When I began researching and writing the stories of Almont’s early settlers, I was under
the impression that a family would come to Almont by themselves – no parents, siblings, relatives, or friends. In most cases, I expected the individual families came braving the wilderness by themselves. Initially, to my knowledge, the Bristols and the Houghs (pronounced “Huff”) were the only families that came with other family members. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
Most families followed the same pattern – one family member would come and others would follow – siblings, parents, relatives, and/or friends.
James and Elizabeth Deneen came in 1828 with their five children. Elizabeth was pregnant when they came. Daughter Anna was the first white person born in Almont Township and Lapeer County on March 15, 1829. Elizabeth was not the only pioneer woman who came to Almont while pregnant.
Following James and Elizabeth were a number of James’ siblings. Sister Sarah and husband William Boles came in 1832; brothers Samuel Hackett Deneen bought land in 1831 but didn’t come till 1834 with Joseph Beard Deneen who moved to Imlay Township in 1837; John Nixon Deneen visited in 1837 and came in 1840; and sister Martha Hazen Deneen Mathews came with her husband, John Mathews before 1840. William and Sarah Boles daughter, Melissa, was the first white person born in Imlay Township.
This is a pattern that is repeated over and over again: six Hough families came in 1834 and four more followed by 1840. Following the Bristols, who came in 1830, were cousins; the Taggarts, Sanborns, Waldens, and Sleepers. John Walden’s brother-in-law, Calvin Clark, came to Allenton about 1835 after his wife – John’s sister – died.
Jonathan Sleeper was the first one to not follow this pattern. He wasn’t the leader. He was a follower. His brother-in-law, Elijah Sanborn, came to Oakland County, probably Addison Township, about 1824. Elijah then bought property in Lapeer in 1830 and Macomb in 1831. Elijah did not move to Lapeer County until 1831. Jonathan’s father, Josiah, and stepmother, Anne Ward Sleeper, followed Elijah Sanborn in 1826 and settled in Washington Township, Macomb County. Jonathan came to Almont in 1830. His brother, Benjamin Sleeper, brought his family to Almont in 1834, which was the same year that his parents moved to Almont. The move to Almont was not a good one for the senior Sleepers. They both died in 1835 and were buried in the Webster Cemetery – among the earliest burials there.
The typical pioneer family consisted of a father, mother and their children. Abner Haskell Fisher came as a single, 21-year-old man. He established his homestead in Section 9 near James Deneen – between Hollow Corners and Dryden Roads on the east side of Van Dyke. He purchased this property on May 24, 1831 and immediately came to develop his home. In 1835, he married Losana Annis King, the daughter of William King and Abigail Marshall King. The Kings settled in Almont in the summer of 1834. Their farm was in Section 20, north of General Squiers Road (then called West Road) between Shoemaker and Sandhill Roads.
All of the families that I researched either bought property and immediately came to develop that property or bought land and then came the next year to develop the property. During that year, in many cases, the family built their home and farm buildings before coming. A few, like Samuel Hackett Deneen and David Ingalls, bought land and then came several years later.
The Cochrane (pronounced Coke-ran) family came in 1839 directly from Scotland and instead of buying property and starting their homestead, they hired out as farm laborers. Patriarch David had married Elizabeth Jackson and had five children. After Elizabeth’s death, David married Christena Rattray and had four more children in Scotland. One of those children died at a young age. David brought his family – Christena and eight children – to New York and then onto Almont. On the way to Almont, one of the youngest children died. To get to Almont took all their money and they could not immediately buy property. It is likely that they arranged their employment before coming here. They were working on a farm on the south side of Bordman Road in Bruce Township in the Scotch Settlement.
After working for two to three years, the three oldest boys – John age 24, William age 22, and David age 20 when they came to Almont – bought property between Almont and Hough Roads. The farm lane on the Cochrane properties running from Almont to Hough Roads became the western section of Cochrane Road.
None of David’s children were married before they got to Almont. They married into some of the earliest Almont pioneer families. Additionally, daughter Alice was born once they reached Almont. She married Dr. David Burley.
Until September 2022, every family that I researched was based on the father’s name – most names that I recognized from their descendants. In September 2022, Don Millikin, Class of 1967, donated his family tree, which included the story about sisters Jean Millikin Morton and Catherine Millikin Robb. Jean and Catherine came together with their husbands in 1838 to the Scotch Settlement area of Almont. Their parents and brothers did not arrive until 1845. These were the first women to be the leaders of their family bringing the family to Almont.
1. James R. Wade Sr.; The Deneen Family – The Beginnings – Coming to Almont, 2021
2. James R. Wade Sr.; The Walden Family – The Beginnings – Coming to Almont, 2021
3. James R. Wade Sr.; The Sleeper Family – The Beginnings – Coming to Almont, 2020
4. James R. Wade Sr.; The Millikin Women – Early Pioneers, September 2022
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.