Detroit, South Dakota, Kansas, and Clinton County Represented
The Bliss family held a reunion at the M.A.C. Saturday about 150 being present, the greater part of whom lay in Clinton County.

C. F. Ottmar of Riley, [see main section] read the following family history:

David and Samantha Bliss lived in Vermont State and later moved to New York State in the early 40's. The family consisted of Stebbins Clark Bliss, David [Pitney Bliss], Horatio [Simeon Bliss], David Bliss Gravestone Augustus [Lamar Bliss], Henry [William Bliss], Sidney [Jared] Bliss, Lucy [Maria Bliss] Hodges, Sabrina [Hortentia Bliss] Temple, Adeline [Chloe Bliss] Pratt, Elizabeth [Bliss] Osborn and Emila [Bliss], who died in New York State in the spring of 1848. From this point of the family history begins our story as related to me by Uncle Henry Bliss. He said:

In the fall of 1848, father and mother, David, Horatio, Augustas, myself, Sidney, Cyrus and Adeline Pratt, his wife, and Rufus Pratt started for Michigan, and settled on a solder's claim in the Township of Riley, Clinton County. Stebbins came in 1849. Jim and Lucy Hodges came from Wisconsin to Michigan and joined the family in 1849 Elizabeth Osborn remained in New York. Sabrina and Merritt Temple came in 1861.

We took an Erie Canal boat at Schenectady, N.Y., and arrived in Buffalo one week later. The weather was fine and the trip was very slow. The boat was drawn by horses and they walked all the way. We took a steamer from Buffalo to Detroit, Michigan. 

Uncle Clark Griswold, who worked at Northville, Michigan, sent a team of horses and a lumber wagon to Detroit to get us and took us all to his place. It was quite a load. Uncle Clark was Stebbins Clark Bliss husking his corn so we stayed a week with him and helped him finish. He then sent his team and a hired man, and a neighbor with his team and wagons, and took us and what goods we could carry to Riley. The roads were very bad and the traveling was hard. The balance of the goods we left at Uncle Clark's. The next summer we hired Freeman Nichols, who then lived in the second house west of Boughton's Corners, to go to Northville to get the remainder of the goods. We had no money to pay for this, so we agreed to chop and clear a certain of acres of heavily timbered land to pay for this trip. We had to chop down the trees, burn them and fence the fields. We got a lot of experience.  The logs were green elms and hard to burn. This was our first experience in clearing forests. 

Uncle Clark asked Mr. Nichols how we were getting along and he told him that we were hard up, and so he sent along with the goods a whole barrel of pork for us. I tell you that was good. Uncle Clark was certainly a fine man. (Right here let me say that the writer of this article met Uncle Clark at the home of a relative, Uncle Henry, a few years before his sad and sudden death and he can frankly say that he never met a kinder hearted and more pleasing old gentlemen that Uncle Clark Griswold.)  

We settled on the Northwest Quarter of section nine, Riley Township, Clinton County. When we got here we had no money to buy any food with and had nothing to live on. The country was new and wild. Lots of wild animals and game. Where we made our mistake was when we brought no guns with us. None of us were hunters. We could have had lots of game and deer for meat had we had a gun and ammunition. No one had told us about it. We knew nothing about the country that we were going to. Most of our neighbors here were as hard up as we were. Morris Boughton was the only one who had anything to sell and all he had was potatoes. We bought potatoes of him for 25 cents a bushel, and paid for them by Marilla H. Moore Bliss 1st wife of Stebbins Clark Bliss chopping cordwood at 25 cents a cord. We had to have some money so we took road jobs, that is, cut the trees in the road and build causeways of logs through the low places. Competition was strong and we had to bid low to get the job. We also burned logs and gathered the ashes and made black salts and sold it for $2.50 a hundred. And when you got the money you were not sure it was worth anything. It might be worth something today and tomorrow be worthless.

