong Baptist, and 
deacon of the church, but in his later years, be- 
came interested in spiritualism, and after going by team, 
down into Ohio, to witness psychic phenomenon, became 
convinced of the truths of the spirits return after death. 

He died in Ionia, in August, 1856, in his 69th year, at 
the home occupied by him for many years, across the street 
from his mill, his gardens being on the northeast corner of 
Dexter and Main streets, and was buried in Oak Hill ceme- 
tery, a beautiful spot, overlooking the little city he found- 

The month of November, 1833, saw a welcome addition 
to the colony, in the coming of Alfred Cornell and family — 
numbering 12 persons — from Madison county, N. Y. — Their 
trip from Detroit taking two weeks. Willing hands turn- 
ed in to build a house for them, and though bed quilts and 
blankets had to do duty for doors and windows, the house 
was no less a home. Mr. Cornell was afterwards chaplain 
at the Michigan reformatory and in 1876 wrote the follow- 
ing words of those early days: 

"You may naturally say, they must have suffered very 
great privation, and endured very great sufferings. Not at 
all, my friends, not at all. Thank you for your kindly sym- 
pathy, but know this — there are none of the pioneer set- 
tlers now living, who do not look back with pleasure — even 
desire — to the days when an untrodden wilderness sur- 
rounded them; when the nearest settlement was 100 miles 
away. The memories of those days are full of the sweet- 
ness of real life, virtuous and noble aspirations. Never be- 
fore did husband and wife so realize their oneness, never 
the family union so complete and perfect, or neighbors 
live in such joyful fellowship. The circumstances and sur- 
roundings were favorable for the development of the noblest 

qualities — to the stirring up of generous impulses, awak- 
ening of the kindlier feelings that insure mutual sympathy 
and help. They were like the returned days of man's primi- 
tive virtue and innocence. Helping others, they helped 
themselves; seeking to make others happy, they increased 
their own happiness. Everything was to be done, and they 
rejoiced in the doing of it. Every new acre of improvement 
produced joy. Every fruit tree planted was watched over 
with ever-increasing interest, as the family estimated the 
time when it would yield them its ripened fruit. Every 
new building marked an advance in civilization and all 
were jubilant. No man, who has come in the possession of 
the paternal patrimony, with the lands all cultivated, build- 
ings all made, fruit trees in bearing condition, can have a 
just appreciation of the vitalizing power and life-giving 
energy embodied in pioneer life, or the abiding pleasure 
with which the early pioneer looks back to the days and 
doings, when the wilderness was made to bud and blossom 
as the rose." 

People often wonder how the town came to be named 
Ionia. Many thinking it should have been named Dexter, 
and state history has this to say: 

"The name given to the territory embraced within the 
limits of the county, by the fourth legislative council of the 
territory of Michigan, which convened at Detroit, January 
4, 1831, was suggested, doubtless by some member of that 
body familiar with ancient history." After the settlement be- 
came the county seat in 1835 or 1836, people called it 
"Ionia county seat" for a long-time, until it finally be- 
came simply "Ionia." 

Ionia, in ancient geography, was a country on the west- 
ern coast of Asia Minor, and was named after the Ionians, 
who returned from Attica to these shores, from which they 
had previously emigrated to European Greece, and found- 
ed there 12 cities for themselves, and drove the old inhabi- 
tants out of their seats. (How closely our modern Ionians 
followed their ancient namesake, when they drove the Otta- 
was from their cornfields and hunting grounds. Though Ion- 
ia never possessed great political power, the commerce of its 
cities extended to the shores of the Black Sea, as well as to 
the coasts of the Mediterranean. Ionia was the cradle of 
Greek epic and elegaic poetry, history, philosophy, medicine 
and other science. It developed a new style of architecture, 


and it was the birth place of several celebrated painters." 
Ionia, Mich., has the rare distinction of bearing a name 
that has only five letters and yet has four syllables. 

Children Show How Ionia was Settled 

(From Grand Rapids Press, May 28, 1913.) 
In honor of the eightieth anniversary of the settlement 
of Ionia by Samuel Dexter and his little band of pioneers 
more than one hundred school children depicted those stir- 
ring scenes of history with song, dialogue and pantomime. 

All roads led to the Union school grounds where the 
crowning feature of the Founders' week celebration took 
place. For years and years Ionia has celebrated Founders' 
week. It has come to be a sort of homecoming period and 
from time to time special celebrations have taken place. 
The eightieth anniversary of the coming of Dexter however, 
was deemed worthy of a more than ordinary recognition and 
teachers and pupils voluntarily assumed the burden for the 
production of a suitable folk festival. 

For weeks the children and teachers had been prepar- 
ing and rehearsing for this tableau and the affair went 
through without a hitch. In every detail it was true to 
history, even to the costumes and stage furnishings, most 
of which were from eighty to one hundred years old. 

The festival was divided into six scenes, the idea being 
to give glimpses of various periods and phases of Ionia's 
early history. After a preliminary scene covering part of 
the Indian history prior to the coming of the whites, the 
caravan of Samuel Dexter came upon the stage and there 

followed a reproduction of the greeting between Dexter 
and the Indians he was forced to dispossess. To add to 
the historical value of this scene John Loomis, son of Maj. 
A. P. Loomis and a great-grandson of the original Samuel 
Dexter, took the part of the sturdy old pioneer settler. Wil- 
liam Arnold, great-grandson of Oliver Arnold, another of 
the original party, also had a place in the tableau. 

Given on School Lawn 

The festival was staged on the broad expanse of lawn, 
at the Union school. Scene one opened upon a typical early 
Indian village with four wigwams. Forty children took part 
in this scene which covers the conquest of the Sauk Indians 
by the Chippewas and Ojibways. The scene showed the 

attack of the braves of the two offensive tribes and the 
stubborn but futile defense of the Sauks who were driven 
from the field. 

