"The following biographical sketches and historical extract are submitted for use in the Wayne County GenWeb Ancestral Sightings section.

Richard Ferris, the subject of the two biographical sketches, was my g2 grandfather. Leonard and Caleb Ferris, mentioned in History of Wayne County, New York, 1789-1877, were my g3 and g4 grandfathers, respectively.


Rick Ferris
Aiea, HI

From: History of Allegan and Barry Counties, Michigan, by D. W. Ensign & Co. of Philadelphia, 1880. Published by J. B. Lippincott & Co., Philadelphia.

Mrs. & Mrs. Richard Ferris and son Joseph

Page 194

Richard Ferris, son of Leonard Ferris, was born in Wayne Co., N. Y., Aug. 7, 1822. His father being engaged in farming, Richard worked at home on the farm until he was eighteen years of age. During the winter months he attended the district school near home. One winter he attended a select school in Mishawaka, Ind., taught by a blind man. The winters of 1848 and 1849 he was at Notre Dame University, near South Bend, Ind. His educational advantages were superior to many young men of that day. Mr. Ferris made several changes in his business and place of residence before his final settling in this state. These changes are as follows: in 1843, went to Mishawaka, Ind., working in a mill-yard; in 1844, hired out by the month in Cass Co., Mich.; returning to Mishawaka the later part of the same year, he engaged in a saw-mill as a sawyer; in 1850, came to Lawrence, Van Buren Co., Mich., working in a saw-mill in summer, and teaching in winter in the village of Lawrence; in 1851, returned a second time to Mishawaka, this time buying an interest in a saw-mill; in August, 1851, returned to Michigan, and here bought an interest in a saw-mill at Lawrence, on Brush Creek; in 1854, moved to Cheshire township, Allegan Co., purchasing five hundred and sixty acres of wild land. Here he commenced clearing, and erected a saw-mill for the purpose of sawing up the lumber. This mill burned down in 1860. A new one was erected in 1863. He spent part of his time attending to his farm, but since 1876 he has devoted his time exclusively to farming. He is now living on the same tract of land he purchased when first coming into the township; he now owns five hundred and twenty acres. Mr. Ferris is Republican, and is an active member of the party. He has filled the offices of township clerk and school inspector for several years. In 1870 he was elected to the lower house of the Legislature. He is of Irish and American parents. In religion he is a liberal Catholic. April 29, 1851, he married Hannah, daughter of Thomas and Ann Milburn. They have had four children, viz.: William M., Mary E., Marcus A., and Joseph G., who died Dec. 8, 1879. The others are living at home with their parents. Mrs. Ferris was born in England Jan. 1, 1826, remaining there until she was twenty-two years old.

From: Portrait and Biographical Record of Kalamazoo, Allegan and Van Buren Counties, Michigan, published in 1892 by Chapman Brothers of Chicago.

Page 388

This page contains an artist's portrait of Richard Ferris.

Portrait of Richard Ferris

Page 389

HON. RICHARD FERRIS, who is engaged in general farming on section 17, Cheshire Township, is one of the prominent citizens of Allegan County. He has a wide acquaintance in this community, also throughout the surrounding counties, and his friends will notice with especial interest his life sketch and portrait. He was born in the town of Butler, Wayne County, N. Y., August 7, 1822, and is the seventh in a family of nine children, whose parents were Leonard and Elizabeth (Ryan) Ferris. His father was a native of the Highlands of New York and a farmer by occupation. For a few years after his marriage he resided in Cayuga County, N. Y., and then removed to Wayne County, where he hewed out a farm in the midst of the forest. His wife died at the age of eighty-three years and he reached the advanced age of ninety-three. Mrs. Ferris was a member of the Catholic Church. Of their six sons and three daughters, six are now living. The family was represented in the late war by John A., who served in an Indiana regiment.

Upon his father's farm our subject was reared to manhood, and in the district schools of New York partially received his education. Empty-handed he began life for himself at the age of eighteen and two years later sought a home in the west. In Mishawaka, Ind., he worked in a sawmill yard and afterward was employed at harvesting. Subsequently he spent eight months as a farm hand in Cass County, then returned to Mishawaka, where he attended a select school during the winter. In the spring he again went to work in the mill-yard, for $20 per month and boarded himself. He did the work of two men and his employer, William Milburn, seeing his usefulness, made him a sawyer and he was afterwards given entire charge of the mill, being there employed from the spring of 1845 until 1851, with the exception of ten months in 1848-49, when he was a student at Notre Dame (Ind.) University. The year 1850 witnessed his arrival in Michigan, and for one summer he was employed in a mill in Lawrence, Van Buren County, after which he taught school in the winter 1850-51. The following spring he returned to Mishawaka and bought a one- eighth interest in a new steam sawmill, having charge of the saw department.

