Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA
Tri-Counties Genealogy & History by Joyce M. Tice
Diaries & Letters of the Tri-Counties
1838 John Renwick to Asa Gillett of South Creek
Letters: John Renwick to Asa Gillett
Township: South Creek Township, Bradford County PA
Year: 1838
Transcribed & Submitted by  Jim Brown
Formatted & Published by Joyce M. Tice
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Angelica (N.Y.) 27th Dec 1838

Dear Brother,

I have had it in mind to write to you for this six months past, but for no particular reason I have neglected it until this time which I am from duty compelled to write. I was in hope you would have written. I suppose you are excusable from the same neglect from which I plead guilty.

I have just received a letter from my brother George of Michigan, gives the unexpected intelligence of the death of Father Gillett, he is no more. He died, my brother informed me, on the 26th November last. He was sick but a very short time. Supposed to have died with the gravel, which he was subject. This disease was very malignant until a few hours before he expired. Then the pain had left him, and he remained in that situation until his last.

I left him in June last for the west and returned in August. This is the second time I have been to that County since I was at your place. I saw the old man when I was in Michigan last summer. He lived in Clinton Village and appeared to be in very good health at that time. I was with him several days. He lived about 2 miles from my brothers. He had a very good garden and well cultivated which was his principle employ. He then informed me he intended to start for Connitticut (Connecticut) in Oct & would come this way which providence has thought proper to direct otherwise. George says he has wrote to W. Baldwin in Connitticut and have me to inform you and W. Coe of Fathers death. W. Coe - I do not know where he resides and so far as getting intelligence to him, I will leave that to you if you know where he lives.

While I am writing I must give you history of my doings in Michigan. I went there in 1837 on a business expedition. I was very much pleased with the country, but my time being limited; I was under the necessity of returning before I was satisfied. In June 1838, I arranged my affairs so to leave for one year to look at that Country and if possible suit myself & make a purchase of a farm. Which I at last found the place and made a purchase of 80 acres of land at $10.00 per acre. My land is located in Jackson County about 80 miles from Detroit City. The Country is very rough and good water. I am 3 miles from the Country Site, a quite a large Village & public buildings erected 2 miles from the rail road from Detroit to St. Josephs which will be completed to my place from Detroit this next summer. I am one mile from two saw mills, one and a half miles from a good stone quarry and lime bed which is over in that State one mile from the Grand River which a very beautiful River 2 ½ miles from the location of the State Prison. That work is well under way. Cost $8000.00 dollars, and now the prevailing opinion that the Capital of the State will be moved to Jacksonburgh.

My lot is extremely wild. 40 acres bur oak plain & only five or six trees on the 40 acres. The balance is well covered with white oak, yellow oak, and black walnut and some butternut, well watered and a stage road through the lot. School house within ½ mile and the County, well settled about it. It was a part of a school section and came in to market when I was there. I had my choice of the 640 acres. I am now making some improvements and when that is done to my satisfaction, I intend moving to that County. Say if I live in this Course of 2 or three years.

I have had a hard new year since I saw you and in fact I have not got through of my troubles yet but I think I will compromise with my creditors in New York this winter. We are trying to do so. If I can compromise with them as we now understand each other I will be at liberty to go at something in the spring. I am pritty well used up but I believe I have enough as yet.

Leamen Collier has moved from Michigan and now lives in Delaware County, Ohio. From information he is about the same. Not one word have heard from Connitticut (Connecticut) since I saw you.

I don’t know but I will have to go to New York (City) this winter to arrange my business. If I should, I will go by Elmira and will give you a call.

One thing I had almost forgotten. My brother informs me that Father Gillett has got a deed of land on the soldier claim which you and me had some conversation. The number acres he does not mention. The land is located in the State of Arcacasas (Arkensas ?). I am informed it is a good location worth looking for. If that is the case which I expect, it will be hard for you to believe. I will ask you if there are fets (?) what course will be best to take inspecting the matter. Give me your opinion.