In the second scene the trading post era was depicted. 
Here was represented the trading post of Louis Genereaux 
between Ionia and Lyons and the Indians were shown ap- 
proaching the French trader's cabin and bartering skins 
and products of the hunt and chase for trinkets, blankets, 
etc. These two scenes were preliminary. 

In the third scene the coming of the whites was graphi- 
cally shown. The same costumes were worn, even 
the same type of cart was used and a yoke of oxen 
was obtained to make the scene perfect. This scene really 
was an extenuation of the one before. The Indians were 
gathered about their village when the cry was raised that 
the whites were coming. The caravan was seen approaching 
and there was great excitement. An interpreter came on 
ahead after halting the main body and engaged in conver- 
sation with the chief. The interpreter then brought Dexter 
forward for a conference and in pantomime, Dexter explain- 
ed he had bought all the land and must ask the reds to 
move. They demurred somewhat, but on payment of $25 
in silver for the crops planted and the wigwams, they agreed 
to leave. 

The Indians departed and there followed a scene of the 
early settlement when the whites lived in the huts of the 
departed Indians. Here the girls showed how the pioneers 
churned and spun. One rocked a baby in one of the 100- 
year-old cradles. The boys played checkers. 

District School Features. 

The big hit of the day was the pioneer district school. 
Twenty-five children took part in this tableau. It had been 
carefully studied and rehearsed and easily was the most 
popular of the scenes. Charles Jack, one of the pupils in 
the Union school, was teacher and the pupils carried out 
in detail the methods in the earliest schools of this district. 
The old-fashioned method of spelling and pronouncing by 
syllable was carried out. The old slate was used. There 
was the spelling class. The multiplication tables were giv- 
en in song and there wasn't a detail missing. Every scene 
won rounds of applause, but this was received with almost 
riotous enthusiasm. 

The sixth and last scene showed the fourth of July cele- 
bration in Ionia eighty years ago. The street parade was 
reproduced in costume, with a fife and drum corps. There 
was a typical stump speech of the times and the finish 
showed the old noise-making stunt of "shooting the anvils." 
In that day the pioneers bored holes in the anvils and load- 
ed them with powder. They fired them and got a regular 
cannon report. The scene, however, did not include the 

The finale was a real old Virginia reel to the tune of 
"The Irish Washerwoman." 

One of the prettiest little details of the festival was the 
singing of Pioneer Joel Guild's famous song, "I'm Off for 
Michigania," by a sextet of eighth grade girls. 

Teachers Made Day a Success. 

Teachers and pupils have co-operated in making this uni- 
que celebration the universal success it has proved. Miss 
Marjorie Streeter, principal of the Union school was general 
stage manager and director and she was ably assisted by her 
crops of teachers, including Misses Ella Hutchins, Erean 
Welsh, Luella Welsh, Margaret Seymore, Martha Knight, 
Stella Bloomer, Gertrude Sommers, Lucy Cull, Helena 
Braun, Dorothea Foess, Isa Nesbitt, Louise Call and Mrs. 
Lucile Briggs. 

In addition to these teachers the director, Mrs. Grace 
Duncan took a leading part in the arrangement and pro- 
duction of the scenes in the tableaux and Miss Edith Wil- 
liams and her class of county normal students also entered 
into the spirit of the occasion and assisted in making it a 
great success. 

The principal address in connection with the festivities 
was delivered by Daniel W. Tower of Grand Rapids, a grand- 
son of Samuel Dexter. 

The scenes accurately portrayed the history of Ionia. 
The story is familiar to all Ionia people and to many in 
other sections of Michigan. Ionia was second only to Lyons 
in the point of early settlement and for years was one of 
the most important villages in the state. It originally was 
the head of navigation on the Grand River and for years 
before the Detroit and Mackinac railway made the steam- 
boat business unprofitable, vessels made regular trips be- 
tween here and Grand Rapids. 

Ionia was named by Samuel Dexter after the settlement 
originally so named on Prairie Creek had failed and been 
abandoned. Dexter simply applied the name to his own 
village. Nathanial Brown had first named the Prairie 
Creek village and had instituted a rivalry with the Dexter 
village. When his sawmill failed, however, the settlement 
rapidly declined and Brown returned to Chicago. Probably 
as an evidence of the success of his people in the rivalry 
for industrial importance Mr. Dexter took the other's name. 
Ionia is of Greek origin and was the name applied to a large 
territory in ancient Greece. 


The following sketch of the life of Alonzo Sessions ap- 
peared in the Ionia Sentinel, Ionia, Mich., July 6th, 1886, 
three days after his death and was from the pen of Gen. 
J. H. Kidd, the editor. 

"Alonzo Sessions was born August 4, 1810, in Marcellus, 
Onondaga County, New York. He was of New England 
stock, his grandfather having lived on a rough farm in the 
state of Connecticut. Amasa, the eldest of eleven children 
was the father of Alonzo. At the age of nineteen he made 
his way on foot to the wilds of central New York where he 
taught school and cleared land, alternately, till he earned 
enough to pay for a farm on the east side of Skaneateles 
lake, where he died in 1838. His wife, Phoebe Smith, was 
a daughter of Job Smith, an officer of the revolutionary 
army. Her brother was sheriff of the county and member 
of the legislature. Alonzo was one of nine children and 
was trained in habits of frugality and industry, and in the 
strictest of religious tenets, his parents being members of 
the Baptist church. Being a diligent student he early ac- 
quired a good education and taught school. In 1831 he 
went to Bennington and engaged as clerk in a store for 
two years, receiving as compensation for his services, board 
and ten dollars a month. In 1833 he left his native state 
for Michigan, traveling from Detroit on foot, most of the 
way, viz Mt. Clemens, Rome and Pontiac to Farmington, 
where he struck the Grand River trail and followed It 
through Shiawassee, Clinton and Ionia counties to the pres- 
ent site of the City of Ionia, where he found five families, 
part of them living in unfinished log cabins, and others in 
Indian wigwams. He then embarked in a batteau to Grand 
Rapids, and thence went on foot, by way of Kalamazoo, to 
White Pigeon where the U. S. land office was and entered 
his land. The next winter he spent in Ohio, teaching school 
in Dayton till 1835, when he bought a team and came 
through his land on the south side of Grand River. The 
journey consumed sixteen days and from Marshall was 
through an unbroken wilderness. He built the first log 
cabin in the township of Berlin and the first bridges across 
the small streams between Ionia and Saranac. In 1837 he 
married Celia, daughter of Samuel Dexter, the pioneer of 
Ionia, and sister of the late John C. Dexter, Stephen F. 
Dexter, now of Evart, Mrs. Don Jones and Mrs. Tibbitts. 
By her he has had 13 children, seven of whom and Mrs. 
Sessions survive him. The farm which at first consisted 

