On August 13, 2022, Don Millikin, Class of 1967, stopped by the museum. He was in town to attend his 55th class reunion. He had heard that I was looking for family trees of Almont’s earliest settlers. He brought in a tree he had prepared, a detailed tree prepared by his cousin Kirk Seaton, and several pages of family stories about the Millikins.
In preliminary work I had done on the “Scotch Settlement” area, I had found that the Millikin patriarchs, John and Janet Reid Millikin with their son John, had come to Almont in 1844. As I am researching Almont’s early pioneers, I have tried to work on the earliest pioneers first, Deneens, Bristols, Sleepers, and so on. I am now working on families that came in the mid-1830s. Consequently, I wasn’t anticipating getting to the Millikin family for some time.
I am not going to get to the full Millikin story for some time but one of the stories donated by Don partially changed my timeline. The story below is just a short introduction and illustrates an important point when doing genealogical research. For most of our history it was the man and not the women who were listed in historical records. Up to and including the 1840 U.S. Census, the only person listed in most households was the father – everyone else was listed only by sex and age. Records for women – if they were or had been married – were shown under their married name.
One of the stories that Don brought was from “The National Genealogical Society,” Volume 106, No. 1, March 2018. It was the story of Jean Millikin Morton – the sister of Don’s great-grandfather, John Millikin (1831-1907).
Jean Millikin was the second child and second daughter of John Millikin (1788-1867) and Janet Reid Millikin (1789-1977). She was born on July 13, 1814 in Tarbolton, Ayr, Scotland. On August 28, 1837 she married Thomas Morton in Riccarton Parish, Ayshire, Scotland. Thomas was born April 12, 1804 in Craigie, Ayr, Scotland to parents unknown at this time.
At the time of their marriage or very shortly after, the Mortons decided to emigrate from Scotland to the “Scotch Settlement” area southeast of what was then called “Bristol” and is now Almont. In early 1838, Jean and Thomas set sail for New York. Accompanying them was Jean’s younger sister, Catherine and her husband Samuel Robb III and Samuel’s brother, John Robb and his wife Mary Ann Machie Robb.
After six weeks at sea, they arrived at Castle Garden in New York in May 1838. Castle Garden was the entry point into the United States prior to the opening of Ellis Island. Castle Garden today is the place to board a ferry to go to Ellis Island.
The seven hundred mile journey from New York to Almont was done over land and water. It is likely (but not certain) that they took a ferry up the Hudson River to Watertown where they boarded a barge to take them across the Erie Canal to Buffalo. In Buffalo they embarked on a ship (sail or steam) to take them to Detroit.
Once in Detroit, Thomas purchased 160 acres in Section 36 – the southwest corner of Hough and Scotch Settlement Roads.
During this trip, Jean was pregnant with their first child, daughter Anna Morton, who was born on June 14, 1838 in Almont. Jean and Thomas would have nine more children: Janette Reid Morton born March 16, 1840; Elizabeth Morton born November 17, 1841; John Morton born February 1844; Marion Morton born 1846; Thomas Morton born October 26, 1847; Charlott Morton born July 3, 1849; James Morton born June 3, 1850; Jean Morton born 1852; and George Morton born August 15, 1855. The first eight children were born in Almont. Jean was born in Lapeer and George in Metamora.
Jean and Thomas cleared the land and farmed. Early pioneer life was extremely hard. In 1862, Jean had her portrait taken (photographer unknown). By that time, daughter Charlott (1849-1850) and sons James (1850-1858) and George (1855-1856) had died.
That year, her son John enlisted in Company K of the 17th Michigan Infantry Regiment. John carried his mother’s picture with him while he served. He was promoted to Corporal. In 1865 he was discharged but was ill, possibly with consumption (tuberculosis). The Civil War killed almost as many by disease as it did in battle. He died October 8, 1865 and was buried in Scotch Settlement Cemetery. In total, seven of his siblings were buried in Scotch Settlement Cemetery.
Jean and Thomas donated an acre of land to be used for the creation of the Scotch Settlement Cemetery and the location of the church for the “Almont Society of the New Church,” which was established in 1850.
Of their sons, only Thomas lived to middle age, but he did not have any children. Jean and Thomas’ descendants spring from their three daughters; Anna Morton Rowan, Janette Reid Morton Lamond, and Marion Morton Ives.
Thomas Morton died on August 15, 1870 in Lapeer. Jean only survived another two years, dying in 1872. They are buried in the Scotch Settlement Cemetery.
Catherine Millikin was born April 12, 1816 in Lochlinehill, Tarbolton, Ayr, Scotland. Catherine and Samuel Robb III were married February 2, 1838 in Riccarton, Ayr, Scotland. Samuel was born May 10, 1817 in Craigie by Kilmarnock, Ayr, Scotland to parents unknown at this time.
Samuel and Catherine Robb bought property in Berlin Township, on the south side of Dryden Road less than a quarter mile from the county line. John Robb bought property on the west side of Scotch Settlement Road in Section 25 of Bristol (Almont) Township – north of Hough (pronounced Huff) Road.
Catherine and Samuel had nine children: Jennette Robb born about 1839; Annie Crystie Robb born about 1841; Marion Allen Robb born about 1843; Samuel Robb IV born about 1844; Mary Robb born about 1847; Jean Allen Robb born about 1849; Elizabeth Robb born in 1852; John M. Robb born in 1855; and James Robb born in 1859.
Catherine and Samuel farmed all their lives.
In 1850, they were two of the original members of the Almont Society of the New Church. The church building was constructed about 1875 on the land donated by Jean and Thomas Morton.
Samuel Robb III died July 16, 1867 and was buried in the West Berlin Cemetery located a mile west of Allenton in St. Clair County. Catherine continued to operate the farm with the help of her children until she died on June 27, 1883. She was laid to rest next to Samuel.
Unlike anyone else that I have researched, the first settlers of this family were women not men. Jean and Catherine’s parents and brothers and sisters would follow later.
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.