Mary Swan Crosby Farley was born March 1, 1818 in Merrimack, Hillsborough, New Hampshire to William Crosby (1793-1831) and Mary “Polly” Crosby (1793-1878). Mary Crosby’s maiden name is uncertain. Her maiden name is listed as Crosby but I have not been able to confirm that. Mary was the second child and first daughter of three children.
William was a blacksmith and the family lived on the main road going to Boston. He was encouraged to borrow money to construct a blacksmith shop along this road and did so. However, the State of New Hampshire built a new, more direct road to Boston. Traffic no longer went past his shop and William was unable to repay the loan. William was arrested and thrown into debtor’s prison. Mary’s mother boarded up the house to try and avoid having the furniture seized and the family evicted. She eventually wasn’t successful.
Later, her mother bound her out as a servant to a family in Massachusetts – an indentured servant. She was sent away on a stage coach and wept all day on the journey.
As a result of her early life experiences, Mary was a very progressive and civic minded person. She was inclined to support new ideas.
On August 25, 1834, at the age of 16, she married Mark Farley in Merrimack, New Hampshire. Almost immediately, Mary and Mark moved to Hamilton, Ohio north of Cincinnati. Mark started his cooper business and Mary began having a family.
First daughter, Mary Farley was born in 1835 in Hamilton but died in 1838. On July 27, 1836 Susan E. Farley was also born in Hamilton. They named a second daughter Mary who was born in 1838 but she died in 1841. In 1838, Mark wrote to his older brother Leonard that he wanted to go to Michigan and farm “that rich virgin soil.”
About 1839, Mark and Mary moved their small family to Michigan. They purchased property in the Belle Arbor area located north of Almont. They purchased property from Rev. Luther Shaw and eventually from other Belle Arbor property owners when they moved away or after the family died. Accompanying them or coming shortly after arriving in Belle Arbor was Mary’s mother, Polly Crosby.
On June 30, 1842, son Albert William Farley was born. Next came daughter Harriet Alice Farley – called Alice. When Alice was born is not known. Daughter Katherine “Kate” Kellogg Farley was born in 1849. Ella “Nellie” Farley was born on April 24, 1851. Their last child, Charles Kellogg Farley was born on July 1, 1854.
Mary was a member of the First Congregational Church in Almont when Rev. Charles Kellogg was the pastor. Rev. Kellogg preached modern doctrines that offended some of the older church members. Mary, however, believed these new ideas. Kate and Charles’ middle names were to honor Rev. Kellogg. Unfortunately, Rev. Kellogg was tried for heresy and acquitted. He left the church and built an academy which he then operated. That building is now the church’s parsonage. It was built the year Charles was born.
In addition to raising the children, Mary helped on the farm. She helped during planting and harvesting seasons. She daily helped with the preparation of the cheese.
On one of Mark’s trips to Detroit with a load of cheese, Mary with the help of eldest son Albert dismantled a number of buildings that were left by prior settlers of Belle Arbor. The Farleys had been using these buildings for, among other things, a hen house, pig pen, and corn crib. The buildings were dilapidated and foul smelling. None of the buildings in Belle Arbor ever received a coat of paint so the weather rapidly deteriorated them. When Mark got home from Detroit, the buildings were down and the wood neatly stacked. Mark had wanted to remove the buildings but to him it was not a priority so he was thankful for the help. This helps explain the disappearance of the Belle Arbor settlement. Eventually, Belle Arbor’s main street was plowed under and became a part of a farm field.
After Mark’s accident in the barn, he and Mary eventually moved into the Village of Almont in 1870. Eldest son Albert took over operation of the farm. Mark died June 22, 1872 and was laid to rest in the Webster Cemetery on Webster Road.
Prior to 1871, after a person’s death the First Congregational Church would toll the bell in the church steeple – one stroke for every year of a person’s life. The first church building burned on Thanksgiving Day in 1871. From then until 1875, the Congregational Church members held services in the Baptist Church on East St. Clair Street. Mary didn’t want the bell rung and it wasn’t. After the Congregational Church hung its new bell in the new church steeple in 1878, the practice of tolling the bell once for each year of a person’s life appears to have ceased.
Mary lived for another 13 years and passed away on May 6, 1885 in Almont. She was laid to rest next to Mark in the Webster Cemetery.
Copies of the Almont Historical Society’s various books can be purchased by contacting Jim Wade at 810-796-3355 or email@example.com or stopping by the museum on Saturdays from 1-4 p.m.