Alonzo Sessions 

Celia Dexter Sessions 

of 360 acres, increased to 800, and though hewn out of the 
wilderness has come to be one of the most valuable in 
Ionia county. Mr. Sessions has been greatly honored by his 
fellow citizens in the matter of official positions. He was 
the first supervisor of Berlin, and chairman of the first 
board of supervisors for Ionia county, and held the office 
at intervals, 18 years in all. He was justice of the peace 
for several years; was sheriff in 18 41-2; member of the 
legislature in the lower house in 1856-58-60; during his 
last term in the legislature he was appointed assessor of in- 
ternal revenue for the Fourth Michigan district and held 
this position four years. In 1872 he was a presidential 
elector on the republican ticket and chosen president of the 
electoral college. In 1876 he was elected lieutanant-gov- 
ernor and re-elected in 1878. When the national banking 
law was passed he, with others, started the First National 
Bank of Ionia, of which he has been a director since its 
foundation, and president since 1866. In politics he was 
a republican. He never united with any religious denomina- 
tion of the church. He was of a stern, unyielding disposi- 
tion, direct and inflexible of purpose himself and intolerant 
of the opinions of those who differed with him. In his 
business relations he was the soul of honor and he had no 
sympathy for the weaknesses, or charity for the failings of 
others, and had a hearty contempt for dishonesty in any of 
its forms. His austere and cold bearing toward others re- 
pelled many who would have liked to be his friends, but if 
he encouraged close intimacy it must have been with a limit- 
ed circle. The rugged virtues of his character commanded 
the respect of his fellow citizens, while he did not win their 
affection like men of a more sympathetic mold and with 
more of the milk of human kindness in their composition. 
Yet, in spite of all this few men have wielded a greater in- 
fluence in the community, or done more to set an example 
of sturdy manhood and honest endeavor than Alonzo Ses- 
sions. He was certainly an exemplar of personal honesty 
and unflagging industry, and viewed from most any light, 
his life must be pronounced a success. 

"If he appeared to take too morose and desponding a 
view of human nature and the motives that govern men, it 
was perhaps because he, in a long life devoted to the study 
and observation of public affairs and political questions, had 
detected so much that was unworthy, selfish and ignoble, 
that his mental vision was obscured to the good that is in 
men. He was inclined to be a pessimist in his measure of 
men's characters and motives. He had a lofty ideal to 

which few can attain and indeed of which he himself fell 
short. But if we could all come as near it taken for all in 
all, as he did, it would be cause for profound thankful- 


The foregoing sketch and analysis of the character of 
Alonzo Sessions was written by one who was neither pro- 
fessedly friendly to him or whose political associates were 
in harmony with the rigid views advocated by Mr. Sessions, 
and yet it is as accurate as anything that could have been 
written by a member of his family. It does not however 
take account of the fact that over fifty years of the life of 
the subject of the sketch was spent in the hard stern school 
of necessity. He was obliged with muscle and brawn to 
hew out a home for himself and his increasing family. His 
indomitable spirit conquered, and he gave each of his child- 
ren opportunities for education and social intercourse with 
their equals that were denied to him. Fitted by nature to 
have stood high in the councils of the nation, his life for 
the most part was spent in the hard grind of manual labor. 
With his wonderful energy and thoroughness it is impos- 
sible to predict what might have been his career had the 
first half of his life been surrounded by more favorable 
conditions. Social intercourse with one's equals or those 
who have had a wider experience is a great educator and 
tends to soften the lines that become too rigid in an atmos- 
phere of isolation. He had rigid views as to economy, but 
he was never mean in money matters and never took advan- 
tage of another's misfortunes. He loaned money to his 
neighbors at regular rates, and on some occasions when he 
had little hope that the loan would be paid. He loved his 
children, but he exacted much because he expected much. 
He was serious minded but nevertheless fond of social in- 
tercourse. Under a serious exterior he had a big heart, for 
he would do much for a friend, and he had many. God 
stamped him a man. While he held aloof from church asso- 
ciations, he respected and admired a good man or woman 
none the less because they were church members. He had 
no patience with cant or lip religion. As one recalls his 
private and public career, not forgetting the stony farm 
where by hard knocks he worked out his livelihood, the 
great wonder is how he did it. 

August, 1913 F. A. SESSIONS. 


Some Recollections of H. C. Sessions, as to His Early Days 
in Ionia County. 

I was born in a log house on the east bank of Stoney 
Creek, Ionia County which was the first house owned and 
occupied by my father and mother. In this log house all 
the cooking was done in a fire-place and the baking in an 
old style oven built on the out side of the house — no stoves 
— no lamps. The well-to-do and thrifty had tallow candles 
for light. 

