Two Michigan Stauffers have been a mystery for me--one for several decades and the other only since the Internet came along. I knew about the first one from his cemetery headstone, while the other one kept popping up as I looked at links related to my ancestor Samuel Stauffer (1844-1899). A year or so ago I found out about the first one, and I just figured out about the second one as I studied some new sources and put together pieces of information.


In 2006 family members once again visited Bennett Cemetery in Chester Twp, Ottawa Co, nw of Grand Rapids. This time we knew who Noah and Nettie were. The large monument off the left side of the obelisk is the Stauffer monument for his parents, Abraham and Magdalena, and his brother Samuel and wife, Roxy.

In the Bennett Cemetery in Ottawa County northwest of Grand Rapids, Abraham and Magdalena Stauffer are buried. Their son Samuel and his wife Roxy are buried on the other side of a large Stauffer monument. All four are my ancestors. Quite nearby is a sandstone obelisk headstone that intrigued me for many years. It is for a couple named Noah and Nettie Stauffer, who both died quite young. I remember many years ago my mother and I wondering who that young couple could have been, why they had died so young, and whether they were connected to our Stauffers.

When Jo Kelly sent me the descendency chart on Abraham, based on her work on the history of Chester township, I found on the very first page a Noah Stauffer listed as a son of Abraham and younger brother of Samuel and George. And his wife's name was Jennette! The data on him came from the Ottawa County Death Records, and it is confirmed in the 1860 census where Noah is listed as an 8-year-old in Abraham's household. He was born in Canada in 1851, so he would have been just three the year the family moved to Michigan.  

He married his Nettie on October 22, 1876 when he was 25. Less than six months later, on April 4, 1877, she died of consumption (tuberculosis). What the gravestone hadn't told us was that six months later, on September 30, Noah married again, to a girl named Sarah Chase. And just a year after that--on September 20, 1878--Noah himself died of something called spinal fever, probably meningitis or typhus. We'll never know why we hadn't heard mention of him in the family, nor why he isn't listed in some family Bibles that contain data on that generation, except that he died about ten years earlier than anyone else of our then-known people in his generation. 

So who in the world was this other Samuel Stauffer that I kept running into on the Internet? Despite the facts that he was born in Canada, that censuses place him in Chester Township, Ottawa County, and he is even buried in Bennett Cemetery quite near "our" Stauffers, he was clearly not my Samuel. For one thing, he was ten years older, and his name was always accompanied by a T. Most of all, in the censuses he had an entirely different family. So who was he?

Also on this Samuel's plot are his wife, Mary, who outlived him by 35 years, and his daughter Margaret, who died at age 13.

It wasn't until recently when I began delving into the families of my Samuel's aunts and uncles who also moved to Michigan that I got some clues of who this other Samuel Stauffer might be. I now believe he was the fifth of Isaac and Jane Stauffer's eighteen children (Isaac was Abraham's oldest brother). So the two Samuel Stauffers were cousins!

How well did these cousins know each other? It is hard to say in the beginning. Samuel T. was 19 or 20 when his uncle Abraham moved his family away from Waterloo, Ontario, to Kent County, Michigan. After that, Samuel T. married someone named Mary and had two children. Somewhere between 1862 and 1867, his family also made the move to Michigan. We don't know if he went first to the Caledonia area south of Grand Rapids where others of the extended Stauffer family had settled, including three of his brothers. What we do know is that by the time of the 1870 census he was in Chester Township with his cousins Samuel, George, and Noah and his Aunt Magdalena (Uncle Abraham had died in 1866).

Why Samuel T chose to go there instead of where his brothers were (and eventually his parents) is one of those things we will doubtless never know. It is one of two things that suggest to me that in some way Samuel T had a bond with his uncle's family. I discovered another fact most interesting to me: October 24, 1865 my Samuel married Roxana Wells. Two years later when Samuel T. and Mary's third child was born a girl, they named her Roxana, which was definitely not a Stauffer-type name. So it appears our Roxy had a namesake!

In the years that followed, Samuel, who was a carpenter, and Mary had three more children--Emma, Willie, and Clara. Right between Roxana and Emma, in 1868, Samuel and Roxy had a baby girl whom they named for his Grandmother Esther.
It's fun to imagine those three second-cousin girls having fun growing up together, perhaps attending the school on 15th Street where some of us present-day teachers in the family have sat on the steps and had our picture taken. (For a full account of what we know about the school, see SchoolHouse.)

From a Hawkins Photo Album

One page of that Michigan census, taken in the “township of Chester, in the county of Ottawa” on June 1 of that year, provides us with the most single-page information we have of several families in our ancestor tree. The first is George and Delilah Porter, with children Eugene, Mary, and Ferdinand. Just six “doors”—or likely farms—away are Samuel and Roxy Stauffer with children Charly, Esther, Frank, and baby Mable. And with just one “farm” or address away from them is the residence of Samuel T. and Mary Stauffer with their five children. 

Both George and Samuel are listed as farmers, while Samuel T. was a carpenter. (Samuel’s oldest son, 22, is listed as a farmer and the second one, 18, as a carpenter like his father.)

This info gives us an even fuller picture of the closeness between the families of the two Samuels. Though we can’t tell from this information how well the George Porter and Samuel Stauffer families knew each other in 1880 and through the years, we do know that eight years after this census Ferd Porter married Esther Stauffer.

Sadly, Samuel T. died sometime in 1881 when he was only 46. His two Canadian-born sons were 19 and 23. Roxana and Emma were young teens, while Willie and Clara were just nine and seven. They laid Samuel to rest in the burial plot next to the one where his Uncle Abraham had been buried fifteen years earlier. I find in that simple fact another hint that by that time the families may have been close.

Abraham was the only Stauffer in the cemetery for a dozen years until his son Noah died at 27. Eighteen years after his cousin's death, just six weeks before the turn of the century, my Samuel would take his place on the other half of Abraham's plot. Magdalena would find hers beside Abraham not long into the new century, and Roxy would complete that quartet in 1909. Samuel T's Mary outlived them all, not dying until 1916 when she was 77.

After having that mysterious guy flirt with me around the Internet for several years, finding now that he is family--and was all along--is a strange feeling. But I'm delighted that my two mystery guys have indeed turned out to be family, and I can't wait for my next visit to Bennett Cemetery.