Martha’s autobiography provides some factual information about her family as well as a snapshot of what family life was like when she was a little girl. Included in her story is a considerable amount of information from historical books about Overton, PA written by Heverly and others. Since those texts are readily available in a number of places I’ve chosen to not include them here and instead will start with her description of Moses Sherman’s life. I’ve pretty much left the text as written by Martha and made small corrections only for the sake of clarity. This, then, is Martha’s story:
“……Father’s brief personal history.
Moses Benjamin Sherman, born july 6, 1855, Overton, Bradford County, Pennsylvania. Education I think rather limited. His father taught him the blacksmith and wagonmaker trade. Moses ran away from home and came to Michigan when he was a young man. He had an Aunt living at Unionville, Michigan. He was 5 foot – 6 inches tall weight 175 pounds and had good health. He had dark brown hair, brown eyes. He was fond of horses, liked to go fishing and enjoyed smoking. He joined the Masonic Order in 1882 and was a member in good standing at the time of his death December 5, 1942. He never cared for anything religious and was very much afraid of deep water, this may have been caused because that he was nearly drowned when a boy at home. He was slow to anger and generous with anything he had. He made friends easily but never seemed to get lonesome for his relatives until late in life.
Mother’s personal history:
Susan Viola Leach was born December 12th 1859, Arbela Township, Tuscola County, Michigan. Educated in public schools, later learned the milliner trade together (with) dressmaking in Millington, Michigan Height 5 foot – 1 inch, weight around 100 pounds. Good health, a good leader, liked music, fond of flowers, fancy-work etc. She was prim, methodical and somewhat cranky in regard to dirt, disorder and waste. Her linens were spotless, the dishes in her cupboards were stacked in precisely the same way. Her beds were made in the same neat way. Look in any way you would, your eyes would see samples of her handiwork. One of my earliest recollections of mother was watching her make a straw hat. First she soaked the oat straw, then she braided it, then sewed the braids together, then shaping the hat she had an article to be proud of.
Mother was not as generous as father, she was proud and very easily offended. She had snappy black eyes and hair and was very ambitious, always working it seemed. And as a girl was very popular, was full of fun and interested in social affairs, and was a much better manager than father.
Married March 28, 1880 at Caro, Michigan
Martha A. born June 16, 1882 at Unionville, Michigan
William Clay born September 15, 1885, Tuscola
Murray* Bird born July 15, 1888, Arbela Township
* In some records the spelling is “Murry”
Solomon Leach, (my grandfather) was born in the state of New York March 17, 1814, He was married to Harriet Fowler in the state of Ohio, in a few years she died and left him a widower with five sons and one daughter. The five sons all served in the Civil War. He was married the second time to Mary Maynard who died in a few years leaving their two sons. He then married for the third time Mrs. Susan Hoard, a widow with two sons in 1857
Mr. and Mrs. Leach then came to Michigan* and took up a homestead in Arbela township, Tuscola County. To them was born five children The third child Susan was my mother.
*According to marriage records Susan Hoard and Solomon Leach were married in Michigan, not Ohio.
Mr. Leach was a carpenter by trade and today one can still see a barn here and there that was built by him probably in the 1860’s or there-a-bouts.
I am quite certain that if his violin could talk it could tell many interesting things and some amusing tales about the jigs he played on it for the amusements of his family and the surrounding settlers. No doubt it served as an outlet for tired and worried feelings sometimes.
Mr. Leach was a good man, energetic and a leader in the county and was adored by his family and died of old age at his home on January 19, 1892.
Susan Higley, Hoard, Leach, the third wife of Mr. Leach was born in Hamden County Massachusetts on January 3, 1825 She was previously married to Amos Hoard in Ohio June 2, 1844. Amos Hoard was killed by lightening while sitting at the table eating his dinner.
Susan Hoard later married Solomon Leach in 1857, then came to Michigan (see note above). Mrs. Leach was a small sweet woman, very quiet, reserved, even tempered woman, very neat and always saw the pleasant side of life and people She was very fond of flowers and today blooming in a spot near where the old log house stood, stately lilacs stand as a memento to her memory. She was a good mother not only to her own children but to her step children as well and was loved by everyone. She only lived a short while after the new house was built, a stately red brick now owned by her granddaughter. Mrs. Leach died November 8, 1902.
My ancestors on both sides were pioneers living at a time when various neighborhood “bees” provided the source of get-togethers. Do you think the slicing of apples for annual manufacture of apple sauce butter, which they called cider apple sauce a drudgery? Or stringing long strings of apple sections to be used later as dried apples a difficult task? Then the quilting bees in which the needles would ply back and forth throughout the day and then in the evening the young people would gather in, the fiddle would be brought out and young and old would join in dancing the “Virginia Reel.”
It was a lively circle as this my mother spent her girlhood days. Later while working in a millinery shop and learning dressmaking in Millington, Michigan she met Mr. Sherman. It was there that the blacksmith’s son from Pennsylvania met farmer’s daughter, a blacksmith and wagon maker, a milliner and dressmaker – plain people from the “pioneers.” Those people were married March 28, 1880 and lived in Unionville, Michigan.