My recollection of the log house begins about 1848. In 
1849 or 1850 my father built a new house, the main part of 
stone and the wing of the structure was constructed of 
wood. This at the time was the largest and most extensive 
house in the county. It contained two fire-places, one in 
the basement for cooking, and one in the dining room for 
the purpose of heating the house. In connection with the 
fire-place, in the basement and built along side of it, was 
situated a brick oven for baking, where all the bread, pies 
and cakes, (if any) were baked for the family. It may be 
of interest to the young folks of this generation, who in 
order to bake turn on the gas and then think the domestic 
work very hard. 

In those days in order to do the baking the Dutch oven 
had to be filled with wood, and then more wood, until full of 
live coals, and the walls of the oven sufficiently hot to do 
the baking after the coals were removed, which required 
hours of preparation, generally a good half day. All can- 
dles were made by my mother, as well all soap, sugar, vine- 
gar and molasses which was used by the family. 

The yarn for stockings and mittens was spun by hand 
and stockings and mittens knit at home. 

In time the wood stove came in, which was used for cook- 
ing but no oven for baking. Then followed a stove with 
an oven some years later. The next innovation was the 
kerosene lamp. With the advent of the stove and the lamp 
other inventions followed in rapid succession owing to the 
advent of railroads which were constructed in our section 
In 1856 and '57. 

In my younger days before the advent of railroads, the 
hay was cut with a scythe, wheat oats and other small grains 

were cut with a cradle, which was raked and bound by 

In time came mowing machines and rakes hauled by 
horses for handling the hay, also a machine for cutting the 
grain called a dropper. This latter machine would cut the 
grain and the driver would drop it unbound, while men 
would follow up and bind it by hand. These were soon 
superceded by the binder of the day, which was a very crude 
affair compared with the modern machine of today. 

The above mark the differences of conveniences as be- 
tween the early settlers of seventy-five years ago and today. 

Indians were more frequent visitors to my father's house 
than white men, except the immediate neighbors, striking 
awe to my timid heart and I always had the sensation that 
mother rested easier when the Indians moved on. 

The Chief Cobmosa was a frequent visitor to our home, 
he and my father being great friends. I recollect father 
trading to him wheat for a double barreled shot-gun with 
which I used to hunt turkeys and other game. 

1677 to 1913. 

Samuel or Alexander Sessions came to America from Want- 
age, England about 1677 and died in Andover, Mass., 
in 1689. 

Nathaniel Sessions, born in Andover, Mass., in 1680. Moved 
to Pomfort, Conn., 1704 and was one of its first set- 
tlers. Died in 1771. 

Capt. Amasa Sessions, born in Pomfort, Conn., in 1775. 
Died in Pomfort, Conn., in 1799. He was a captain of 
a company in the Old French War with Putman; by 
his wife Hannah Miller had children among them 

Nathaniel Sessions, born June 10th, 1750, died October 5, 
1824 in Union, Conn., his wife Jane Wales was born — 

Amasa Sessions, born June 30, 1770, went to Skaneattles, 
N. Y„ 1798, married three times, was a Baptist, Anti- 
mason and anti-slavery. Among his children by second 
marriage to Lilla Bennett, was 

Alonzo Sessions, born 1810, his wife Celia Dexter Sessions. 
To whom were born — 

Sidney Sessions, (unmarried), member 8th 111. Cavalry, 
killed at Whitehouse Landing 1862. 

John A. Sessions — died in Ionia. Children, Clara, Millie, 
Clyde and Roy Sessions, all living. 

Henry C. Sessions, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Children, 
Alonzo B., Katherine Sessions-Holmes, Jay B., Aileen, 
Hal C, Olive May Sessions, all living. 

Elizabeth Sessions Sheldon, Seattle, Wash. Children, Mary 
Celia, Ellen, Frank, Alice and Edward M., Jr. 

Frank A. Sessions, Reading, Pa., unmarried. 

Carrie M. Sessions Loomis, Ionia, Michigan. Children, 
Mary, John, Arthur and Edward. 

Ralph D. Sessions, Reading, Pa. 


Sir Gregory Dexter, (First American Ancestor), born at 
Olney Northhampton, England in 1610. He afterward re- 
sided in London, England, where he owned a printing 
establishment. In the meantime Roger Williams, the fam- 
ous Puritan that came to the United States with his young 
wife and settled in the vicinity of Boston, but being dis- 
satisfied with the way the Indians were being treated by 
the main body of Puritans, he moved to what is now Rhode 
Island, being followed by a number of adherents, where he 
purchased land of the Indian chiefs and founded the city 
of Providence, and established the first Baptist church. He 
wrote a dictionary of the Indian language, and desiring 
to have it printed he went back to London for that purpose, 
and in this way met Gregory Dexter who printed the dic- 
tionary, a book of about two-thirds the size of an old fash- 
ioned Saunders spelling book, and a copy of which is in the 
possession of the Congressional Library at Washington, D. 
C, one of their very rare specimens. The two men formed 
a very close friendship and Roger Williams persuaded Greg- 
ory Dexter to return with him to the colonies which he 
did in 1644, bringing his printing establishment with him, 
settling in Providence. He was the first accomplished 
printer in America, (Thomas History of Printing, as found 
among manuscript papers of President Stiles of Yale Col- 
lege). He printed the charters of the colonies and is named 
in the second Sir Charles, 11-1663. (This was sent me by 
Miss Flora Dexter of Kenosha, Wisconsin, R. D. 34, and I 
hardly know what it means, but if you wish, you can write 
and ask her). He also printed the first almanac for the 
meridian of Rhode Island. He secured from the King of 
England the charter of the whole state of Rhode Island; 
was one of its foremost men; studied for a preacher, and 
at the death of Roger Williams, succeeded him in the pul- 
pit. He lived to be ninety (90) years of age, and left 
several children and the family is a large and well-known 
one today. 

His son Stephen and his wife were killed by the Indians 
during one of the wars at that time. Gregory Dexter died 
in 1700. 