About this time, on the 19th of April, 1851, Mr. Ferris wedded Hannah Milburn, sister of his former employer. She was born in England, January 1, 1826, and in 1848 came to America with her brother William, making her home in Mishawaka. In August, succeeding their marriage, Mr. Ferris sold out and removed to Lawrence, Mich., where he bought a third interest in a mill, helped to rebuild it and followed that business until 1854. He then again sold, and removed to his present farm in December of that year, having

page 390

here resided since. The home has been blessed by the presence of four children: William M., who married Minnie Wood, and is now living in Waldo, Kan.; Mary E., wife of Robert C. O'Brien, of Cheshire Township, by whom she has four children; Marcus A., a farmer of the same township, who married Florence Motter, by whom he has one child; and Joseph G., who died at the age of nineteen years.

Mr. Ferris settled upon a four hundred and eighty-acre tract of wild land, eleven miles from Allegan, and built a double log cabin. Indians were still frequent visitors in the neighborhood, few roads had been cut through and the work of development and progress seemed scarcely begun. In May, 1855, Mr. Ferris began building a saw mill, which he operated for a number of years, when it was totally destroyed by fire. He then built about eighty rods from the old sight, but the water afterward failed and he discontinued its operation and began improving his farm. Since then he has given his entire attention to agricultural pursuits and now has three hundred and eighteen acres of valuable land, two hundred and forty of which are highly cultivated. He has cleared and fenced his farm himself, and added greatly to its value and attractive appearance by many improvements. He pays considerable attention to the raising of fine grades of sheep and draft and coach horses. His home, which was erected in 1860, is the finest residence in the township and is the abode of hospitality. The members of the family hold a high position in the social world and their friends throughout the community are many.

Mr. Ferris is a member of the Catholic Church. His wife belonged to the Congregational Church in England, but of late years has been an active worker in the Methodist Church. With school interests he has been actively identified, has given his children good advantages, and two have been teachers. So efficient was he as member of the Board, that those who first opposed him were afterward vociferous in their entreaties for him to continue in office. He cast his first Presidential vote for Henry Clay and supported the Whig party until the organization of the Republican party, with which he has since been identified. He is one of the prominent Republicans in this community and has fought many hard practical battles, especially in trying to get the party to embody temperance principals. He served as Clerk in Lawrence Township, Van Buren County, was also School Inspector, and in 1855 was elected Clerk of Cheshire Township. He held the office of School Inspector here until the organization of the school districts.

Elected as Representative from his district, Mr. Ferris served in the Legislature in 1871 and 1872, when he declined re-nomination. During that time he helped elect Thomas W. Ferry to the United States Senate, was Chairman of the Lumber Committee, a member of the Committee on State Prisons and also if the joint committee to visit the penal and reformatory institutions of the State. The cause of temperance ever found in him a staunch advocate, and all social, educational and moral interests received his hearty support. His public and private life are above reproach. He has been a faithful public officer and a valued citizen of the community, who has done much for the upbuilding of the county during his many years of residence here. He has the respect of his many acquaintances and the warm regard of a large circle of friends.

From: History of Wayne County, New York 1789-1877, by Professor W. H. McIntosh. Published 1877 by Everts, Ensign & Everts, Philadelphia. Reprinted 1976 by W. E. Morrison & Co., Ovid, NY.

From the History of Savannah, page 161:

In 1820, Mr. Leonard Ferris, yet living at the venerable age of ninety, with his son-in-law, Riel Betts, in the westerly part of Savannah, settled on the State road, three-fourths of a mile west of Wheeler's Corners, a short distance east of the present residence of Prentice Cushman.

With Mr. Ferris came his father, Caleb, and his mother, "Judah," the former having been steward, and the later a nurse in the Stewart Family, in the city of New York, whereof Lispenard Stewart and his sister, the first wife of Colonel James Watson Webb, were members. With Mr. Ferris came, also, Mr. Richard Ryan (brother of his wife), yet and for many years known as "Uncle Richard," residing in the west part of the town. Mr. Ryan lived for some years, with his mother, on the present site of the residence of William P. Stiles.

On the next hill west of Cushman's, then called the "big hill," and now occupied by William H. Hamlin's orchard, a log school-house was erected, in which Maneh Westcott taught the first school in that neighborhood, in the winter of 1822-23, and Austin Roe, the next winter, at ten dollars per month; the Lockwood and Ferris and Wheeler boys, and the Scotts (then living opposite), being pupils. John Allen, son-in-law of the elder Peter Blasdell, settled in that neighborhood as early as 1821 or 1822, and his son, Peter B. Allen, late deputy sheriff of Clyde, and his daughter, Lucretia, subsequently the wife of Joseph Ferris, eldest son of Leonard, were also pupils at this school.

Mary Sorensen contributed obituaries related to Richard Ferris and other Ferris family members. Richard was another of the 9 children of Leonard and Sarah Elizabeth Ryan Ferris. Richard Ferris and his family are buried at the Pearson Cemetery in Allegan, MI along with John Allen Ferris & family and Louisa Ferris Hawes and some of her children. Louisa Hawes husband, Elijah Hawes [originally from Conquest, Cayuga Co., NY] is buried at Riverside Cemetery in Kalamazoo, MI.

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Updated: 10/29/99
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