Saturday, August 21, 2010

Michael West Family

Michael West Family

Michael West was born on 30 May 1793 in Maryland or Kentucky. His son, James H. West, stated in a county history published in 1879, that his father was a native of Maryland. The 1850 Grayson County, Texas census gives the birthplace for Michael West as Kentucky. My feeling is that Michael was probably born in Maryland.

There is a marriage record in Adams County, Ohio for Michael West and Susannah McKee on 16 Oct 1812. Adams County is just across the Ohio River from Mason County, Kentucky. Most of Michael & Susannah West’s children are said to have been born in Mason County, Kentucky. In 1826, the family moved to Champaign County, Ohio, perhaps near the Clark County line. Michael West can be found in the 1830 Census for Mad River township, Champaign County, Ohio.

Then in 1838, the Michael West family moved to Vermilion County, Illinois. He rented a farm from James Norris, one mile south of Oakwood Station (Illinois). Michael West is listed in the 1840 census for Vermilion County, Illinois. Michael's wife, Susannah, died before 1848, when the family moved again. This time Michael West moved to Texas. His oldest son, John W. West had previously moved to Red River County, Texas.

Land grants were offered by the Peters Colony to help colonize North Texas. Michael arrived in Texas (Peter's Colony) prior to July 1848 and was recorded as a widower with two daughters and one son. He obtained 640 acres in Grayson County, Texas. His son, Michael Perry, also obtained 320 acres in Grayson County, Texas. Daughter, Rebecca Jane Haning, moved to Texas at the same time with her husband, John Haining, and his family.  Two of Michael's sons, Joseph and James, did not move west and remained in the east.
Connor, Seymour V., Peters Colony of Texas, A History and Biographical Sketches of the Early Settlers, page 426.

In the 1850 Census for Grayson County, Texas, Michael West (household 13) is living between son, Michael Perry West, and daughter, Elizabeth Boyles (Boils).   Inlaws, the Page Stanley family, are also neighbors.

Texas proved to be a harsh environment for the West family. It seems that tragedy plagued Michael West and his family once they moved to Texas and the coming Civil War greatly added to their hardships.  By the end of 1862, Michael West, his sons (John W. and Michael P.) and two of his sons-in-law (David M. Leffel and William Boyles) had died.  Sometime before 1870, Michael's daughters, Susan West Leffel and Louisa Thomas, were dead, along with Louisa's family.

Son, Michael Perry West, died of unknown reasons in 1852 or 1853, losing most of his entire estate (including 320 acres) during the probate process to a neighboring land owner for a $50.00 debt and for court costs. Father, Michael believed that his daughter-in-law (wife of Michael Perry) had been unfaithful and that their daughter was not Michael Perry’s “offspring” (biological child).   How Michael died and where he is buried is unknown. 

Father, Michael West, died a few years later in 1858. He may have mistrusted the court system in Grayson County. He requested in his will that “the Probate Court nor any other court whatever shall have anything to do with my estate except to record this my will and to inventory my property.” His will is shown in an earlier post.

Oldest son, John W. West, died about 1860/1861 in Grayson County, Texas. He was only 45 years old at the time. It is not known how he died or where he was buried. His wife, Barbara, is buried on land that John donated to use as a school and later used by the Rockport Baptist Church as a cemetery. Was John and his father, Michael, also buried on this plot of land?

Later, during the Civil War, two of Michael West’s sons-in-law were killed by confederate vigilante groups as a result of their unionist sympathies. David Miller Leffel, husband of Susan Emeline West, was one of the victims killed during the Great Hangings at Gainesville, Texas. Michael's daughter,Susan was left a widow with a large family to care for. In 1869, Susan wrote that the men who killed her husband had continued to harass her and her family. Susan cannot be found after June 1869. Was she too killed or did she die of grief and stress?  William Boyles, husband of daughter, Elizabeth West, died as a result of hiding out in the timbers after receiving a gun-shot wound that occurred during the Great Hangings. Elizabeth remarried a few years later and lived to be 66 years old.

Youngest daughter, Louisa, and her husband, Jesse Thomas, and their family disappeared after the 1860 census. Was her husband in the Civil War? Did the family die of disease or illness?  Or did they move from Texas to an unknown location?

Below is an 1879 Vermilion County, IL History article about son, James Harvey West, who stayed in Illinois.  It gives a brief history of Michael West.

Source: Beckwith, H. W.. History of Vermilion County : together with historic notes on the Northwest,... Chicago: H.H. Hill and Co., 1879, page 862.

Transcription of above:
"James H. West was born on the 15th of March 1822. His father was Michael West, who was a native of Maryland, but afterward went to Kentucky and then to Clark county, Ohio. From Clark county, the elder Mr. West rented a farm of James Norris, one mile south of Oakwood station (Illinois).
James was brought up on his father's farm in Ohio, and lived in the family in this county till grown. He then went to Ohio, and took part in the campaign of 1840. He came back to Illinois and went to New Orleans and from there across to Havana, Cuba, with a load of produce; which he sold to the inhabitants at a good profit. He went to New Orleans a second time and in 1844 was engaged in driving beef cattle to New York City. In 1846 he went to Wisconsin and from this date till 1850 dealt in horse and cattle trade to Wisconsin. In 1849, Mr. West was married to Eliza V. McGee, of this county. He then lived two years in Champaign county. After this he moved to Middle Fork. He came to the place where he now lives in 1867. Here he owns two hundred and forty acres of land. He has seven children living and three dead. Mr. West was elected supervisor in Pilot township in 1866 and served two terms; then elected justice of the peace in Oakwood for two years; he then served as supervisor for Oakwood for four year. He has always held office of some kind. He has also been successful in business."

There are still many unanswered questions concerning the Michael West family.  Any help would be appreciated.
What happened to Louisa West Thomas and her family??
Where and how did Susan West Leffel die and where was she buried??

This family, along with all the sources, can be found on my Ancestry.com family tree, as well as my family trees on MyHertiage.com and FamilySearch.org.  My Ancestry.com family tree is the most complete with sources, photos, etc, but since a subscription is needed I have also placed information on FamilySearch.org which is FREE.  I am slowly adding more information into FamilySearch.org.

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