2nd. His son Stephen married Mary Arnold. Born, 
Providence, R. I., 1647; died, 1676. 

3rd. His son John Dexter married Mary Feild. Born, 

Providence, R I., 1670; died 1734 at Smithfeild, R. I. 

4th. His son John Dexter married Mary Browne. Born, 
1701 Smithfeild; died 1780 at Smithfeild, R. I. 

5th. His son William Dexter married Rhoda Warner. 
Born Smithfeild, R. I., 1728; died . 

6th. His son Samuel Dexter married Candace Winsor or 
Windsor. Born Smithfeild, R. I., 1757; died . 

Candace Winsor was born in 1758 and was a daughter 
of Rev. Eseck Winsor, connected with the Revolutionary 
War as chaplain of a Rhode Island regiment. The Win- 
sor's were noted for their learning and piety, many of 
them becoming ministers of the Baptist church. Candace 
Winsor, was a lineal descendant of Roger Williams, the 
fourth generation from Williams. Her great grandfather, 
Samuel Winsor, having married Mercy, widow of Resolved 
Waterman and daughter of Roger Williams. At the age 
of 75 years Candace Winsor Dexter was a member of the 
colony of 63 people that emigrated from New York in the 
spring of 1833, under the leadership of her son Samuel and 
settled at what is now Ionia, Mich. Here she lived for 
13 years and died at the age of 88 years in 1846 and is 
buried in Ionia, in Oak Hill cemetery. 

Her husband was Samuel Dexter and he also was a 
soldier in the Revolutionary War, being an ensign in Col. 
Lippits, R. I. regiment. They afterward removed to 
Herkimer County, N. Y. They were the parents of thirteen 
children, as follows: 

William, born No. 14, 1778. 

Prudence, born Nov. 2, 1779. 

Ann, born March 10, 1781. 

John, born Jan. 23, 1783. 

Darius Dexter, born Nov. 26, 1784. 

Mercy, born Aug. 19, 1786. 

Samuel, born Dec. 15, 1757. 

Betsey, born Oct. 7, 1791. 

Winsor, born Sept. 1, 1793. 

Otis, born June 3, 1795. 

Warner, born March 15, 1797. 

Geo. Washington, born, Aug. 4, 1798. 

Stephen, born Oct. 19, 1801. 

There has been received by me Items concerning descend- 
ants of six of their sons, making seven of the children of 
whom nothing is known at the present time. Those known 
are: John Darius, Samuel (founder of Ionia), Otis, Geo. 
W. and Stephen. 

John and Darius the fourth and fifth children, as young 
men engaged in the lumber business on the banks of 

Chataqua Lake, N. Y., founding the village of Dexterville, 
which is now a suburb of Jamestown and the stone house 
which Darius built is still standing there. These brother! 
moved further west in 1838 — Darius settling In Pike 
County, Illinois and John settling and locating a large 
farm five miles from the present city of Kenosha, Wiscon- 
sin. Darius has a number of descendants living now In 
Pike County. One daughter, Larnia, married John Baird 
and their daughter Mary, became the wife of William Jen- 
nings Bryan, the famous "Commoner" and present Secre- 
tary of State. One of his sons Harrison by name, was for 
many years in the lumber business in Cincinnatti, when he 
died, and his daughter, the only child, is now a resident of 
Los Angeles, her name being Mrs. McFarlane. Darius Dex- 
ter had another son, Perry, who left many descendants In 
Pike County. Mrs. McFarlane was the only child and 
when Miss Flora Dexter's brother went to Cincinnatti and 
hunted them up after her father's death, said, "She would 
welcome any Dexter relative with open arms, as she had not 
heard her father's name in years." 

Otis, the tenth child, was associated with John and Darius 
at Dexterville, N. Y. for a time, but left and for many 
years was Captain of an Ohio river steamboat. A grand- 
son of Otis Dexter, W. T. Wilson Is living at Logansport, 
Indiana, a man of unusual attainments and of very high 
standards. He graduated from Princeton University In 
1874, later from Columbia Law School and then from a 
Business College in Pittsburg and is now a lawyer and 
banker. He visited the descendants of John near Kenosha 
in September, 1906, accompanied by his daughter Dorothy, 
then aged 15. 

During the month of July just past, a Miss Marsden of 
Yonkers, N. Y., another descendant of Otis Dexter has also 
been visiting the Dexters at Kenosha. 

John and Darius Dexter married sisters, Sophia and Hetty 
Winsor of Providence, Rhode Island. 

John in 1838 located land near Kenosha which is now 
the property of his grandson Walter, now 71 years of age, 
who inherited it from his grandfather, his grandfather hav- 
ing raised him, his only heir. John had only two children, 
Jackson and Louisa. The son died at the age of 29, leav- 
ing a little son Walter who was raised by his grandfather. 
Louisa died at the age of 25 years, leaving no heirs. 

Walter, now living at "Dexter Farm" has six children. 
A married son in Chicago who has three sons, Howard, Wal- 
ter and Robert Dexter; a daughter, Mrs. Courtlandt Dewey 

of Kenosha, who has two daughters, Perdita and Persis. 
Perdita was married last July 19, to Charles A. Pope, whose 
father is head of the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. Her 
new home will not be very far from Mrs. Julia Jones 
Smead. Two daughters, one of whom is Miss Flora Dex- 
ter (very bright and entertaining), and two sons, interested 
in stock raising are with their father. 

John, in 1842 built a large white brick house of seven- 
teen rooms and it was the family's pride to beautify its 
"old fashionedness" but three years ago it caught fire and 
burned to the ground with all its highly treasured relics — 
the only one they saved was an old deed made out by Samuel 
and Candace Dexter with Samuel Dexter, Jr., as one of the 
witnesses and which they had framed. They now have a 
fine modern new house and this deed is their most trea- 
sured possession, hanging in their library. But nothing can 
ever take the place of the old home. (I want to say that 
Miss Flora Dexter had a photo taken of this deed and 
sent to Mrs. Arthur Loomis, her new found cousin, and 
I presume if you would like a copy for the projected book 
you could secure it through her.) 

