Recollections of James Harland Fuller

Published In:
Ypsilanti Gleanings, Spring 2007,
Spring 2007
Original Images:



Author: Jerry F. Gooding

Note: These recollections of James Harland Fuller, of York Township in Washtenaw County, were written in 1902 but are recollections from the 1832 to 1842 period. They were copied from the James Harland Fuller Family History by his granddaughter, Mrs. Jessie Fuller Hoover of Myrtle Point, Oregon. They were sent to Helen Gooding Dell who sent her hand written copy to Charles Elton Gooding. This copy, made by Jerry F. Gooding, has been made as close as possible to the copy of Helen Gooding Dell that Jerry received from his uncle, Charles Elton Gooding. C.E. Gooding is the brother of Jerry Gooding's father.

Page 1: My first recollection was in State of N.Y. Wayne Co. Township of Galen one mile down the river from the village of Clyde on the Auburn & Seneca Falls Road. My father's farm of 100 a. was bound on the West by the hills on the east by the river. The public road ran near the foot of the hill and was on level ground and straight. Those hills ran parallel with the river at our place they were about three quarters of a mile apart with the river and Erie Canal between them. The Canal & river were only a few rods apart. The river was the outlet of Canal and lake and was about such a stream as Raisin of Michigan at Monroe. In 1830 some of our neighbors and relatives sold out and moved to Michigan, York Township. Oscar McClouth to Ohio Thomas Harington Lyman & Calvin Gilmore To Michigan Wm Dillon Wm Fuller. 1832-By that time the township of York was found. In 1832 Levi Fuller (Grandfather of Lucy Dexter Gooding, Father of James H. Fuller) sold out in N.Y. and Moved to Michigan.

Page 2: Their household goods were first put on a canal boat & sent to Buffalo. The Erie Canal ran across the Levi Fuller farm in Wayne Co. N.Y. The horses and wagons were driven by Alva Fuller (Levison) to Buffalo. He was accompanied by John Hailly who went to Mich with the family. At Buffalo the horses and wagon, household & family were first on board a Lake Erie steamer as it was called, for the trip across the Lake to Detroit. The were no roads only blazed trails and it required two days to make the forty miles trip after they landed at Detroit. The first night in York Township was spent with Wm Davis. This farm afterwards belonged to Othniel Gooding. (Our Uncle Othniel)

Found Wom Dillon's wife had died leaving him without a house keeper so we moved in with him tell my father found land & built a house. This farm became the property of Oscar Loveland. The time of the year was Oct. 1833 and it was while we were living in that place that the most noted meteor display took place. I was called about 2 o'clock in the morning witness. It really looked as if the stars were falling

Page 3: to earth by the thousands. As I remember Washtenaw Co. at the time of 1833 it was mostly a heavenly timbered country. Very free from stone, well watered supplied with an abundance of the best building timber I have ever seen. Oak of various kinds, white woods, cotton wood, bass wood, ash, black walnuts, butter nut, beach, sugar maple, hickory, soft maple, elm and sycamore. Where we settled very level, just a gradual decent to the Lake at Monroe 25 miles away, without a hill ten ft. high in the whole distance. My father finally secured 480 a.of land. One quarter section upon which to build, had a living stream of water flowing across it. That little stream is flowing yet (1902) and so small that anyone can step across it any where. Wm. Dillon house was made of hewed logs, two stories high, with brick chimney. Two tight floors & two fire places one on each floor. The lower floor had two bedrooms partitioned off, with a stair way in the corner by the chimney. I think its size was about 20 × 28 feet. There were times when there were twenty of us to eat, sleep & work but

Page 4: Several of us were to young to do much work. While the men were selecting and buying land the boys put in 10 a. of wheat, five on Oscar McLouths, five on Mr. Dillons land and it made a good crop. Wm. Dexter went to work for Mr. Richards and the boys got some potatoes to dig on a share forever tenth. It took two or three weeks to get land bought and goods moved. Then the horses were traded for cattle and all turned in to build a house for Thomas Dexter and for our folks. My fathers built a double log house. The sills were 50 ft. long with two cribs twenty feet square with a 10 ft. hall between them. We finished off one room and moved in with a open fire place & stick chimney.

We had lots of wood the more we burned the better. The country seemed strange to us boys for it was all woods. No roads except what we had made in building our own house stood at the end of that. But was soon made a track down the brook to some neighbors,

Page 5: three quarters of a mile away, who had moved in from the other way coming from the Monroe-Ypsilanti Road. The track was the only road for years between the settlement & Monroe. There was a saw mill one mile south of Mooreville, and father made a track and hauled a small load of lumber from Herrington's where the Ridge Road now is. It afterwards became the main traveled road from Ridgeway to Ypsilanti long before the Ridge road was laid out. When we went on to our land there was not to exceed one half acre of timber cut. A fire was kept burning constantly, tree were cut & piled so that by spring we had quite a garden. Partly clear 10 a. chopped down trunks piled & trunks cut suitable lengths for rolling into heaps. It was a cold winter with very little snow. In Feb. 1834 we had to make trough & tap the sugar trees. Bro. Levi & I had to gather sap & tend the boiling. The trough being green wood were very heavy and many held as much as 4 gallons of sap. We used neck yokes and buckets each carrying two buckets. For a boy not thirteen to take such trough when full and pour into a bucket without spilling. Then take two buckets full and carry through the brush 30 or 40 rods empty into a large stone trough was

