"A small settlement grew up, a dam was built across Belle River and a saw mill and grist mill erected ... In 1848 it was felt that a post office was needed and it was necessary to select a name. Considerable discussion arose. Various names were suggested, among others, Belleview, because of Belle River, Riley, because of John Riley, the Indian half breed, after whom the township was named, Birney, in honor of James G. Birney, the anti-slavery propagandist and candidate for the presidency of the liberty party in 1844. Finally the name of Memphis, from the Egyptian city, was suggested and adopted."
Detroit was actually lost to the British for a time in the War of 1812when the United States government forgot to notify their frontier posts in Michigan that the country was at war. So when 520 British soldiers crossed St. Mary's River on July 17, they took Fort Michilimackinac without a shot being fired, and then overtook Detroit in August. The United States won Michigan back in the Battle of the Thames in 1813, and started over fresh in the territory.
In 1818, the question of local government was put before the people (those French fur traders), and in what has to be considered the greatest French joke of all time, they held a free election and voted not to vote anymore. From then on, they had no voice in their own government.
Finally, in 1824, a legislative body was established that would be appointed by the people, and the residents of Michigan finally were able to control their own destiny. The Erie Canal opened the next year, which, combined with the beginning of steam navigation on the Great Lakes, brought a surge of settlers, including a few trailblazing Hausesthe first being William E. Hause's youngest sons, Samuel and Morris, in 1830. In January of 1831, mail service began in the state, but it took a fourteen days for a letter to reach Detroit from New York.
Michigan became a state in 1837, after a near-war with Ohio over their respective boundary lines (the prize being Toledo, of all places). Meanwhile, the new government immediately went to work screwing the Indians out of more property, and by 1840 the last Native American land was turned over to the United States, except for a few small, scattered reservations. (It would take 150 years before they could open up gambling casinos on those reservations and start screwing back.)
The nationwide prosperity in the early 1830s gave settlers and speculators money to buy Michigan land, and the population, which was 31,640 in 1830, grew to more than 212,000 by 1840. New York supplied the largest number of Michigan pioneers, and quite a few of those pioneers were in the Hause family.
Our line of the family took a little longer to move. By the mid-19th Century, New York's Niagara County had become completely settled, and finding a fresh, cheap plot of New York land to raise a family on was next to impossible. Fortunately for LABAN AUGUSTUS HAUSE (b. 10 March 1831) and his brother John J. Hause (b. 18 Oct 1829), their wives (the Dysinger sisters) had each been willed about a hundred acres of prime farmland in Lockport by their late fatherenough for a small private farm.
But Laban and John had the bright idea of selling that expensive New York land, and using the money to buy more property in an area where the land was cheaper. The plan was to move west and carve out their own place from the wilderness... and the new frontier of Michigan was beckoning.
So in the mid-1850s, John, Laban, and Basheba Hause, along with cousins-in-law Daniel and Nicholas Dysinger, headed to the new state with their familieseither taking a steamship up the Erie Canal, or by land using teams of oxen or mules, towards the untamed wilderness (read: cheap land).
Expansionism was the word of the day, and our line of the Hause family was moving west again, screaming that word from the mountaintopsif they could find any mountaintops in Michigan. There were no mountains, but there was plenty of flat land, perfect for farmingall you had to do was carve that farm out of the wildnerness, and hope that the local Native Americans didn't mind.
Laban and Sarah then sold the 100 acres of property that she had inherited from her late father in Lockport, for $500. The document was signed by Sarah's mother, Catharine, and accepted by Laban "House" and Sarah in St. Clair county, Michigan. (On the next page in the book of deeds, Catherine sold more of the Lockport land willed to her other children, including Eve Dysinger-Hause.)
The various Hause and Dysinger families then settled in, and even began to grow: County records show that on the 13th of May, 1857, 21 year-old Basheba married Charles H. Oaks, 23, of Riley. The witnesses were "Loban" Hause & John J. Hause, also of Riley; the wedding was performed by Minister William P. Russell.
Living on the edge of the Michigan wilderness left the Hause family far away from doctors, hospitals, and the superior medical attention available back in New York (which in truth wasn't all that great, anyway). There were only ten licensed physicians in all of St. Clair County. They charged from five dollars for minor surgeries, up to a hundred dollars for major ones. There was also a fee of five to twenty-five dollars for midwifery, which Sarah needed in 1857 for the birth of a child:
But there were problems during the delivery of Elma. Sarah developed complications, and became sick. She battled for two years before finally succumbing on March 16, 1859 (fortunately, Elma was a healthy baby).
