Biography of William H. Harrison



Van Buren County

Online Biographies


Also see [Railway Officials in America 1906]

William Harrison and Wealthy (Cross) Huribut were married Jan. 4, 1816, and were the parents of the following children : William H. (the subject of this sketch), born Aug. 25, 1819; Charles B., born Jan. 15. 1826; George, born June 14, 1828; Joseph, born Dec. 25, 1830 ; and Albert, born Dec. 4, 1842.

William Harrison was a native of the town of Richiand, Oswego Co., N. Y. When he was four years of age his parents removed to St. Hyacinth District, Canada, remaining there about eight years, and it was there that Charles B. and George were born. About 1830 they moved to and made St. Lawrence County their home, where Joseph B. was born; and in 1833 returned to Richland, where Albert was born. After arriving at the age of sixteen, young Huribut, with the consent and blessing of his parents (that being all they had to give him), a cash capital of seventyfive cents in his pocket, and worldly effects to the extent of one shirt tied up in a Cotton handkerchief, left the paternal home to make his fortune. About sunset of the third day, tired and foot-sore, and with but five cents in money left, he found himself a stranger in the pleasant village of Hamilton, N. Y. Here he succeeded in obtaining employment with Samuel Payne, Sr., deacon of the First Baptist Church, and one of the founders of the Baptist Theological Seminary of Hamilton. For nearly five years young Hurlbut remained with the deacon, working for wages summers and doing chores for his board and attending school in the village winters.

In the fall of 1840, with his carefully-hoarded savings in his wallet, his effects packed in one small trunk, and with the fatherly counsel and blessing of the good deacon, he started for the "far West.,” which at that time meant anywhere beyond Lake Erie.

In October, 1840, he arrived in Van Buren Co., Mich. (then an almost unbroken wilderness), with barely money sufficient to enter eighty acres of wild land, which so far had been the height of his boyish ambition.

He located on section 11 of what is now the town of Bangor, but then known as South Haven.

Here Hurlbut pursued a bachelor life, spending his summers mostly in chopping, either on his land or in cutting roads, and teaching district school winters in a neighboring township until 1845, meanwhile having exchanged his eighty acres with improvements for a wild one hundred and sixty acre tract on section 13 of the same township, incurring in the transaction an indebtedness of four hundred dollars.

In May, 1845, he was united in marriage with Fanny, daughter of Robert Christic, of Lawrence, she bravely consenting to settle in the woods, and with her companion to share all the labors and privations of pioneer life; and it is only justice to say that with fortitude and cheerfulness she has borne her full share of the trials and vicissitudes to be encountered in rearing a family on the frontiers of civilization, and in helping to build up a home in the wilderness.

Immediately after marriage Mr. and Mrs. Hurlbut settled down in a hastily constructed board cabin in the woods, erected near where now stands the old homestead, having at that time no neighbor within half a mile, no clearing in sight, and no road, save a blazed sled-track through the woods. Here in earnest commenced the second stage of life’s battle, and it is now the testimony of both that whatever of success has attended their efforts may be credited in no small degree to the firm resolution with which they started out—rigidly adhered to—never to run into debt.

From 1846 to 1861 he was prominently identified with all the public enterprises and improvements introduced into this portion of the county, and officially connected with town and county during that period. He assisted in building the first school-house in Bangor and the first saw-mill, eventually becoming half owner.

In 1850 he was elected register of deeds for Van Buren County, which position he held two years.

His good judgment and sterling integrity had secured him a position high in the estimation of the people, whose voluntary suifrages had throughout this period almost continually kept him employed in some offieial capacity, and in 1868, by a large majority, he was elected to represent his district in the State Legislature. He was re-elected in 1870. This position lie filled with his usual ability and fidelity.

In December, 1861, he removed to South Haven, and in the spring of 1862 erected his present residence, a view of which, together with his old home, appear on another page. Mr. Hurlbut's knowledge of pioneer life is of a practical nature. Besides his Bangor farm of one hundred and sixty acres, he has also cleared one hundred and twenty acres here, on which he has a peach orchard of thirty acres.

Mr. Hurlbut’s family consists of his wife and five children, viz.: Janet, Caroline, Jane, Irene, and Frank, all of whom live in this vicinity.

In polities he was a Democrat up to the organization of the Republican party, when he became identified with it, and so continued until 1876, when he united with the National or Greenback party.

Coming here with but small capital, he has by industry and competent management acquired considerable property, and by his ability and integrity established for himself an enviable reputation; while he has so discharged the duties of the positions of honor and trust that have been bestowed upon him as to merit and receive the confidence and approbation of all.

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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