Page 6: certainly a mighty task. But we lived through it & succeeded in making 3 to 400 lbs of good dry maple sugar and it helped us to a great many good meals. The first full winter we were in Mich. 1833 the people organized a school district and built what was known as the Tamarack School for the school was built of tamarack logs. But it had glass windows, course sawed lumber floors and crude benches & writing desks and was heated by a Box stove. We did not go to school much that winter as it was a mile and three quarters from our place, not path only marked trees and the woods full of wild animals. Mason Blakeman & wife stayed with Mr. Dillon after we moved. Mason did shoe making for a year or more for the settlers. Thos. Dexter moved into his house a few days before we moved. Wm. Fuller bought 80 a. of land just east of Thos. Dexter and he chopped five a. that winter. So that was the beginning made to open up farmers so near each other that the sound of axes & falling trees could be heard by each farmer as the great trees came down on the frozen ground those cold still days. The fourth farm was the Loveridge Place. Buxton lives there now.

Page 7: No one lived south closer than where Milan is now. There was one house a Mr. Marvin and some settlers along the river Saline but no communication with them for several years. There is one thing worth mentioning which the settlers soon learned and what was the pleasure and necessity of mutual dependence. It was the absolute necessary that people should turn out for a house raising. When father got ready it was known for several miles and men with axes came through the woods and by following the section lines found the location. Some came from four or five miles. This afforded an excellent opportunity to get acquainted. There seemed to be general rejoicing that a settlement of such magnitude was being made in the very heard of the heaviest timber. My father at that time (Levi Fuller) was a fine appearing plain, frank man who made friends with nearly everybody. He had a family of 10 children. Two daughters already married. Besides his own children Levi Fuller raised 4 Dexter boys whose father died at there place in N.Y. State. He promised to look out for the boys and he did. Two Dexter boys became his son-in-laws. There were so many new & interesting things to us boys perhaps one of the best worth mentioning were the marks on the trees made by the Indians.

Page 8: We did not know what these pictures meant but it was believed they were designs to convey an account of some hunting or fighting exploit. I remember one design on Section 25 where the figures cut in the birch bark represented in out line the figures of two men in deadly conflict. Each had grasped the others by the throat with the left hand; the right hand each was out stretched holding a club in the act of striking. On the opposite side of the tree was the figure of a man with a gun, while in front of him was the figure of what we took to be a Bear. On the south west corner of Section 14 there were trees marked by the surveyors these indicted they had trouble with the Indians. All such marks became guidelines to us when we hunted cows and got practically lost in cloudy weather. It's very disagreeable situation when out in heavy timber to lose one's bearings and was particular tree walnuts, oak, or any kind of shape size was noted in one's mind. The direction of water flowed was a sure guide. There was a large boulder seven or eight ft. through lying on top of the ground, nothing like it nearer than a mile where there was a similar one. In the N.E. part of Section 24 was an oak tree.


“We did not go to school much that winter as it was a mile and three quarters from our place, not path only marked trees and the woods full of wild animals.”

Page 9: Six feet in diameter tall and straight and appeared to be sound. In section 23 there was a white wood tree that I helped chop down a full 6 ft. in diameter it had a small hollow at the butt for a short distance and 60 ft. to the first limb. The first year Mother (Daraxa) worried about us boys a lot, hunting cows. But we had a bell on the lead cow that in ordinary weather could be heard a mile. But if we could find them before dark and start them they never failed to take us home. I never knew a cow to get lost. At the end of the first year we had 13 a. cleared, had raised 4 or 5 a. of corn, some potatoes a patch of oats that were very heavy & I had with one horse and shovel plow dug up 2 or 3 a. & it was sowed to turnips and they were fine. The next winter we cut down the timber so we could see through to Wm. Fullers clearing & to Thos. Dexter's chopping & had cut out the road to Mr. Loveland. That winter we younger boys went to school. So year after year it was chop-log chop-log, Bro. Alva was married in 1835 I think and before I was 16 Utter married, by that time we had a mile cleared along the road. Thos. Dexter had 20 a.

Page 10: Cleared and the farm across from us was cleared to the road. So I suppose there was perhaps 100 a. of improved land in a body which was really quite a hole in the woods. Alva Fuller had cleared 5 a. on his place. Wilcox had began a mill had been built by Woodward on the river where Milan is now. Wm. Fuller sold his place to Mr. Wither's & bought 80 a. further south sold that to Wm. Dexter and went to Wisconsin. During this time Wm. And James Wardle, John Coe the three Hitchcock brothers & Mr. Gilmore who bought out his son Calvin's farm. Calvin bought 40 a. joining Blakeman. Sacket improved the place my brother Thomas Fuller owned after wards. Shay settled near him, Ben Redman settled where Gillett lives now on the Ridge Road. Wm. Moore came in and built the same July we did. David Eaton bought the Elsby's farms where Jerome Gooding widow lives (1902). Aylsworth, Harrington, Caleb, Vernon, Shepard had settled on the road. Matthew Dillon with his 3 boys and 4 girls moved in with Wm. Dillon and stayed I think 2 years. My brother Alva married his oldest daughter Loretta. Matthew Dillon was a cousin of my father's. Her maiden name was Anne Rogers.

