Settling in Michigan
Ezra Nahum Roberts
(father of Alpha Madalene Roberts Pratt)
23 September 1862 – 20 August 1930
Born in Kingston, Tuscola, Michigan in 1862, in the middle of the Civil War, my conclusion is that Ezra’s childhood may have been difficult. Like many men of that time, Ezra’s father Alexander, was a farmer who could neither read nor write (as per 1880 census) and his mother Annie kept house. Theirs was a family of 13 children, and Ezra was the 6th child, 3rd son, and the first to be born in Michigan.
The Roberts family moved to Kingston, Michigan from Tillsonburg, Ontario a distance of about 170 miles, sometime between December 1860 when their son John was born in Canada, and September 1862 when Ezra was born.
After 1830, the population of Michigan grew rapidly. Some settlers came to buy inexpensive farm land and others came to join relatives already there. Some came for jobs in the mining and lumbering industries, and some were drawn simply by a sense of adventure. I don’t know what prompted Alexander to move his family, but Tuscola County was very newly settled and perhaps offered promise of a better life. Kingston was established in 1857 when the first house was built, the first town meeting was held in April, 1861, and the first Methodist church was organized in about 1861. At that time the only roads were trails through the woods, much of the time impassable for a team of horses. The Roberts family would have had primitive living conditions as they worked to clear land and establish a farm.
As noted in a previous post, Ezra’s father, Alexander Roberts, served in the Civil War from 1864-1865, so Ezra wouldn’t have had a chance to know his father very well until he was about 4 years old. His father’s absence would have required his older siblings (the oldest sister being about 9) to take on responsibilities that his father left vacant, or that his mother couldn’t handle on her own. We also know from Alexander’s pension application that he was not very healthy upon his return from the war, which no doubt put a strain on the family. Even so young, it’s very possible that Ezra could have had responsibilities for crops or household chores as the whole family would have had to work together as their part of the war effort.
What would you ask Grandpa Ezra about his childhood?