We should be very happy could some of you would make us a call this winter but I am inclined to think I shall have to come down again before you come here.

Give our respects to all the family.

Yours Respectfully,

John Renwick

A.B. Please write as soon as this comes to you. Let us know all about matters and things.

Yours

John Renwick
 

Envelope:

Post mark: Angelica, NY Dec 27, 1838

Address: M Asa Gillett Jr.

South Creek

Bradford County, PA


 The John Renwick letter was a mystery until we contacted two authorities.  The first source is our very own Mary-Anne BROWN Wainwright who has been a Michigan resident since 1971, and a retired school teacher.  The second source is Sylvia DENTON Smith who is the Historian for Wellsburg, NY, and a descendant of Asa Gillett, the man who John Renwick wrote his letter to.
 When Mary-Anne read the letter, she was instantly aware of the historical significance to the State of Michigan.  Mary-Anne writes:

 “My husband and I have been reading the letter you sent, and have
several observations - 15 of them to be exact!!!!!  Here they are:
1.     Jackson is a large city and is the county seat of Jackson County which lies east of our county, Calhoun.
2.    The "county site" refers to the City of Jackson.
3.    The railroad spoken of is the old Michigan Central R.R., which was  previously known as the Detroit/St. Joseph R.R.
4.     We assume this man is talking about the area west of the City of  Jackson, as he indicates there were two saw mills and a quarry.  Both the sawmills had to have been erected on a tributary of the Grand River, which runs from west of Jackson into the city of Jackson, where it joins with the Grand River proper.
5.    The quarry is located west of the City of Jackson near the Village of  Parma, which gives its name to a very hard type of rock known as  "Parma sandstone".  In this area is also a road named "Sandstone Road".
6.    The state prison referred to is not the Southern Michigan Prison which  is still operated by the state, and is the largest walled prison in the world.  The one here is the old territorial prison, erected when Michigan  was still a territory, and still stands.  This was used as a prison during  the Civil War.   It is still owned by the Federal Gov't. and is used as an  Army Reserve center.
7.    I would place this farm somewhere between the Village of Parma and
        the City of Jackson.
8.    There were many rumors as to where the state capital should be, but at
       this time the capital was located in the City of Marshall; 13 miles west
       of Albion.  The capital was moved to Lansing due to its central locality.
       Jackson was never considered as a real site by politicians.
9.    The number of acres mentioned were in accordance with the Northwest
       Ordinance of 1785.
10.  The person that moved into Delaware County, Ohio, moved just south
        of the Mi./Ohio state line.
11.   "fets" is short for the word "fetter", which means to place restrictions
        upon.  So, this man is wondering if the land has any kind of
        restrictions,  as something like a deed restriction, etc.
12.  "soldiers claim" - during the Revolutionary War, soldiers were paid by
        being given deeds of land.
13.  Arcansas - the state of Arkansas (Indian term), which was not part of
       Federal territory at that time.  But, during the War of 1812, land also
       was given as a payment, and during this time, Arkansas was part of
       Federal territory due to the Louisiana Purchase.
14.   We have been to Angelica, N.Y.  It is located west of Bath, N.Y., by
        about 40 miles, along I 86.
15.   Clinton Village is in Lenawee County and is rural in nature.  That
        section of Michigan is rural period.  It is a small community on Rte. 12,
        which runs from Coldwater, Mi. and beyond, but ending in Detroit.

          So, this letter is priceless!!!!!What neat things Alice
has!!!!!And, all part of the Brown family history...no wonder I'm proud to
be a Brown!!!!!”
 