On June 16, 1882 a baby girl was born to the Sherman’s at Unionville, Michigan, weighing four pounds and do I need to tell you they named her Martha Amelia Samantha Sherman. Why they tacked on so many names I hae never been able to figure out. Well, be that as it may they called her Martha with “little Jake” as a nickname. But the child’s character was to unfold much more to the father’s pattern than that of her mother’s line.
Like most happy childhoods my early years lay back in a long procession of featureless days – here and there I remember patches, sensations, pictures – mother caring for a baby – the blacksmith shop near the house. These are a few of the clearly outlined illuminations which are remembered.
If I seem to talk light-heartedly please do not to think me pert or talkative as I am quite the opposite, quiet and reserved. I recall quite vividly of sliding down one side of the milk-house roof at my grandmothers. You see, the roof on one side was quite near the ground, the other side had quite a drop. This was due to the location as it was built on a side hill. We could climb up one side then slide down the other but unfortunately the milk-house was too near the kitchen. Just would get in a few slides then out would come someone from the kitchen it might be an aunt or it would be my mother then look out Oh: of course we wouldn’t dare to do it again after we were told not too. I think if my memory serves me right my cousin Philo Thompson was the one that kept me company and if I should be wrong, hope he will for-give me.
An incident in my earlier years which I recall quite clearly happened also at my grand-mothers. I was probably five or six years of age. At that time if there was any work out of the ordinary to be done, my mother with her children, my aunt Mary and her son and Aunt Vieva with her children would all go home to help with the work. Well this day I think it was thrashers or it could have been a barn raising I just am not certain. Well the cook stove fell down. Now don’t ask me what was cooking, I don’t know, I only know the stove fell down and as far as I was concerned it was a tragedy. I hope I can describe the stove so that you can get some idea of how it looked. As I recall it, there was four holes on top and there was four tall iron legs and up on one side was an elevated oven. As I try to visualize it, it seems that one leg rested on a brick. Anyhow grand ma got a new stove.
There are many memories. Neither time or distance takes away or lessens the pleasant memories of ones yesterdays. They tell of people and people, no matter how long ago they have gone – Who can tell? The living have become the dead, all their tears and laughter, their joys and heartaches, their hopes and their sorrows have been erased by time. A broken chair, an old cracked dish or perhaps an old faded bed quilt can be a footnote in their story of yesterdays.
From my seventh birthday my memories begin to have a perspective continuity. Up until then I knew little outside my own dooryard, my own amusements, and family, my little world was only made up of a mother, father and two small brothers.
At this time we were living on a farm in Tuscola county near my grandmothers.
When I was a little passed (sic)seven years old I recall starting out on a new adventure. I was about to start school, dressed in a new print dress, my hair hanging in two braids down my back, and of course new shoes on my feet. I started, a small active girl with a round plain round face, large brown eyes, with my pail of lunch and my reader under my arm on a mile and one half walk to school
The only interesting thing I can recall that happened during my first term was that I was called to the front of the room one day to spell the word “celery” for a class of older boys and girls. Do you think I was proud? Of course I was. I began to win scholastic honors early, but let me give you a little hint the only reasons I was able was that for days I had been playing with a “Paines Celery Compound” carton and at that time was quite anxious to learn how to read and spell.
In those days there were no children’s books and a child used common things as play things.
Always from that time there has been something within me, a sort of longing to learn new things or in other words an overpowering desire to study.
In March 1890, my parents began to talk about moving, and they decided that my father would go first taking my oldest brother with him and the rest of the family following later. To me this seemed so sad. It seemed that they were going too far away, overhearing the conversation of people I thought it was a wilderness to which we were going, and I was sad indeed. They did as they had planned and the moment came for my mother, my youngest brother and myself to leave. I think we were all anxious to go but mother. Of course it was not easy for her to go leaving all her people behind. I can remember there was much crying, kissing and tears before we got started I presume it seemed much farther then, due to the difficulty of transportation. After going to Millington with horses and wagon we boarded the train and was soon traveling along with much more speed than before. I had never been on a train before and like all things in life with which we are unfamiliar it terrified me. After riding many hours we approached Gaylord, Michigan. It was shortly after dark when the train stopped at the station We got off the train and was met by my father and brother. To me it all seemed so strange, the buildings were so large, there were so many lights and snow was everywhere.
Thinking back about it now I just had become started in school again when my father said we are moving again. This time however for only a short distance so when what few belongings that we had had been loaded on a wagon we all climbed in and went to Vanderbilt, Michigan to live………”
This is where Martha’s story ends. Sadly, I don’t know just when it was written, but her recollections of times past is interesting, don’t you think?
SOURCE: The autobiography of Martha A Shafer, copy made January 1, 2011. Produced here with permission of Dale H. Leach.
Susan J. Edminster, Granite Falls, Washington, October 23, 2011 All rights reserved