Biography of Thomas Conklin
Van Buren County, MI Biographies



Van Buren County

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Also see [Railway Officials in America 1906]

Mr. Conklin’s father, David Conklin, was born in the town of North Salem, Westchester Co., N. Y., and was of English descent. He had a family of seventeen children, of whom Thomas Conklin was the eighth.

Thomas Conklin was born in Rutland, Jefferson Co., N. Y., Jan. 2, 1811, on a farm to which his father had removed from Westchester County, and upon which the young man remained until he was of age, attending the district schools and assisting in the care of the place. From his father he never received any money; but when he became of age he was the possessor of ten dollars, which he had saved in small snms, from a cent to a shilling. With this amount of money he started for Rochester, paying eight dollars of it for stage fare. With a portion of what he had left he purchased an axe, and went into the country for the winter. For four successive seasons thereafter he hired Out at the rate of one hundred dollars for eight months’ work. In the early fall of 1836 he emigrated to Michigan, and purchased two hundred and twelve acres of government land in the township of Hartford. The snow soon fell to such a depth that he could not continue his improvements, and he spent the winter in Allegan County. He had been accompanied from Battle Creek to Hartford by his brother, James Conklin, and a cousin named Selleek, they having located previously at Battle Creek. The first night in the woods of Hartford was passed in a shanty made of a few boards and their wagon-box placed against a tree they had cut down. The forest resounded through the night with the howls of wolves. In March, 1837, Mr. Conklin retuned from Allegan County, and, in company with B. A. Olney and James Spinnings, built a log cabin on his place, and agaia began improvements. The three lived in the cabin for some time, Messrs. Olney and Spinnings settling in the neighborhood. When the weather moderated Mr. Conklin built a log house, covered it with boards, and lived in it alone for six weeks, cooking his food beside a burning stump. He cut the timber from six acres of his land, planted some corn and potatoes, and about July 1, 1837, started on his return to New York. In August of the same year he was married, in Jefferson County, to Martha Justina Ely, who was left an orphan when young. She nttended the female seminary at Watertown, and became an excellent teacher. She was an estimable lady, and taught for the benefit of the children, although not always receiving her pay. After coming to Hartford she taught the first school in the township. Mr. and Mrs. Conklin came to Michigan soon after their marriage, and moved into the log house on the first day of October, 1837. The building eontaiued no bedstead, and had neither doors nor windows, but was well roofed. A pole bedstead was constructed, of the fashion well known to pioneers, and the ticks were placed upon it. Mrs. Conklin became the mother of two children, one of whom, a daughter, died in infancy; Luke E., the son, was the first white male child born in the township, his birth occurring Dee. 3, 1838. He is married, has four children, and is a respected citizen of Hartford township. Mrs. Conklin died Dee. 6, 1843, and on her death-bed expressed the wish that her husband should marry Fannie Davison, who had assisted in earing for her during her sickness, and this union was consummated on the 29th of February, 1844. Mrs. Fannie Conklin became the mother of eight children, five of whom died young, and one died when fourteen years old, from the effects of the kick of a horse. Two of them are now living, Charles Podolphus, nineteen years of age, and Miland Chester, in his eighteenth year. Mrs. Conklin was a woman of unusual financial ability, and Mr. Conklin attributes a large measure of his success to hef efforts during the twentythree years they lived together. She was highly respected by all. Her death occurred May 25, 1867. Her flither, George Davison, settled early in Keeler township, and was from near Angehica, Allegany Co., N. Y.

In June, 1867, Mr. Conklin was married to Samantha Kennedy (from whom he was divorced), who bore him three ehildren, T. J. Conklin, Odell Conklin. and Elon Conklin. All are living. May 26, 1879, he entered matrimony a fourth time, leading to the hymeneal altar Sirs. Nellie Poole Jones, divorced wife of Samuel Jones, who was living at Lawrence at the time of her marriage. She is the mother of a daughter, Blanche, by her first husband, and is an estiurable lady. She was well and favorably known in former years as one of Van Buren County’s most successful teachers.

Mr. Conklin aided in building the Methodist church at Hartford village (although not a member). and paid one thousand dollars towards the Chicago and West Michigan Railway. He built a church in the village arid sold it to the Baptist society, and has also erected a brick store building, beside aiding other religious societies. He is a Universalist in belief, and a Douglas Democrat in polities. His nephew, John Conklin, also a native of Jefferson Co., N. Y.. who had been for several years a sailor, was chosen as one of the first crew of the original “ Monitor” during the war of the Rebellion. Mr. Conklin moved upon his present farm, on section 22, in 1868, and is the owner of five hundred acres of land.

History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers.
D. W. Ensign & Co., Philadelphia 1880
Press of J. B. Lippincoff & Co., Philadelphia.

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