Van Buren County
Also see [Railway Officials in America 1906]
Mr. Conklin’s father, David Conklin, was born in the town of North Salem, Westchester Co., N. Y., and was of
English descent. He had a family of seventeen children, of whom Thomas Conklin was the eighth.
Thomas Conklin was born in Rutland, Jefferson Co., N. Y., Jan. 2, 1811, on a farm to which his father had removed
from Westchester County, and upon which the young man remained until he was of age, attending the district schools
and assisting in the care of the place. From his father he never received any money; but when he became of age
he was the possessor of ten dollars, which he had saved in small snms, from a cent to a shilling. With this amount
of money he started for Rochester, paying eight dollars of it for stage fare. With a portion of what he had left
he purchased an axe, and went into the country for the winter. For four successive seasons thereafter he hired
Out at the rate of one hundred dollars for eight months’ work. In the early fall of 1836 he emigrated to Michigan,
and purchased two hundred and twelve acres of government land in the township of Hartford. The snow soon fell to
such a depth that he could not continue his improvements, and he spent the winter in Allegan County. He had been
accompanied from Battle Creek to Hartford by his brother, James Conklin, and a cousin named Selleek, they having
located previously at Battle Creek. The first night in the woods of Hartford was passed in a shanty made of a few
boards and their wagon-box placed against a tree they had cut down. The forest resounded through the night with
the howls of wolves. In March, 1837, Mr. Conklin retuned from Allegan County, and, in company with B. A. Olney
and James Spinnings, built a log cabin on his place, and agaia began improvements. The three lived in the cabin
for some time, Messrs. Olney and Spinnings settling in the neighborhood. When the weather moderated Mr. Conklin
built a log house, covered it with boards, and lived in it alone for six weeks, cooking his food beside a burning
stump. He cut the timber from six acres of his land, planted some corn and potatoes, and about July 1, 1837, started
on his return to New York. In August of the same year he was married, in Jefferson County, to Martha Justina Ely,
who was left an orphan when young. She nttended the female seminary at Watertown, and became an excellent teacher.
She was an estimable lady, and taught for the benefit of the children, although not always receiving her pay. After
coming to Hartford she taught the first school in the township. Mr. and Mrs. Conklin came to Michigan soon after
their marriage, and moved into the log house on the first day of October, 1837. The building eontaiued no bedstead,
and had neither doors nor windows, but was well roofed. A pole bedstead was constructed, of the fashion well known
to pioneers, and the ticks were placed upon it. Mrs. Conklin became the mother of two children, one of whom, a
daughter, died in infancy; Luke E., the son, was the first white male child born in the township, his birth occurring
Dee. 3, 1838. He is married, has four children, and is a respected citizen of Hartford township. Mrs. Conklin died
Dee. 6, 1843, and on her death-bed expressed the wish that her husband should marry Fannie Davison, who had assisted
in earing for her during her sickness, and this union was consummated on the 29th of February, 1844. Mrs. Fannie
Conklin became the mother of eight children, five of whom died young, and one died when fourteen years old, from
the effects of the kick of a horse. Two of them are now living, Charles Podolphus, nineteen years of age, and Miland
Chester, in his eighteenth year. Mrs. Conklin was a woman of unusual financial ability, and Mr. Conklin attributes
a large measure of his success to hef efforts during the twentythree years they lived together. She was highly
respected by all. Her death occurred May 25, 1867. Her flither, George Davison, settled early in Keeler township,
and was from near Angehica, Allegany Co., N. Y.
In June, 1867, Mr. Conklin was married to Samantha Kennedy (from whom he was divorced), who bore him three ehildren,
T. J. Conklin, Odell Conklin. and Elon Conklin. All are living. May 26, 1879, he entered matrimony a fourth time,
leading to the hymeneal altar Sirs. Nellie Poole Jones, divorced wife of Samuel Jones, who was living at Lawrence
at the time of her marriage. She is the mother of a daughter, Blanche, by her first husband, and is an estiurable
lady. She was well and favorably known in former years as one of Van Buren County’s most successful teachers.
Mr. Conklin aided in building the Methodist church at Hartford village (although not a member). and paid one thousand
dollars towards the Chicago and West Michigan Railway. He built a church in the village arid sold it to the Baptist
society, and has also erected a brick store building, beside aiding other religious societies. He is a Universalist
in belief, and a Douglas Democrat in polities. His nephew, John Conklin, also a native of Jefferson Co., N. Y..
who had been for several years a sailor, was chosen as one of the first crew of the original “ Monitor” during
the war of the Rebellion. Mr. Conklin moved upon his present farm, on section 22, in 1868, and is the owner of
five hundred acres of land.
History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan
With Illistrations and Biographical Sketches
of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers.
D. W. Ensign & Co., Philadelphia 1880
Press of J. B. Lippincoff & Co., Philadelphia.