Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.
Morning Star, May 20, 2007, pg. 4
If your Albion High School class is having a reunion this summer, why not have a copy of my book “Growing Up in Albion” available as a door prize? It’s filled with over 240 photographs from the 1950s and 1960s which are sure to bring back fond memories. There is an index posted on the www.albionmich.com website. Be sure an let your classmates know about my book, and that it is available at the Albion Chamber of Commerce or at Books and More.
Each year at this time we make it a point to feature the biography of one of Albion’s Civil War soldiers, as Memorial Day has its origins in the Civil War.
Here is an unusual situation you don’t see that often. There are two names on his single tombstone, yet only one person is buried in his grave. That is because he lived part of his life under an alias name. He was Henry C. Conant (1846-1927), a native of Bedford Township (Lambertville) in Monroe County. Unfortunately, Henry’s parents Caleb and Margaret (Lane) Conant died within two weeks of each other in the fall of 1849 (they are interred in Lambertville Cemetery) and he was orphaned along with his youngest siblings. A man with the surname of Sexton adopted 3-year-old Henry and raised the lad into adulthood.
When he reached the age of 18, Henry Sexton enlisted in Company B of the 8th Michigan Cavalry on February 12, 1864, from Detroit. Three weeks later he joined his regiment at Mt. Sterling, Kentucky. Henry served in Kentucky and Tennessee during the remainder of the Civil War, which included a time spent in the hospital at Chattanooga TN in the summer of 1864. He was mustered out on September 20, 1865.
Sometime following the War, Henry married Frances Bigelow (1851-1924) and settled in Attica, NY. He apparently changed his name back to Conant at this time. The couple had six children, including Helen Conant (1881-1976) who married Albert Bearman (1872-1951). Helen and Albert were the parents of mid-20th century Albion policeman Larry Bearman. There are still descendants in the Albion area today, including a great-great-great-grandson, Michael A. Bearman, who will be graduating from Albion High School Class of 2007 this coming weekend.
Henry moved his family to Albion from Attica in 1891, where Henry’s brother Phineas (1834-1910) had been living ever since coming here in 1863. Both brothers were well diggers by profession. Henry settled behind the Gale Manufacturing Company at 111 N. Gale St. near the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern RR tracks. This area was demolished in the 1970s as part of the Urban Renewal projects. Henry was a member of the local Post No. 210 of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Civil War veteran’s organization. Upon his death in 1927 at the age of 81, Henry was interred in Block 35 of Riverside Cemetery. His unusual tombstone states: “H.C. Conant, Alias H.C. Sexton. Born 1847 Bedford Monroe Co., MICH. Enlisted Feb 12, 1864 Co. B. 8th Michigan. 1927.” There is a GAR flag holder next to the stone, and American flag has been inserted in it each year by the local American Legion volunteers.
In an interesting sidelight, Henry was the owner of a special piece of clothing. The local paper reported in 1916, “Henry Conant was on the street Saturday night wearing a vest which he said was over 70 years old. The garment, which is of black satin, has been in his possession ever since it was given him by the man who adopted him and brought him up. It is still in excellent condition and while perhaps not of the latest cut, is a very serviceable piece of clothing in spite of its great age.”
From our Historical Notebook this week we present a photograph of Henry C. Conant, one of approximately 230 Civil War veterans from the Albion area. Notice the style of the hat he is wearing.
Henry C. Conant (1846-1927)
All text copyright, 2020 © all rights reserved Frank Passic