We made a lot of sap troughs out of split logs. The winter was mild and we made sugar nearly all winter. This gave us some money to use and all the sugar we needed for the family. There was no house on the land that we bought, so we moved in with Bill Peck. We had one room and boarded ourselves. Some of us slept on the floor in Bill Peck's house. Just six weeks from the time that we came here we had a house up made of logs and moved into it. It was 20 by 30. We cut a nice white oak and split out shakes for the roof, and plank for the floors, both up and down stairs, all out of this one tree. We had no cow the first winter that we were here. The next summer Horatio and Augustus worked for a big farmer near Portland for $13.00 a month. As soon as they had earned enough they bought a cow of this man that they were working for. They also bought grain and potatoes of him until we could raise some ourselves. That gave us something to live on. They also bought and paid for a yoke of oxen in the fall on 1849. That gave us our first team to work with. We would chop in the winter and clear it of in the summer and sow it to wheat in the fall. The first clearing we did by hand, as we had no team. In that way we cleared a few acres and sowed it to wheat in the fall of 1849. The first wheat we raised we took to DeWitt to mill for flour for our own use. 

David was a good mechanic.  He made bob sleighs out of roots of oak stumps that had the right crook for sleigh runners, ironed them of and we had something to go with.  The first wheat that we sold, Horatio took to Detroit on these sleighs. On his last trip he sold the sleighs.  That gave us more money to make a payment on our place. The first summer that we lived here we rented ten acres of land of Morris Broughton. We planted it to corn and potatoes.  Mr. Broughton let us use his team to do that work and we got half of the crop for our share.

We had six years to pay for the place, so after we had land enough cleared we raised wheat and sold it.  There was no railroad here, and Horatio had to haul it to Detroit. When the railroad was built to Jackson, we hauled it there.  Later the Grand Trunk was built to St. Johns, and then we hauled our stuff to St. Johns and Fowler.  The second year that we raised wheat to sell, there was a wet harvest in the eastern part of the state, so the farmers from there came here and bought our wheat. We got $1.50 a bushel at home. 

While plowing among the stumps, Horatio broke a moldboard to the plow; so he and I walked to Portland and bought one, tied it to a pole, put the pole on our shoulder and carried it home in one day. Another time we walked to Lansing and got some drag teeth. They were 1- inch teeth.  We put them in bags, divided them equal in the bags, slung the bags over our shoulders and carried them home.  We bought them of William Hildreth, who owned the Temple place and operated the foundry in North Lansing.  We paid for them in work.  I recall that Stebbins and I walked to DeWitt and bought some sheet iron for sap pans.  We took along some eggs to pay for some groceries.  We tied the sheet iron and the groceries to a pole and carried them home.  Westphalia was our nearest town and I walked there many times to do our trading. 

Ruben Gunn was a wagon maker.  He lived just east of us. He made our first wagon.  It was made with a wooden axle with a piece of strap iron over the top and bottom of the axle.  We cradled all our grain up to the time of the civil war. We cut our hay with a scythe and raked it by hand.  When the Civil war broke out so many men went to war that help became scarce, so David and I bought a combination reaper and mower.  We went to Ions and bought a revolving rake.  It was a simple affair but it saved lots of work. We paid $110.00 for the first mower.

Father [David Bliss] died in [May 15] 1859, and left mother and I to struggle along.  Then came the Civil war and all the boys responded to the call but (brother) David and I.  Fortunately they all come back alive. Those were trying days.  Mother died with Typhoid Fever in 1863, when all the boys were in the south. Sister Adeline died when Orville (her son) was born in 1861. 

The second year that we were here we got the ague.  This added to our misery. We took lots of quinine.  Brandy and all the salt it would dissolve was the best remedy. Mr. Broughten and Mr. Hill had young orchards in bearing and we got our apples of them.  We used to dry pumpkins for pie.  We would slice the pumpkins in rings, hang them on poles and dry them.  We had a cook stove, elevated ovens, they were good heaters and answered the purpose of heating, cooking and baking.  Philo Peck had an oven that they placed in front of the fireplace and baked with.  The mosquitoes were thick and we had to build smudges in the house to smoke them out.  After awhile we got netting. We let our cattle run in common and had cowbells on them to locate them if they did not come home.  The first winter that we had cattle we kept them on browse winters, as we had no hay.  Cattle did well on it.  These are just a few incidents of early pioneer life.