It was by the big fire place in this old home that the 
present Dexter, then a boy, can remember seeing the four 
brothers standing together. Samuel, Otis and Darius hav- 
ing come on a visit in 18 55 to visit their older brother 
John, all white haired men. That was the year before 
your grandfather died. Miss Flora Dexter wrote me that 
her father had always felt very much alone, many times 
she having heard him say, "It seems strange that I have 
no relatives on the Dexter side, when I consider grand- 
fathers ten brothers, whose descendants must surely be in 
existence somewhere." The first "discovery" came in 1904 
when his son Walter (named for his father) went to Cin- 
cinnatti and found the Dexter lumber business there — 
though its head was dead and found in that way Mrs. Mc- 
Farlane, with whom he is now well acquainted. After- 
ward when Mr. Bryan became so widely known the an- 
cestry of his wife was made public and W. T. Wilson wrote 
to her and as she knew Mrs. McFarlane, all that acquaint- 
ance quickly began. They had never heard of the Ionia 
relatives since the time Samuel visited the old home in 
1855, until I made it known this spring which happened 
in this way: Last year the program committee of the 
Women's Literary Club came to me for suggestions and I 
told them that I thought some recognition of the 80th an- 
niversary of the founding of Ionia would be very appro- 

priate for the last club program preceding May 28th, Ionia's 
80th birthday. When I opened the year book, they had put 
me down for a paper on "The Life of Samuel Dexter." 
I gasped, as I knew then there was very little in local his- 
tories, but I must say it led me into very pleasant paths 
even if they have been arduous ones to follow. I thought 
of course Mrs. Loomis could help me and in January phoned 
to her, when to my astonishment she said she knew scarce- 
ly nothing. After a while I received the genealogy of your 
grandfather's family from Miss Belle Tower of Grand Rap- 
ids also a short letter descriptive of the trip from New York 
of the colonists written by her mother, Prudence Dexter 
Dallas-Tower. In the meantime I wrote to James Tibbitts 
of Washington to see if he could tell me anything of inter- 
est, and after a long time he sent me the family line from 
Gregory Dexter and quite a good deal he had gleaned from 
a visitt made to Herkimer County, N. Y., also from the files 
of the Rhode Island Historical association in Washington, 
where of course you know he is located. A very few days 
after I received his letter, I noticed in a Sunday news- 
paper the fact that Mrs. Bryan was eligible to the D. A. R. 
and traced her ancestry from Gregory Dexter. I thought it 
over a few days and thought quite likely she was eligible to 
the D. A. R., through Samuel Dexter, your great grandfath- 
er. So I write to her, told her how and by whom Ionia 
was settled and what I had on hand and she wrote me a 
kind and lengthy letter, in which she stated that I must 
surely be on the track of her ancestors as they also came 
from Herkimer Co., N. Y., but as her books were at home 
in Lincoln, Neb., she could not tell for sure whether Samuel 
and Darius (her grandfathers) were brothers and so told 
me to be sure and write Miss Flora Dexter who was very 
much interested in the "Dexters" and had all the data, 
which of course I did, and it has been the means of this 
branch of the Dexters becoming known to those branches 
and Mrs. Smead and Mrs. Myra Kidd who have been east 
visiting from Los Angeles have been out to Kenosha, (they 
thought Myra the sweetest thing they ever laid eyes on), 
and have been to Mrs. Smeads; also Dan and Belle Tower 
met them at Mrs. Smeads and they all were going out to 
Kenosha but Daniel Tower was taken sick and had to re- 
turn to Grand Rapids. Much pleasure has come from all 
this to all the members of the family. 

Ionia's celebration was much appreciated and grew in 
enthusiasm. The Club day program, Saturday May 24th, 
was given over to me entirely and proposed holding it in the 

Baptist church as that was the first church established in 
Ionia, Samuel Dexter and his wife being two of its first 
members, also they gave the land where the present church 
now stands. Six of his grandchildren occupied front seats 
besides many other descendants and I surprised them with 
the many things they had known nothing of before. Also 
I presented the large picture of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel Dex- 
ter to the city which a club of ladies did at my instigation. 
Then the next day came the write-up in the Detroit paper to 
give the affair state interest — hundreds of extra copies be- 
ing ordered — and it aroused a great interest along the 
route taken by the colony 80 years ago. Then on Wednes- 
day May 2 8th, the real birthday came — the Historical Pag- 
eant given on the school grounds by 150 to 175 school 
children in six scenes — going far beyond anyone's expecta- 
tions and as the day was ideal, witnessed by hundreds of 
people. Camera men were there also, and "bushels" of 
post card views have been sold. Altogether it proved a beau- 
tiful and educational remembrance for Ionia. In twenty 
years when Grand Rapids and Ionia each will have their 
100th birthday it is already planned to have a joint cele- 
bration as Grand Rapids celebrates June 25th as her birth- 
day — the date Joel Guild, one of the men who came with 
the Dexter colony, but decided soon to remove down there, 
arrived there with his family. 

1 also came into knowledge that George and Stephen, 
the two youngest children out of that family of thirteen, 
came to Ionia county some two years after Samuel, and 
located farms in Easton. They had nineteen children be- 
tween them but all the children are dead but Mrs. Dunham, 
a daughter of Stephen, 80 years old and who this spring 
removed to Ann Arbor to live with her daughter Ida, (Mrs. 
Jachariah York.) 

