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Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Wylie Family Moves to Michigan

Nothing has tended so much towards the rapid progress of the Western Country as the strong disposition to emigration among the Americans themselves. Even when doing well in the…eastern States they will break up their establishments and move westward with an alacrity and vigor no other people would do unless compelled by necessity…In this way it is that the Western States have advanced in population and prosperity with rapidity [unparalleled] in the history of mankind —Daniel Blowe, 1820 (1)

Obviously James Gammell possessed a “strong disposition to emigration,” but apparently the whole family was endowed with that same spirit.  His mother, Mrs. James H. Wylie, his stepfather, his brother Andrew, his sister, Margaret Jane Andrews, and his three half siblings, Henry (James H.), Frederick, and Mary Wylie, all joined him on the great western frontier of south central Michigan. Sometime after 1845, the Wylies settled in Hanover Township, Jackson County.

Hanover lies adjacent to the western border of Spring Arbor Township.  (The Wylies actually may have lived on property owned by James’ father-in-law, John Fitzgerald, who had a parcel of land in Hanover.(2)) By 1845 the Wylies had left Lowell, Massachusetts, and moved to Greenfield, another Massachusetts factory town, before moving to Michigan. They seemed to be seeking opportunities to make a better life for themselves and their family.  In his letters to his mother, James must have made the fertile farmland of Michigan sound extremely attractive.  Although James left Michigan in 1850, his mother lived in Hanover until at least 1854, the year that two of her granddaughters, Esther Gammell and Catherine Matilde Andrews, were born.  That same year, her grandson Orlin F. Gammell, living in nearby Spring Arbor, would have been eight years old.

Marion (May) Jenette Andrews
b. 1852 in Hanover, Michigan,
daughter of James B. Andrews and Margaret Jane Gammell
(Courtesy of Patricia Riddell Lococo)

As always, even in hard times, life goes on, and many important family events had occurred during James’ ordeal in Van Diemen’s Land.  One can only imagine Jean Wylie’s tears and constant prayers during James’ four years of captivity, as she vacillated between hope and despair, receiving little or no word about the fate of her son.  At the time of his arrival in New York (June 1842), James’ family was probably still living in Lowell, Massachusetts, except for William, who was in Texas, and Robert, who was supposedly in New York City.  His mother had given birth to a daughter, Mary Ann Wylie, born in October 1838, during the time that James was still imprisoned at Fort Henry. In 1842, four children were still living at home:  Henry (James H.) Wylie, age 10, Frederick Wylie age 7, Mary Wylie, age 3, and Andrew F. Gammell, age 13. James’ sister, Margaret Jane Gammell, had married Captain James B. Andrews in 1837, and they were living in Key West, Florida.  Over a period of fourteen years, Margaret Jane (known as Jane) gave birth to seven children.  Five of the babies died before the age of two.  Her two surviving daughters, Marion Jenette and Catherine Matilde, were both born while Jane was living in Hanover, Michigan with her mother.  Jane’s husband, James Andrews, left Key West and moved to Michigan in about 1852.  While in Hanover, James’ brother Andrew F. Gammell, age twenty-one, married his sixteen-year-old neighbor, Esther Van Patten.

The whole Wylie family, with the exception of son Henry (James H.) Wylie, had left Michigan and gone to Texas by 1859. Henry returned to Massachusetts, where he joined the Union Army, 1st Regiment, Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, and served in the Civil War.(3) The rest of the family, including Andrew Gammell and his sister Jane (Margaret Jane), moved to Houston, Texas, to join their brother William and his wife.  Jane’s husband, Captain Andrews, died in Texas in September 1858, and Jane remarried a year later.

NOTE: I am indebted to Patricia Riddell Lococo for all the information about the Wylie and Andrews families. Pat is a descendant of James Gammell’s sister, Margaret Jane Gammell Andrews.

  1. Blowe, Daniel, Emigrant’s Directory, 1820, p. 63. (Quoted by A. E. Parkins, pp. 175-76.)
  2. 1850 US Census, Hanover, Michigan: Jas H Wylie, farmer, value of real estate owned $1600. (Wylie could have purchased land to farm.)

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