Here is another incident as related by Jim Warrens:

Stebbins and David Bliss went to St. Johns to mill one day.  In those days we had to go around by way of the Jason schoolhouse.  The land north and east was very low and filled with water, but a road had been cut through and they were building causeway thorough the low land.  Coming home it was late and they concluded to take the short way home.  There war no "Detour" or "Follow the Arrow" signs along the highways.  When they were within a mile and a half of home the horses stopped suddenly.  It was late and very dark.  They got out and examined the cause and found that they were at the end of the causeway not completed.  They could go no further, so they unloaded the grist onto some logs to keep it out of the water, lifted the box off, uncoupled the wagon, turned the wagon around, coupled it up again, put the box on, loaded the grist, hitched the horses back on the wagon, retraced their path and went around, concluding that "the farthest way round was the nearest way home".

Obituary of Henry William Bliss

December 16, 1864 April 18, 1929




Husband Had Lived On Same Farm 80 Years; Both Highly Esteemed

Henry W. Bliss, 94, one of the few remaining early pioneers of Clinton county, a resident upon the same farm in Riley for more that 80 years and a man of exemplary character, respected by all who knew him, passed to his reward at 8:30 P.M.  Thursday, April 18, 1929, at Clinton Memorial hospital where, for the past two weeks, he had been under treatment for pneumonia.  Three hours before his death at 5:30 P.M his [second] wife, Mary Sutton Bliss 86, succumbed at the home of her grandson, Allie Stanton, near Gunnisonville, after being ill several weeks.  She was not aware of her husband's serious condition, nor did he know that she lay at the point of death.

Double funeral services were conducted by Dr. Julia M. Walton of Jackson at the Osgood Funeral Home at 2 p.m. Sunday.  Burial was made at the Broughton cemetery in Riley for Mr. Bliss and interment for Mr. Bliss was made at Alma.  The following obituary accounts were written by C. [Fred]. T. Ottmar of Riley, (see photo and story about  Cottfred T. Ottmar on page 14) who lived at the Bliss home for many years:

Strange things have happened, but seldom does it happen that husband and wife pass to the Great Beyond so close together as the subjects of this account less than three hours apart and separated from each other by many miles; neither knowing of the other's danger point, barring accident or tragedy. Henry W. Bliss, a pioneer of Riley township lay in Memorial Hospital hovering between life and death, fighting a hard fight to live a few more useful years, and his wife near Gunnisonville, battling with the same foe, fighting for dear life to get well again, hoping and longing for the day when she and her husband might again be united at the old home on their farm in Riley.  Neither realized what the other had won or lost in the struggle.  And so it came to pass that three hours after her demise the two departed and we hope that they were united in that home not made with hands, where on discordant voice shall be heard and hosanna resound from every tongue.

Henry W. Bliss was born in Vermont, December 16, 1834, the son of David and Samantha Bliss.  He is the last survivor of a family of 14 children, three of whom reached the remarkable age of over 93 years.  His parents moved to New York State in the early 40's. In 1848 the family moved to Michigan, and settled on a piece of land, a total wilderness, on section 9 in Riley township, Clinton County. His father died in 1858 and his mother in 1863.

On October 5, 1862, he was married to Clarissa E. Welton [his first wife], of Adron, Indiana. With the aid and encouragement of his helpmate, he continued to clear up the farm, built a fine home, splendid barns and other farm buildings and turned the wilderness into a fine productive farm.  They were known far and wide as "Uncle Henry" and "Aunt Clarissa".  Many an orphan and homeless child found a home under their roof, for they had no children of their own, but no father or mother could have cared for their own children more tenderly that did this couple.

In September 1916, he was married to Mary J. Bird.  They lived on his farm until last fall, when age and infirmities forced them to seek comfort among relatives. He was born into the new life Thursday evening, April 18, 1929, at Clinton Memorial Hospital, having reached the ripe age of 94 years, 4 months and 2 days.