I received a letter from Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Aldrich, 
who have a farm a little way out of Lake Odessa, in this 
county. Mr. Aldrich being a grandson of Stephen Dexter 
(brother to Samuel), and they were greatly interested in all 
the data. They drove over to the Historical Pagaent but 
did not make themselves known. Have a chest, in good con- 
dition marked "S. Dexter, Grand River Valley via Macki- 
naw, care Rix Robinson, trader, Crockery," which they are 
going to bring to Ionia, to be put in the Historical Room. 

As for Samuel, all that I have learned since I gave the 
address was that Samuel (the founder of Ionia) took the 
contract for building quite a large section of the Erie Can- 
al and that his wife went with him to see to the care of the 

large force of men on the canal boat he purchased. At home 
were his father and mother, Samuel and Candace Dexter, 
as also the children, who were cared for by a relative. Your 
great grandfather, Samuel always held that the Erie Canal 
project would never be a success, but he lived to see it 
finished and rode upon it himself. Samuel Dexter (your 
grandfather) sold the farm in Herkimer County for $12,- 
000.00 in gold and silver which was packed in kegs for 
shipment and then labelled "axes" for safety, and on the 
trip two men of the party always kept watch over them. 

His mother's special pet was her granddaughter "Pru- 
die," (Prudence Dexter Dallas-Tower), whose eyes were so 
weak she never attended school after she was thirteen, 
and on the trip of the colonists out from Detroit, they 
would both sit in one of the wagons and the grandmother 
would hold an umbrella over the child to keep the strong 
sunlight from her. Of course the family during the first 
summer lived in one of the bark wigwams purchased by 
Mr. Dexter from the Indians. In the middle of the earthen 
floor was a pit in which on cool days fires were built, and 
the smoke would not all escape through the hole in the 
roof, and hurt the child's eyes, so she was placed in a cor- 
ner and a blanket stretched across in front of her to pro- 
tect her and then the grandmother would sit outside of 
the blanket and read to her. 

Samuel Dexter married Anna Fargo and they were the 
parents of ten children, all born in New York, except Helen 
the youngest daughter, who afterward became the wife of 
Chauncey Elwood. The only "Dexters" living today to 
carry down the family name in this branch, are: Mr. 
E. L. Dexter of Winters, California and Czar Dexter of 
Eddy, Montana. E. L. Dexter is the grandson of Lorenzo 
and is the father of two daughters and Czar Dexter has 
no children, so the family name becomes extinct in this 
generation. Their children were as follows: 

Lorenzo Dexter, grandson is E. L. Dexter. 

Mary Dexter Tibbitts. 

Celia Dexter Sessions. 

John C. Dexter. 

Prudence Dexter Dallas-Tower. 

Stephen Dexter — son, Czar Dexter. 

Harvey Dexter. 

Emmeline Dexter Jones. 

Riley Dexter. 

Helen Dexter Elwood. 

Samuel Dexter and wife are buried in Oak Hill Ceme- 
tery at Ionia, and on the monument standing in the cen- 
ter of the lot are the following words: 

(On one side): 
"Samuel Dexter who passed to a higher life, Aug. 6, 1865, 
Aged 69." 
(On the opposite side) : 
"Sacred to the memory of Anna Fargo, wife of 
Samuel Dexter." 
(On the front) : 
"Mr. and Mrs. Dexter were the pioneers in the settlement 
of Ionia County — the honored founders of this beau- 
tiful and growing city. It seems most fitting that 
their last resting place should be upon an 
eminence overlooking the grand results 
to which they opened the way." 



(Printed in Providence, R. I., by L. W. Winsor, 1S47; 



In the fifteenth century Lord Edward Windsor, a Roman 
Catholic was beheaded, probably on account of the relig- 
ious troubles cf those times. 

Family records still existing, state that in the reign of 
Henry VII., Winsor Castle with the land about it, was 
presented by the family to the reigning monarch, who 
converted it into a royal castle and residence, and in honor 
of the donor, continued its ancient name. This is the 
present royal residence of the English Kings. 

Under Henry VIII., Robert Windsor, a Roman Catholic 
Knight probably a son or grandson of Lord Edward Wind- 
sor, raised an army against the Protestants. The name 
and arms of the family were left out of the book of her- 
aldry when same was raised, but they were preserved by 
the emigrant, Joshua Winsor who came to America in 
1638, settling in Providence. 

Robert Windsor, above mentioned, had a son Samuel, 
whose son was named John. The latter had a son Sam- 
uel, whose son Joshua was the emigrant who came to 
America before mentioned. He was one of twenty who 
paid the thirty pounds, which had previously been paid 
the Indians by Roger Williams for land purchased when 
Williams was banished from the Massachusetts Colony. 
These twenty persons were admitted by Roger Williams 
as equal sharers with twelve others who had come to Wil- 
liams asylum and therefore became the first settlers after 
Williams in Providence. 

On his arrival in America, Joshua Winsor dropped the 
letter "d" which has been adopted by his posterity. The 
name of his wife is not known. 

He had one son, Samuel, and three daughters, Sarah, 
Susanna and Mary. Samuel married Merry Waterman, the 
widow of Resolved Waterman of Warwick. She being the 
daughter of Roger Williams. 

A later descendant, Candace Winsor, married Samuel 
Dexter, the father of Samuel Dexter, Jr., the founder of 



Son of Alonzo Sessions and Celia Dexter Sessions of 
Ionia, Michigan, was born in the township of Berlin, Ionia 
County, October 7th, 1844. 

I lived on a farm with my parents until eighteen years 
old. Attended district school winters and worked on the 
farm the balance of the time. 

My father had bought a section of land from the gov- 
ernment about 1833, upon which he lived and farmed from 
1835 until his death, and was rated as one of the large 
farmers of the county. 

At the age of sixteen I went to a select school at Ionia, 
walking to school in the morning and home at night, three 
and one-half miles each way, and also did quite a number 
of chores morning and night. My tasks would begin about 
5 A. M. and be over about 7 P. M. 