Page 11: Matthew afterwards brought land settled in Hillsdale Co. Mr. Wheeler & Othniel Gooding (Uncle) came from N.Y. in 1834. Wheeler bought out Snow. Thayer Hall contracted for a saw mill. Aaron Warren brother in law John Blakeslee came in 1835. About 1836 a log church was built on what has now become a laid out road called The Ridge Road. It was the best route from Ypsilanti to Adrian. It crossed the Saline River at Mooreville. The building of that log meeting house was an important event for the community. It soon became a meeting place of the people for miles around and its whole influence in molding public sentiment will never be known. It was certainly a wild place at the time it was built but the people soon had it checked out. Many came to meeting on foot or rode often on Oxen's. In spring and summer when it was wet weather was common thing to wear old shoes and stocking and for the big girls to go barefoot until they got near church. There they would find a pool of water wash their feet put on clean stockings and their good shoes which had been carried, stuff their old shoes and stockings in a hollow log or stump

Page 12: and go to church as fashionable as need be. By the year 1837 we had nearly 40 a. of good production land cleared. My brothers John and Thomas were large enough to help consequently I was allowed to work out. I worked one month (May) for $10 so I got some clothes. In that fall I worked a month for Mr. Gooding (Uncle Othniel) while they went to the State of New York on a boat. I got nine dollars. In the next January I started to work for Othniel Gooding at $9 a month. Saved enough to myself to buy a suit of good clothes that cost $25. Father had the remainder. During the previous years we had incurred a debt which I felt bound to help repay, so when my time with Gooding was out. Father had taken a job of clearing 10 a. for Parley Phillip's to by paid $120. I was the oldest boy at home and was expected to and did do a large part of the work and did it according to contract. Before the Phillip's job was finished, Father had agreed to clear another 10 a. at the same price which we did.

Page 13: We had been successful raising a good crop of corn, oats, hay, wheat, turnips, and potatoes. Levi and I could each do a man's work, and we cleared 12 a. of the old sugar bush and were feeling pretty good. We had the corn partly harvest and potatoes partly dug. On Saturday night in Oct. I was awakened by my mother's call. About 2 or 3 o'clock and soon roused enough to know the house was on fire. When I started to go down found the stairs on fire and that cut me off. Brother John was sleeping with and we hurried to other end of the house got out the window and found a ladder there which had been in use picking crops. So we were able to get down but to late to save the house. We managed to save the bed, a lot of yarn for weaving and some chairs. When daylight came all the clothes I had were an old pair of pants and the shirt I had worn. No shoes, no hat. To a boy of 18 unable to go anywhere in company for want of clothes things looked bleak. John Dexter gave me pair of shoes and an old hat. The whole family destitute, no dishes or furniture certainly we were objects of pity.

Page 14: One of the greatest losses was my grandmother McClouth (Sarah Pierce McClouth) paper records, dishes her pewter ware the savings of a life time. Her husband's enlistments and discharge papers for service during the Revolutionary War.

Another special sufferer was my sister Annis (Annis Fuller Dexter). She had planned to marry the coming winter and most of her clothes, all her furnishings and weaving were burned and our folks were in no condition to assist her so the wedding was postponed.

This was the fall of 1837 she was married in 1842. It was a terrible blow. Annis and myself were the oldest at home and the case of our problem fell on us. Mother fell and dislocated her shoulder and for a time was helpless. Father was getting old and the load suddenly thrown upon us seemed to over whelm us at times. It effect was to bring Annis and me very close in our sympathy and a tender sister and brother affection was felt stronger than for any other relations, we had. I still think my sister Annis was one of the noblest women I ever knew.

Page 15: Well we had a reason to be thankful. The neighbors came that Tuesday after the fire and with axes and teams in weeks time we had a new house up. Thomas Dexter and Mr. Robinson took their team and went out soliciting and they succeeded in picking up old odds and ends of clothing, bedding, dishes, etc. so that by the time the house was finished we had enough to keep warm. Note: At the time Detroit was a fur trading post the nearest town where supplies could be purchased was Buffalo N.Y. across Lake Erie.

I stop to remark that my Father and Mother never quite recovered from that loss and never again were the same happy couple they had been. Instead they had the appearance of people who had been disenfranchised of their affection. However I stayed at home. Levi and I finished the fall work and during the year cleared the 10 a. for Phillip's as well as cleared and cleaned up about Home. Note: When we consider every article of clothing and bedding was hand spun and woven wool carded by hand it is easily understood how Levi Sr. and Daraxa Fuller felt when the accumulation of years was burned. But they came out of it built up again and lived to a good old age.

Note: Jerry Gooding has researched other sources and has gathered considerable additional information related to these recollections.