Laban and Melissa were wed in Riley Center on October 25, 1859. (Laban's previous marriage apparently never bothered the youthful, always-optimistic Melissain fact, Laban is today buried between both of his wives in the Memphis Cemetery.
Melissa was a school teacher (in fact she was so bright that she started teaching in Memphis at age 15), and she would change the course of our family history. She brought culture and education to the Hause family. Schooling was always important to Germanic immigrants, but not as much to farmers, which the Hause family had mainly become over the previous 150 years in America. Farmers are more concerned with being able to sell crops than being able to spell them. But after Melissa, the Hauses (at least the men) would all be college-educated (I dropped out of Long Beach State in 1984 to write the film Once Bitten after the producers threatened to can me and hire a full-time screenwriter, thus ending the streak. Sorry, Melissa).
The official enumeration day for the 1860 Federal Census was June 1st. There were a total of thirty-three states in the Union, with Minnesota and Oregon being the latest additions. Augustus Hause still remained in New York, listed as a 55-year-old farmer, now married to 35-year-old Fannie Christopher. Augustus Jr., his last child from Jane Jones, still lived at home with him. But Laban has moved to Michigan, as had his children John, Laban and Basheba. John was Justice of the Peace in Riley from 1859-66 (but he would move back to Royalton before 1880). Laban was listed as a farmer, living next to his ex-cousin-in-law Nicholas Dysinger, with $1500 of real estate and $447 in personal estate.
Laban became a Freemason,³ reciting his oath to the Memphis Lodge: "To the high purposes of universal Masonry, to brotherly love, relief and truth, to the upbuilding of this Lodge; the promotion of harmony among its members, to the realization of its highest ideals of character and of life; to the stretching forth of our hands to aid and support a fallen brother, and to the vindication of his character behind his back, as well as before his face, we here and now, pledge anew, our most earnest and unceasing efforts." In fact, he's wearing a Mason pin in the above photo (2nd button down).
The Masons in New York were somewhat controversial; In Niagara County, where Laban grew up, William Morgan had been kidnapped in 1826 for threatening to reveal the secrets of Masonry. The Masons of the Lockport Lodge were involved in his disappearance. Although they claimed that he had been released after being held in Fort Niagara, he was never seen again. The early Freemasons in Michigan helped create and fund the University of Michigan, and other important institutions, and the community in Memphis was eager to join in. So on January 14, 1864, the charter was accepted for Mason's Lodge No. 142 in Memphis by the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in Michigan. Laban became an apprentice at the lodge in 1874, earned his Fellowcraft Degree, and a Master Mason Degree, all in the same year, and remained active for the next 31 years.
There are a great many rumors and myths about freemasonry: That in order to join you must drink wine out of a human skull, etc. But it's really a fraternity dedicated to improving the community through work and education, and Laban and his son, Frank, were both heavily involved in the organization during their lives, so the Hauses were an integral part of that lodge for the next 75 years.
Laban decided to earn some extra money off the farm and became the Postmaster in Emmett from 1869 to 1873. The Hause family never fit in with the community there. (It was "too Catholic," according to Laban's grandson Basilmuch of our family history had been lost, but our Reformist, anti-Catholic bias was apparently still being handed down.)⁴
While running the store, Laban supplemented his income by taking boarders. He also put food on the table the same way every Hause man since Johann six generations before him had: farming and hunting. Such was life on the Michigan frontier: It was cold and harsh, and everybody worked at least one job, then scraped and struggled to survive with whatever time they had left over.
Laban did well for himself in this new frontier, and his fortune grewand Michigan grew right along with it, as forests became farmland and townships became cities in the ensuing decades.
Laban's family also grew. He and Melissa had the following children, who they raised along with Elma:
Augustus Hause had passed away in 1875, but Laban, now middle-aged, was still going strong. He's no longer listing "farmer" as occupation, as he was at that point running the store in Millington Village. They also have a boarder at the house listed as a clerk, as well as children Frank and Edith.