In politics he was a Republican, casting his first vote for president for Fremont, the first Republican candidate for president.  He cast his last vote for Hoover last fall.  Religiously, he was a Spiritualist.  He lived what he preached and preached what he conscientiously believed.  He had an exemplary personality.  He used no tobacco, was strictly tempered in eating and drinking.  He had a very decided distaste for alcoholic liquor and used no profane language.  He was honest and upright. In matters of difference he would give in to the other rather than be in the wrong.

In his religious convictions he was true to the last.  Only a few days before his demise he told the writer, in low breath, "that all wrongs must be righted" this was his philosophy of the hereafter, that before you can make any progress in the world Beyond you must correct the wrongs done here.  And holding that up as his ideal he tried to live as close to that philosophy as he could.  What a world amazing the knowledge that he had acquired.  He had a fair knowledge of several of the sciences, especially chemistry.  He was a great reader and was able to impart to others what he had read and discovered.  He always said that he wanted to die as he had lived: "To live and die a Spiritualist."

He continually resided on the farm which his father bought in 1848, for over 80 years, until last fall, when old age and infirmities compelled him to break up his home and live with a niece, Mrs. C. G. Pope, of Bengal Township, who very lovingly and tenderly cared for him, all of which he deserved, more no one could do.  About two weeks ago he was stricken with pneumonia.  He was taken to Clinton Memorial Hospital, where everything that science and tender loving hands could do was done for him.  He was not afraid to go.  There was much more that he wished he could do and wanted to do, but the loved ones who had gone before were beckoning for him, to show him his new home, as he expressed it, that he had earned while sojourning here.  God bless you old pal of over 46 years that I have learned to love and revere.  May your life be ever an inspiration not only to me, but to others to walk ever in the light of God as revealed through your association with men.  May your thought be a beacon light to keep us of the rocks and pilot us safely into the harbor of peace and when we too must go your way may we find you there on that beautiful shore with outstretched hand, bidding us to enter and be ever with you.  This is my prayer, dear old pal.  And may God in his judgment look with favor upon you.  He understandeth all things.  So "Goodbye, till we meet again."

Mary J. Sutton was born in Naples, New York, April 3, 1843. She was married to Richard Bird in New York state when a young woman.  In 1878 they moved to Michigan and settled on a farm two miles north and one-half mile west of Fowler. After a few years they moved to Lyons, from here they moved to Gratiot County. In 1898 they went to the state of California.  They did not like the climate there so they returned to a farm near Alma, Michigan.  Some years after this the family moved to Missouri, then back to Alma where Mr. Bird was later killed in a railroad accident.

In 1916, she was married to Henry W. Bliss and resided on his farm in Riley township until last fall, when on account of poor health and infirmity, they decide to live with relatives.  She had suffered all winter until she passed away at the home of her grandson, Allie Stanton, near Gunnisonville, April 18, 1929, where tender hands and loving hearts had cared for her.  She preceded her husband in to the Beyond by only three hours, he being at Clinton Memorial Hospital, and did not know that she was sick.  The remains were taken to Alma for burial beside her first husband. 

She is survived by her daughter, Cora Grimwood, of Crystal, Mich., six grandchildren, 28 great grandchildren and three great, great, grandchildren, also a host of friends and neighbors.



"I'm going to send you down to earth."
Said God to me one day.
"I'm giving what men call birth.
Tonight you'll start away.
I want you there to live with men
Until I call you back again."

I trembled as I heard Him speak,
Yet knew that I must go.
I felt His hand upon my check,
And whispered that I might know
Just what on earth would be my task,
And, timidly, I dared to ask.

"Tell me before I start away
What Thou would have me do.
What message would Thou have me say,
When shall my work be thru?
Then I may serve Thee on the earth.
Tell me the purpose of my birth."

God smiled at me and softly said:
"Oh, you shall find your task.
I want you free life's path to tread,
So do not stay to ask,
Remember, if your best you do,
That I shall ask no more of you."

How often as my work I do,
So commonplace and grim,
I sit and sigh and wish I knew
If I am pleasing Him.
I wonder if with every test
I've truly tried to do my best.