Susan Higley was my husband’s Great-Great-Grandmother. I would like to have known her. Her life was one of adventure and excitement, although sadly there was also tragedy. The family moved west when there were few roads and even fewer comforts, seeing new country as they traveled from Massachusetts to Ohio. Did they travel part of the way by Packet Boat on the Erie Canal or follow one of the Ohio migration trails riding in a wagon pulled by horses or oxen? Maybe they walked part of the way. We can only guess at that part of her story. Susan married and had children when Ohio was just a wild frontier and she experienced the shock of the sudden death of her first husband. Yes, she would have had much to tell us.
Susan was born in Tolland, Hampden County Massachusetts on or about January 3, 1825 to Seth Higley and Lura Goderd, both natives of Simsbury, Connecticut. Seth’s parents were Seth Filer Higley and Naomi Holcombe, Lura’s parents were Abel Goderd and Lydia (unknown). Much has written about these families who were early residents of Simsbury. Susan was one of at least seven children born to Lura and Seth. Alvin and Julia, both born in 1822, Nelson, born in 1824, Susan, born in 1825, Nancy, born in 1829, Milton, born in 1834, and Henry born in 1835.
Adventure was part of Susan’s life from childhood on. When she was about nine years old the family began the migration from Massachusetts to the Northeastern part of Ohio which was once a part of Connecticut and known as the Connecticut Western Reserve or simply the Western Reserve. The Higley’s like many other families from New England, traveled west in the early 1800’s to occupy these lands and start a new life They settled in Auburn Township in Geauga County. Susan’s younger sister Nancy, who was born in 1829, said that she was “brought to Ohio on the day she was four years old.” Since Susan’s brother, Henry was born in Ohio in 1835, we assume the family moved in the 1834-1835 time frame.
On June 2, 1844 in Geauga County Ohio, Susan married Amos Hoard. They became the parents of two sons, and Harvey (or Hervey) E. Hoard born in 1850 and Seth Emry Hoard born in 1854. Family history says Amos was killed by a lightening strike while sitting at the table eating dinner. In that fateful moment Susan became a young widow with two small boys.
At some point between 1854 and 1856, Susan moved to Michigan. The move may have taken place before Amos’ death, as it’s unlikely she would have traveled there without the protection and assistance a husband would provide. Of course if Amos died in Ohio Susan have traveled with her brother Milton.
Susan Hoard married Solomon Leach on December 21, 1856 in Tuscola County, Michigan. She was 32 and a widow; Solomon 42 and a widower when they married. The couple soon began having a family and their first born was Alison Leach, born September 12, 1857. Then came Susan Viola, born December 12, 1859, Mary A., born September 1, 1862, Veiva (Vera), born January 24, 1865, and Ulyses S. (Grant) Leach, born October 18, 1867. In addition to the Leach children, Susan’s sons Harvey and Seth Hoard were part of the family as was young Charles Leach, Solomon’s son.
Solomon had several children from his earlier marriage(s) to Hattie Fowler and Mary Maynard and one of his sons, Enard Leach, lived in Arbela, near Susan and Solomon. The 1870 U.S. Census shows that Harvey Hoard (aka Hervy Hord) lived with Enard and his family at that time working as a farm laborer. Seth remained at home with his Mother Susan and Step-father Solomon.
February of 1875 brought sadness to the Leach household when 24 year old Charles died of Tuberculosis. Charles is buried in Pine Grove Cemetery in Arbela.
There were happy times as well; Harvey married Eliza Richards in 1871 and Seth married Sarah Mead in 1874. Both went on to have families of their own. Several of Solomon’s children also married, and their stories are covered in the Leach section of this website.
Susan again faced sadness when Solomon died in 1892. She went on to live until November 6, 1901 when at the age of 76 she died of stomach cancer. Both Solomon and Susan are buried in Pine Grove Cemetery in Arbela.
During Susan’s lifetime 21 different presidents served their country, from John Quincy Adams to Theodore Roosevelt. Abraham Lincoln became President when Susan was 37 years old and she saw both the start of the Civil War and its end in 1865. She was 41 years old when President Lincoln was assassinated. Other wars during her lifetime included the Texas War for Independence from Mexico, the U.S.-Mexican War, the Crimean War, and The Spanish American War to name a few. The Battle of the Alamo took place when Susan was just 12 years old and the California gold rush took place when she was 24.
Yes, Susan would have had a lot to tell…..
A footnote: Martha Shafer, a granddaughter of Susan Higley remembers her as a small sweet woman who was reserved, even tempered, neat, and who always saw the pleasant side of life.
SOURCE: Johnson, Mary Coffin, The Higley’s and Their Ancestry, an old colonial family, New York, D. Appleton & Co. 1896, 796 pages.
SOURCE: Higley, Leroy E. The First Seven Generations of Higley Descendants, Printed for the Author, 2003
SOURCE: Obituary of Nancy Higley Scudder, sister of Susan Higley. Entered in scrapbook of Susan Leach Sherman, private collection, Susan Edminster.
SOURCE: Michigan, Department of State – Division of Vital Records; Certificate and Record of Death: Susan Leach, Document # 87, December 6, 1901.
SOURCE: Michigan, Tuscola County, 1870 U.S. Census, population schedule, digital image HeritageQuest Online, http://persi.heritagequestonline.com, Accessed 01/27/2008
SOURCE: Index: Marriages, Tuscola County Michigan, Date: December 21, 1856.
SOURCE: History of the Leach Family as Known in 1936. Document privately held by Dale Leach.
SOURCE: Autobiography of Martha A. Shafer (note: granddaughter of Susan Higley). Document privately held by Dale Leach.