At the age of eighteen taught a district school in the 
John B. Welch district, four and one-half miles north of 
Ionia for a stipulated sum per month and boarding with the 
patrons of the school. 

When nineteen taught school in the Loomis district, one 
mile south of Ionia. 

In the spring of 1844, being then in my twentieth year, 
I enlisted as a musician in General Custer's Brigade band. 
This brigade was composed at that time of the First, Sixth 
and Seventh Michigan Cavalry regiments, and the First 
Vermont Cavalry. This brigade was commanded by General 
Custer from 1861 to 1864, and by its fighting qualities and 
success in many battles and skirmishes contributed to his 
fame as a general, while his fame shed glory on the troops 
he commanded. I served until mustered out in the fall of 
18 65 at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. 

In the spring of 1864 it was generally supposed the war 
would soon be over, but as history shows some of the hard- 
est fighting of the war was yet in store for the Army of 
the Potomac. The cavalry brigade was a part of General 
Sheridan's cavalry corps, and was with General Grant's 
army about Petersburg and City Point, Virginia, until the 
fall of 1864 when General Sheridan with his cavalry corps 
and two or three corps of infantry was sent into Shenandoah 
valley against General Early, who up to that time had been 
successful over the Union troops sent against him. As is 
well known, Sheridan succeeded in annihilating Early's 
army after some very severe engagements. 

Generals Custer and Sheridan I used to see often when 
on the march. I saw General Grant several times, and Pres- 
ident Lincoln two or three times — the last time when he 
came to City Point to confer with General Grant just before 
the surrender of General Lee. I saw all the great generals 
as they assembled for the grand review at Washington in 
May, 1865, after the close of the war. 

After the grand review our brigade was ordered to Ft. 
Leavenworth, Kansas, to be fitted up for the plains and help 
quell the Indians. I secured a furlough at Ft. Leavenworth, 
and went home but had to return there for my discharge. 

Soon after I went home, being anxious for more educa- 
tion, I went to Lima, N. Y. to school. I spent one and one- 
half years there. Then one year at the Agricultural Col- 
lege at Lansing, Michigan. I was principal of the schools 
at Saranac, Michigan, one year. Then I commenced the 
study of law with the firm of Wells and Morse, at Ionia. 
This was one of the leading law firms of that section, and 
was a good connection for me as I had decided to make the 
law my life profession. 

They were each good lawyers and gave me all the help 
possible. Mr. Wells was afterwards probate judge, and 
later consul to some post in Scotland. Hon. A. B. Morse 
afterwards became a member of the supreme court of the 
sttate of Michigan, and was also consul for the United States 
at Dundee, Scotland. Mr. Morse was an able lawyer and 
an upright jurist. We have been lifelong friends. 

During my time as a law student I was offered the posi- 
tion of deputy county clerk of Ionia county, which I ac- 
cepted and at the end of term was elected to the position of 
clerk and served two terms. In the meantime was admitted 
to the bar, and was married to Fannie L. Bangs, the mother 
of Alonzo Bangs Sessions, Mrs. Katharine Holmes and Jay 
Bagley Sessions. 

Alonzo B. and Jay B. served through the Spanish War 
and Filipino Insurrection of 1898 and 1899 with the First 
South Dakota Infantry, U. S. V. Alonzo B. commanded 
Company B of Sioux Falls, and was in the service from 
April 25th, 1898 to October 5, 1899. Jay B. went out as 
musician of Company B, transferred to Company D and was 
made a corporal, later assigned to duty with the regimental 
band as drum major. When the regiment left the Philip- 
pines he re-enlisted with the 37th U. S. volunteers, and 
remained on the islands until 19 01. Both took part in many 
engagements with the Filipinos, and acquitted themselves 
with credit. 

Fannie L. Bangs was the daughter of Francis L. Bangs, 
a Methodist minister and a close relative of Nathan B. 
Bangs, one of the founders of the Methodist Book con- 
cern. Her mother's maiden name was Webb. She was a 
sister of Dr. Fred Bangs of San Jose, California, and A. V. 
Bangs of the same place. 

I practiced law in Ionia for about ten years, when I 
moved to South Dakota, settled at Groton and organized 
the Farmers' Bank. I moved from there to Columbia a 
year later and organized the First National Bank of Colum- 
bia and became its president. 

Columbia was then the county seat of Brown county. In 
time we found the taxes so high that we decided to sur- 
render the charter and organize a private bank. This we 
did, and then came the dry years and the panic of '93. We 
borrowed $10,000.00 and paid off our depositors and quit 
the business with all my property pledged for the money 

It was while at Columbia and before the financial mis- 
fortunes that overtook me as a result of the dry years, 
that my beloved wife Fannie L. died and was buried in the 
cemetery at that place. 

The family moved from Columbia to Aberdeen and for a 
time I was associated with Henry Williams in publishing 
the Aberdeen Daily News. 

On December 6, 1892 was married to Margaret M. Lower 
of Osage, Iowa who is the youngest daughter of Charles 
B. Lower and Mary B. Lower, late of Osage, Iowa, both 
now deceased. Mrs. Sessions' sisters are Mrs. Addie Roberts 
of Plankinton, S. D., now deceased; Mrs. Nettie McKenna of 
Osage, Iowa.; Mrs. Benjamin Richardson of Wordsley, Eng- 
land; Mrs. E. B. Farnham of Charles City, Iowa. 

The children of this union are Aileen Sessions, Hal C. 
Sessions, Jr., and Mary Olive Sessions, all are living. Aileen 
and Hal were born at Aberdeen and Mary Olive in Sioux 

In 1897 the family moved from Aberdeen to Sioux Falls, 
where it has since resided, and where all my children are 
living except Mrs. Katharine Sessions Holmes of Verdon, 
South Dakota. 



^ MAY. 65