The Hause family was prospering, but the harsh realities of life on the frontier were always present: In 1881, their daughter Sarahnamed after Laban's first wifemarried a store clerk named Arthur Baker, a foster child who had been living with Oliver and Mary Gold of Millington. The happy day turned tragic when Sarah ate contaminated beans served at the wedding and became ill. She wasn't considered in a dangerous condition by her doctor, L.C. Davis, but suddenly took a turn for the worse and died within a few hours from Typhoid fever. She is buried today near her mother and father, at a family plot in the Memphis Cemetery.
Needing a change after that peculiar tragedy, Laban gave up the store (they definitely weren't going to be able to sell any more of the canned beans) and returned to Riley Center in 1882, where he built a substantial brick house with a smoke house and barn, at 13185 Belle River Road, near the Sanderson family. This property incorporated the farmland of Melissa's brother, Edward Sanderson. There was a windmill in the back for power and an apple orchard for food, and Laban built a smokehouse nearby to prepare meat for the table. This would be the family's base until the end of the Century.
In one of the more macabre anecdotes in our family history, the stone for Sarah Hause's grave was delivered to the new house, but the inscription on the face of the stone was incorrect. Laban refused to pay for it, but the carver refused to take it back. So the stone stayed in the front yard of the Hause family house, until Laban finally made it the stepping-stone to the front of the house.
TITLE PHOTO: The west side of Main Street in Memphis, in 1883. All of the wooden buildings burned down in 1911. The structure at the center of the intersection is a well to water the animals. (Photo courtesy of the Memphis Historical Society; Click to enlarge.)
NOTES ON THIS PAGE:
¹Past and present of Clinton County, Michigan, by Judge S. B. Daboll, assisted by D. W. Kelley, together with biographical sketches of many of its prominent and leading citizens and illustrious dead. Illustrated. Author: Daboll, Sherman B., 1844-1910; p. 490.
²The Ojibwe (or Chippewa) are an Anishinaabeg group of Algonquian-speaking Native American bands in North America who amalgamated as a tribe in the 1600's. They were known for their birch bark canoes, birch bark scrolls, and maple syrup. Ojibwe and Chippewa are actually the same Algonquian word, pronounced a little differently due to accent, coming from the root word otchipwa (to pucker), which refers to the distinctive puckered seam of their moccasins. A few bands of Ojibwe lived in Michigan, where they subsisted principally by hunting and fishing, as the climate of the Upper Peninsula was too cool for farmingalthough in southern Michigan the Ojibwe women cultivated numerous varieties of min-dor-min (corn), manoomin (wild rice), potatoes, turnips, beans, squashes, pumpkins, and melons. Their typical dwelling was the wiigiwaam (wigwam), built either as a waginogaan (domed-lodge) or as a nasawa'ogaan (pointed-lodge), made of birch bark, juniper bark and willow saplings. In 1807, the Ojibwe signed the Treaty of Detroit, giving the United States a portion of today's Southeastern Michigan and a section of Ohio near the Maumee River. The tribes were able to retain small pockets of land in the territory. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 forced many Michigan-based bands of the tribe to move north to Canada. Fortunately there were enough of them still around in the 1850's to help Laban and Sarah survive the winter.
³No one knows just how old freemasonry is, because the actual origins have been lost over time. Probably, it arose from the guilds of stone masons who built the castles and cathedrals of the Middle Ages. Possibly, they were influenced by the Knights Templar, a group of Christian warrior monks formed in 1118 to help protect pilgrims making trips to the Holy Land. The society's influence is everywhere: Presidents George Washington, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, James Polk, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, James Garfield, William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Warren Harding, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George Bush were all Masons (Bill Clinton was in a freemason youth group). Others included Winston Churchill, Napoleon Bonaparte, Ben Franklin, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Davy Crockett, Walt Disney, Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain), most of the Kings of England, the Rothschilds, the Rockefellers, Orville and Wilber Wright, Billy Graham, Jesse Jackson, Mormon Church heads Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, and FBI head J. Edgar Hoover.
⁵The first newspaper in Memphis was the Daily Bug, established in 1877. The name of the paper was later changed to the Memphis Tribune, and again in 1882 it was changed to the Memphis Banner. It was published once a week on Fridays and was sold for $1.00 per year. Next came the Memphis Bee, founded in about 1893 (See the front page from Friday, 25 May 1900 with "F.A. Hause & Co." ad here).
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