Saturday, August 22, 2009

Portraits of Ypsilantians: Samuel Ballard; Pioneer Poet, Prohibitionist, and Husband to Harmonical Philosopher

"Samuel P. Ballard, who is a representative citizen of Augusta Township, is a native of Monroe County, N. Y., where he was born January 20, 1824. He is a son of Asa N. and Elizabeth (Henry) Ballard, the former being a native of Massachusetts, and the latter of New York. Our subject's paternal grandsire was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. Early in the Territorial history of Michigan, in 1828, and when our subject was in his fourth year, he was brought by his parents to this county, coming hither by way of the Erie Canal and the lakes to Detroit, thence to Ypsilanti by stage while the goods came to Rawsonville by flat-boat. Asa Ballard was one of the earliest settlers of Ypsilanti Township, their first home here being made in the midst of the woods.

"After combating with the difficulties and privations of pioneer life, our subject's father departed this life in the year 1844, and his wife followed him in 1861. They were the parents of seven children, of whom only three survive. They are Forbes H., Celinda, the widow of James Pierson and Samuel P., of whom we write. Our subject was reared to manhood amid scenes of pioneer life, and prior to coming to his present location, he cleared up an eighty-acre farm in Ypsilanti Township, besides doing much other pioneer labor. He has witnessed the growth of the country from a primeval state of wilderness to its present productive and rich agricultural state, On first coming here wolves frequently made the night hideous about their cabin with their howls, and bears were frequently seen, deer and wild turkeys were also easily attainable by anyone who could use a rifle, and fish were to be had for the catching in the many streams with which the country abounded, and it was not necessary to worry over fashion, for as long as a garment remained whole, it was suitable for wear. Indians were numerous, and our subject was often permitted to see them congregate in thousands to engage in the war dance. These questionable advantages were however offset by the meagre opportunities offered for acquiring an education, but where there is a will there is a way, and our subject made up for many of the deficiencies of his early training by reading all that he could lay hands on by the light of the hickory fire in the long winter evenings, and as papers became more common, he endeavored to keep himself thoroughly well posted, not only with the issues of the day, but all current events.

"Mr. Ballard was married February 10, 1846, to Miss Huldah Ann Phelps, who was born October 17, 1826, in the old Bay State. She is a daughter of Norman and Huldah Miranda (Harvey) Phelps. Her parents emigrated to Michigan in 1830. This marriage was blest by the advent of one son into the family to whom they gave the name of Norman A., but who is now deceased. Our subject purchased the farm upon which he now resides in 1862, but did not locate upon it until 1863. His tract is not a wide one, containing but forty acres, but it is kept in the most perfect order, and cultivated to the greatest possible extent. There is upon it an elegant residence that is fitted out with the most modern conveniences, and furnished most beautifully, showing that the taste employed in bringing the various articles of decoration, use and vertu [virtue] is of the most refined and exquisite nature. On entering the home the visitor is impressed with a sense of the culture and refinement shown in all the appurtenances of the place rarely found in rural homes.

"Mr. Ballard has served in various capacities in local offices of the township, having been Commissioner of Highways for six years, Justice of the Peace for four years, and since 1863 he has been prominently identified with the Grange society, and has served in various capacities. He belongs to Grange No. 52, Augusta Township, having for several years been Master of the fraternity. He has also served as Secretary, and for a number of years has been Lecturer. Prior to coming here he was Treasurer of Pomona Grange, located at Ypsilanti. He is a member of the Masonic order, and prominently known in the State as the writer of articles that most ably set forth the advantages pertaining to Grange societies, nor does he confine himself to this, but discusses in the topics which he takes up, the leading issues of the day. He has much ability in metrical writing, and his poems are characterized by a delicacy as well as strength. Politically Mr. Ballard is a Prohibitionist. He is a prominent and representative pioneer of the county.

"Our subject and his wife have ever been useful and interested members of society, and are now enjoying the consciousness of a life well spent. For a number of years Mrs. Ballard was before the public as a lecturer. The general subject of her discourses was harmonical philosophy, and under this head she lectured on various topics, and acquired a pleasing reputation throughout the State. She was also frequently called upon in years past, to preach funeral sermons, and offer consolation to bereaved families. She is a lady of large and varied mental ability, and is a fit companion for her talented husband. Both are highly esteemed and respected members of their community. They have numerous friends who wish them many years of enjoyment of the good things of this life. They are known far and wide for their extended hospitality which is dispensed with a lavish hand."

--Portrait and Biographical Album of Washtenaw County, Michigan; 1891, Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago.


Lisele said...

I don't really know anything about the Grange Society -- where was the Pomona Grange? Is it still extant?

jml said...

In the Grange hierarchy, the Pomona Grange is the next level up from local Granges, usually organized around counties (local - Pomona - State - National). The Michigan Grange website has more information, but it seems to be down now.

Oh, and that's The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry