(1866-1944)                      (1868-1930)


Ferd Porter as a boy, perhaps about the time his baby sister Effie May died.

Esther Stauffer Porter as a child.

Esther's Fourth-Great-Granddaughter, Victoria

Ferd Porter was born the year after the end of the Civil War and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. He was born into a family where three of the first four babies had died within a year of birth. When he was born, his parents had been married eleven years. He was his mother’s sixth pregnancy (she was 27), but there was only one living brother, Eugene, aged 6, and a sister Mary, age 3.

The family lived in a large frame house which his father George had built just a few years earlier. Indeed, additions and improvement on the home may well have been ongoing throughout Ferd’s childhood. George was a farmer, and Ferd would have grown up learning and sharing in the farm chores from a young age.

When Ferd was two, a baby sister, Edith, was born and but she died three months later. When he was six, the same thing happened with yet another, Effie May. Then for ten years there were no babies. When Ferd was a teenager, however, another baby brother was born, Charles Glenn (who went by Glenn). Family tradition says that Delilah, by then past forty, never fully recovered from the birth. On November 2, 1882, when Glenn  was six weeks old, the mother of the family died.

(A footnote to the closeness of Delilah’s children—Mary named her three sons Ferdinand, Eugene, and  Porter, while both Eugene and Ferd named a daughter Delilah. Both girls--Delilah Zoe and my grandmother Delilah Fern--never knew their grandmother and chose to use their middle names.)


A year and a half later, Ferd’s father remarried. Ferd himself did not marry for four more years. He was 22 when he married Esther (occasionally called Ettie) Stauffer. We know little or nothing about him in those years between his mother’s death and his marriage, whether he continued living on his father’s farm, got into farming on his own, or what. He is seen in the yard in a picture of the home taken when Glenn was small and Ferd was perhaps 18.

Esther Sophronia Stauffer was the second child of Samuel and Roxana (Wells) Stauffer (see Samuel Stauffer history). She was probably taking her first steps hanging on to the furniture when Ulysses S. Grant was elected president. Her brother Charlie was two years older. She was eight when her brother Frank was born and 12 when her sister, Lois Mabel, was born. Undoubtedly, Esther enjoyed having a baby sister to mother. An autograph book, given to her the Christmas she was eleven, survives in the family and makes delightful reading.

A picture taken in 2006 won a prize in the genealogy Family Tree Magazine. It showed a surprising resemblance between the child Esther Stauffer and her fourth-great-granddaughter, Victoria Caroline Gross, born 132 years after Esther.

Ferd and Esther were married October 24, 1888. The two family members who signed the wedding license were Esther’s mother, Roxy, and her brother, Charles. Samuel’s younger brother George would later marry Roxy’s younger sister, Mary Jane. They had five children, including twins Claude and Maude, before George came home early one day and found Jane in a  “compromising situation.” There was a divorce. George remarried and had a son, Earl, whose wife, Ruth, was such a help in our earliest gathering of information on the Stauffers.

Ferd Porter as a young man

Esther Stauffer Porter as a 
teen or young woman

Two years later, a baby girl was born to them whom they named Effa Mildred. An unusual family situation was taking place during those years because Ferd’s father, George, was also having children. When Effa was eleven months old, her “aunt,” Mila Hazel, was born to George and Mary Ann Porter. On February 5, 1893, when George was sixty, his twelfth child, Ford, was born; a year later, on February 2, 1894, a baby who was Ford's niece was born to Ferd and Esther   


A special picture survives of the Porter family in its early years. It shows Ferd and Esther standing in front of a modest frame house, two small girls (Effa and Fern) in a hammock, and a very old lady—very likely Samuel Stauffer’s mother Magdalena seated in the foreground. It seems a logical conclusion that Magdalena made her home with her granddaughter Esther in her later years. To calculate a date for the picture, consider that Effa was born in 1890, Fern in ‘94, and Magdalena died in 1901. 

Another picture of the young Porter family came to us through Jean VanderLaan Haas, a granddaughter of Ferd’s sister, Mary. It shows the family in a more formal setting and the girls a little older. In this picture it is hard to tell which sister is older, but closer examination shows that Fern is sitting on a stool. In the later picture of the two sisters below, Effa is clearly four years older than Fern.

Fern Porter with School Class

Nine years after Esther's father died in a cistern accident on his farm and a year before her mother died, mother Roxy Stauffer's estate was "settled," and Ferd and Esther became owners of the farm. They and the girls moved to the brick house. In 1908 Ferd’s father, George, died, and in 1909 Esther’s mother, Roxy, died. Ferd would live in that house some 45 more years until his own death. 


The year after Esther’s mother died, 1910, began an eventful decade for Ferd and Esther. In October, 20-year-old Effa married—on her parents’ 22nd anniversary. Two years later, Ferd and Esther welcomed their first grandchild, a baby girl whom Clyde and Effa named Helen. At the time, Clyde was studying at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. 

Meanwhile, a new pastor, freshly graduated from Moody, had come to the North Chester Baptist Church. The story goes that he boarded with the Porters for a while. This was a common practice in those days, and after all, their brick house was just down Sixteenth Street and visible from the church. It wasn’t long before the minister, Mont Hawkins, had fallen in love with the Porters’ younger daughter, Fern. 

A priceless treasure has survived in the family--a letter written by Fern to Mont in 1912 when she was visiting her sister in Chicago. In deference to her wishes about strict privacy <smile>, we are going share only a couple of choice sentences. Despite the formal (to us) salutation, it is clear in the letter that the two were in love. She says on the first  page, "My dear, I am so glad you told the folks, I thought about it this morning and wondered if you had yet. I am so anxious to see you and find out all about it. You don't know how much I miss you."  Mont and Fern were married in December of 1913.  

November of 1914 brought a second grandchild, Lyman to Effa, and January of 1915, a third, Esther to Fern. Agnes was born to Fern in 1917 and Leon to Effa in 1918. A last grandchild, Paul, was born to Fern in 1921. The Industrial Revolution was beginning to be felt in family dynamics. With both sons-in-law being pastors, the grandchildren did not live in the immediate vicinity, as had those in the preceding couple of generations. 


The 1920s saw the beginning of Porter Reunions. These were attended by descendants of George Porter’s father, Curtis. All five of Curtis’s children had found their way to Michigan from New York. At the first reunion, George’s widow (Ferd’s step-mother and one of the matriarchs of the group in attendance) was commissioned to write a family history. From that we have learned a great deal about our Porter ancestors. A notebook was kept of the reunions. Once they began a “sign-in,” we can tell by their signatures that Ferd and Esther’s family were quite faithful in attendance, sometimes coming from as far away as northern Indiana. The reunions were held almost until the time that World War II broke out. 


The family enjoys a number of stories about our Grandma Porter. Once a visiting preacher stayed with the Porters while conducting meetings at the North Chester Church (after all, they lived just up the road, within sight of the church). For some reason, when the meetings were over, the preacher did not leave. Every morning, Grandma Porter faithfully served him an egg (and whatever else) for breakfast—and the next morning he was always still there. Finally one morning she served him two eggs.   

“Oh!” he said. “Two eggs! Is there some special occasion?”   

“Why, yes,” she replied demurely, “you have a long journey ahead of you today.” Some family members still joke about serving two eggs on days when someone is going to travel.   

In the early twenties, son-in-law Mont Hawkins’s pastorate took the family to northern Indiana, which was some distance from North Chester in those transition-from-horse-and-buggy days. Some time later, Mont acquired a car (perhaps the first in the family?) and proudly drove his young family up to the farm in it. On arrival, he couldn’t help bragging that they had traveled thirty miles an hour on the trip up, to which Grandma Porter exclaimed, “My word, Mont! You’re gonna kill ‘em all!”    

One spring, also in the twenties, the Hawkinses sent the Porter grandparents a baby announcement, which survives in the family archives. It recounts the birth of “Betty Jane” and gives all her vital statistics. Grandpa Porter is reported to have grunted to his wife, “My word, Mother—did you know anything about this?” Then he turned it over and discovered “April Fool!” penciled in tiny letters in one corner.

Apparently Grandpa Porter decided that was one joke that needed a turnabout to make it fair play. The next time the grandchildren arrived at the farm, he made an offer he knew they wouldn’t refuse. Knowing that his city-dwelling grandchildren loved nothing more than buggy rides when they visited the farm, he offered them one. With great anticipation, they trouped after him out to the barn and waited impatiently while he got the faithful horse all bridled and harnessed to the buggy. 

The children piled in and got settled, and Grandfather took his seat. But instead of ordering the horse forward, he suddenly said, “April Fool!” Someone produced a camera and documented the occasion of “Grandpa’s revenge” for the family album, but it is too small for the passengers to be identified.   

At one time in the 1920s, Ferd and Esther left the farm in the care of their son-in-law Clyde Wood and his family while they spent several years living in Mishawaka where Mont was still a pastor. There Ferd took up home building. He built four houses, including the one at 1012 Charlotte Street in which daughter Fern and her family lived for the next 25 years and where she died. It was also the home that her missionary grandchildren would come to know as “Grandpa and Grandma Hawkins’s house.” Even now, some eighty years later and in the next century, family member still occasionally drive by the house when they are in the area.


Ferd and Esther Porter with their first five grandchildren: Agnes Hawkins ('17), Lyman Wood ('14), Helen Wood ('12), Esther Hawkins ('15), and Leon Wood (10-'18). Judging by Leon's size and the fact that they are dressed for summer, we estimate the picture was taken in the summer of 1920.

In the fall of 1930, Esther was discovered to have cancer of the stomach. Surgery was performed, but in those days with no other treatments available, it was too late to do anything but close her up again. When they laid her to rest one day in mid-October (she died the 16th), who would have guessed that the 15-year-old granddaughter in the group, her namesake Esther, would die on her grandmother's birthday 61 years later—also from a stomach problem.   

Ferd lived another fourteen years. Though he and Esther had attended nearly all the Porter reunions, including one just six weeks before her death in 1930, he apparently never attended another. The reunion book, however, records his marriage on May 26, 1935, to a widow named Etta VanderHoof. Lyman Wood remembers her as being “one of the sweetest women” he ever knew.    

Born a year after the close of the Civil War, Ferd lived to within six months of the end of World War II, in which his grandson Paul fought. He died, also from cancer, the last winter of the war (December 14, 1944). He actually died during the Battle of the Bulge in which Paul was fighting. 

In the fourteen years between Esther’s death and his own, five of his six grandchildren married, and he had the pleasure of seeing six great-grandchildren—Esther J. Moneysmith, David Gordon, Barbara, Tom, and Dan Wood, and Jim Wood. Three others he did not see because they were born overseas to his missionary granddaughters—Don and Dottie Moneysmith to Esther and Ruth Anne Divine to Agnes. Within eight years of his death, both his daughters joined him in glory. Within twenty years, one of his granddaughters and three of his great-grandsons did also (Helen Wood Gordon, David and Mark Gordon (March 26, 1959) and Don Paul Moneysmith (March 5, 1964).