 That took care of the historical part that relates to Michigan, but what about Asa Gillett, the man whom the town of Gillett is named for?  We needed a local expert, and found her in Sylvia DENTON Smith.  Sylvia is the Wellsburg (Town of Ashland) Historian with more then a passing interest in Asa Gillett, as she descends from him.  When we sent her an email hinting at what was in the letter, and asked if she was interested, she calmly replied:

“You're driving me crazy, you know!!!!!!!!!  I can, almost doubtless, hook up my Asa Gillett with your letter,  - AND THAT IS ALL I CAN THINK ABOUT!  I've researched this family for years, but could never write the final chapter on this man...and here you are HOLDING IT IN YOUR HANDS THIS VERY MINUTE.”

Next, just to make this a little more confusing, Sylvia informed me that there was not one, not two, but three Asa Gillett’s!  She explains:

“Early Town Record Book, Litchfield, Ct.:  "Asa Gillet Jr Son to Asa Gillet   Born June 1st 1764" Further down the page: "Asa Son to Asa Gillet and Naomi his wife Born Oct. 16th 1789"

So there were 3 (three) Asa Gillets.  The father I have never gotten back beyond (he's Asa #1)

Asa Gillet Jr, his son born 1764. THIS IS THE MAN WE'RE IDENTIFYING AS THE "FATHER GILLETT" OF YOUR LETTER.  I have a lifetime trail of a sort on him, but could never come up with a for-sure death date, although the place I'm pretty sure of. (he's Asa #2)
Asa Gillett(e) (he's Asa #3)  - the recipient of your letter addressed to 'Asa Gillette Jr, South Creek...and of course, he would have been 'Jr' instead of 'Asa 3rd' because his grandfather would have been dead many years before.  #3 was the early Gillett of Gillett, Pa history.”

 By now, Sylvia and I had exchanged several emails, each of us interested in learning all we could about the letter.  A name in the Renwick letter had caught my eye.  I looked through the scans that had been made of Aunt Alice’s other documents, and there it was, an obituary for Ethlinda M. Coe, died March 3rd, 1903 – Married to Caleb E. Coe in 1853.   You may be wondering who in the world is Ethlinda Coe?  Well, her maiden name was Ethlinda Boughton, and she was the older sister of Alma Boughton, who became Mrs. Alonzo Brown, my Great Grandmother. Could that be a possible connection?  Another quick email to Sylvia, and her reply at 8:24 on Christmas eve:

“BINGO!  GREAT!  CALEB EDGAR, SON OF ORMON/AMANDA COE AND LOIS GILLETT, 1833 - 1911 AND WIFE ETHLINDA M. COE, 1834 - 1903 ARE BURIED IN LOWER GILLETT CEMETERY VERY CLOSE TO ASA #3 AND LAURA GILLETT(E).  CALEB WAS 7TH CHILD OF ORMON/LOIS.  I BELIEVE, IN THE BACK OF MY MIND, CALEB WORKED FOR THE GILLETTS ACCORDING TO ONE CENSUS  - I THINK ASA#3.”

Finally, at 10:20 on Christmas Eve, Sylvia sent this note:

“Isaac and Sarah Gillett Baldwin removed to Westfield Twp. Medina Co., Ohio farm
Last word from here, or I'll be greeting my family in my nightie instead of my Mrs. Claus apron!”

 So each of us took a break from our correspondence, but not for long!  Sylvia had promised to look through her records on Monday.  At 1:41 PM on December 26th, she wrote:

“READY FOR THIS??????????
ASA #2/JR AND NAOMI HAD A FIRST CHILD  - MARY BORN 15 MARCH 1788.  SHE MARRIED GEORGE RENWICK.......JOHN RENWICK'S BROTHER WHO LIVED IN MICHIGAN???????
#2/NAOMI'S SECOND CHILD WAS ASA #3/PA.   BORN 16 OCTOBER 1789
#3/NAOMI'S THIRD CHILD WAS NAOMI (AFTER HER MOTHER, OF COURSE) BORN 17 JANUARY 1791.....MOTHER NAOMI IS BURIED IN LITCHFIELD WITH NAOMI AND HER HUSBAND.  MOTHER NAOMI DIED 30 JANUARY 1828.  THAT IS WHY ASA #3 WAS LIKELY LIVING ALONE IN MICHIGAN WHEN JOHN RENWICK VISITED HIM; AT LEAST THERE WAS NO MENTION OF FAMILY.
AFTER NAOMI, THE DAUGHTER, I HAVE A BLANK SPACE UNTIL LOIS GILLET, WIFE OF ORMON/AMANDA COE WAS BORN 21 APRIL 1800.
THAT SPACE COULD HAVE BROUGHT 2 TO 3 MORE CHILDREN INTO ASA #3/NAOMI'S FAMILY  - PERHAPS A DAUGHTER WHO LATER MARRIED JOHN RENWICK.  THIS COULD ACCOUNT FOR THE PHRASE 'FATHER GILLET' IN HIS LETTER  - OR IT MIGHT SIMPLY BE A TERM OF RESPECT.
THERE WAS A DAUGHTER TO ASA#3/NAOMI NEXT AFTER THE 2 TO 3 SPACES BORN CA 1803 WHO I HAVE NO MORE INFO ON.
PLUS 3 MORE KIDS - SARAH, JOHN AMOS AND LUCINDA WHICH I THINK FINISHED OUT THE FAMILY”
 Sylvia wasn’t finished though.  At 9:54 PM on the 26th she wrote again:
I THINK I'VE FINISHED MY ASA #2/JR MATERIAL.  MAYBE A BETTER WORD WOULD BE 'EXHAUSTED'.  ANYWAY, THAT'S WHAT I AM!  THERES NO DOUBT ABOUT IT  - I COULD DO A BOOK ON THIS BRANCH OF THE GILLET FAMILY!
 I could certainly sympathize with Sylvia, we had both given our all to discovering everything that was hidden in the letter.  Sylvia finished her email with:
“A COUPLE MORE THINGS TO KIND OF TIE IT UP FOR YOU:  21 JANUARY, 1834 PENSION ROLL ADDRESS CHANGE  -  'THE FOLLOWING ARE HIS REASONS FOR REMOVING FROM THE STASTE OF NEW YORK TO THE TERRITORY OF MICHIGAN  -  HIS CHILDREN HAD PREVIOUSLY PURCHASED LANDS IN MICHIGAN AND HE WAS DESIROUS OF BEING WITH THEM"  THIS WAS SIGNED BY H.N.BALDWIN, JUSTICE OF THE PEACE, LENAWEE CO......THIS VERY LIKELY WAS A MEMBER OF SARAH GILLET BALDWIN'S FAMILY WHICH MEANS THEY WERE IN MICHIGAN BEFORE 1834.......MORE THAN LIKELY IF YOU FOLLOW THROUGH ON THE EARLY CENSUSES YOU WILL ALSO FIND SARAH'S SISTER MARY GILLETT RENWICK THERE ALSO.  (MICHIGAN WAS GRANTED STATEHOOD 26 JANUARY, 1837).”
 How did this great old letter end up in Aunt Alice’s possession?  My guess is that when Asa received the letter asking him to notify “W. Coe of Fathers death. W. Coe - I do not know where he resides and so far as getting intelligence to him, I will leave that to you if you know where he lives.”  Asa simply passed the letter along to the Coe’s who would be his sister and brother in law. The letter was passed down and preserved by their son Caleb and Ethlinda (Boughton) Coe until their death when sister Alma (Boughton) Brown became the owner.  Alma passed it down to her son and daughter-in-law Leroy and Pearl (Lewis) Brown, who passed it down to their daughter – Aunt Alice (Brown) Ballard.
 There is one other interesting connection to all this.  Great Grandpa Alonzo bought his beloved farm way back in 1873 from Moses and Mary Schofield.  The Schofield’s purchased the land from John and Phebe Gillette, son of Asa Gillett, the man to whom the letter was written!

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
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Published On Tri-Counties Site On 02/07/2006 
By Joyce M. Tice
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