Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, October 22, 2006, pg. 4
It’s been quite a while since we wrote a “pioneer story” in this column. This week we are featuring an early settler, Louisa (Blodgett) McGee (1823-1909). Louisa was one of the original students enrolled in the very first class at the Wesleyan Seminary at Albion when classes began here.
Her parents were Stephen and Polly (Millington) Blodgett, and the family came to “the Forks” in 1835. Their home was located on the southwest corner of Ash and S. Superior Sts., approximately the site of Century 21 Realtors. The Blodgett home was a popular gathering place during Albion’s pioneer days. It was the site of a lady’s housewarming dress and fancy party sponsored by Louisa in the summer of 1837, with the gentlemen of the community being invited to come in the evening. This popular event featured much dancing, and music was provided by local fiddlers.
Louisa was married in 1847 to Timothy Stowe McGee (1814-1877), a local furniture dealer. She related her early Albion experiences in her memoirs which state: “When I was one and a half years old my parents moved to Lawrenceville, NY where they lived until I was 10 years of age. In 1835 my father and two of his brothers migrated to Michigan, in covered wagons called ‘Prairie schooners’ and driving a flock of sheep and several cows. They had a family horse which I rode nearly all the way. The route was through Canada.”
“My father settled at Albion, Michigan. Our first house was only partly enclosed and as there were neither doors nor windows, mother hung blankets and bed-clothes in their places. Well do I remember the privations of those days. When I had to cross the Kalamazoo River, the mud was usually deep, and I would go barefoot across the river, then wash my feet, put on my stockings and shoes, and go to Meetings, held in a barn at first. On returning I took off my shoes and stockings at the river and went the rest of the way home barefoot.”
“I attended school in the first schoolhouse. I rode on the first railroad train. My father had charge of the Station at this place, and as there were no tickets, he counted the passengers. I was one of the first students in the female seminary which later became Albion College. I was in the first class that completed the prescribed course and received a certificate entitling me to teach. The first principal was Stockwell. My first school was in South Albion, and I received $13 for a thirteen weeks term. After that I taught in Marshall and received $3 per week. I then opened a select school in Albion and charged ten cents per week for each pupil. I had 16 or 18 pupils, and as I boarded at home, I felt as though I was getting rich.”
The Blodgett family also took in boarders at their home, one of whom was a local millwright, Mr. Harlow Green. In the summer of 1837, the “Albion Burying Ground” was being laid-out and prepared by Jesse Crowell. Dr. Elmore Palmer writes: “Miss Louisa Blodgett and one Harlow Green with some others on a sunny afternoon had found their way to the place on the east side of the west branch of the Forks, that had been selected as a spot for the burial of the dead. The thought manifested itself in words, when Miss Blodgett said, ‘I wonder who will be first to be buried here?’ Harlow Green, with a voice that seemed a little prophetic, remarked, ‘I’m glad we don’t know.’ Within three weeks, Mr. Green sickened and died and himself was the first burial at Riverside, September, 1837.”
From our Historical Notebook we present a portrait of Louisa (Blodgett) McGee, one of Albion’s early pioneers at “the Forks.”
A portrait of Louisa (Blodgett) McGee
All text copyright, 2016 © all rights reserved Frank Passic