States: Michigan: Allegan
The Twentieth Century History of Allegan County published in 1907 contains the following biography. Ezra Brackett-The unostentatious routine of private life, although of vast importance to the welfare of a community, has not figured to any great extent in the pages of history. But the names of men who have distinguished themselves by the possession of those qualities which mainly contribute to the success of private life and to the public stability, and who have enjoyed the respect and confidence of those around them, should not be permitted to perish. Their example is more valuable to the majority of readers than that of heroes, statesmen and writers. Such are the thoughts that involuntarily come to our minds when we consider the life of him whose name introduces this sketch and who is today one of the most prominent and leading citizens of Allegan County. Ezra Brackett was born in Convis, Calhoun County, Michigan, January 17, 1848, and is a representative of one of the old and prominent pioneer families of that county. His grandfather, Ezra bracket, was a soldier in the War of 1812, being commissioned Captain of Light Infantry. His father, Ezra bracket, was born in Elbridge, New York, and came to Michigan in 1837, shortly after the territorial government, settling in Calhoun County, where, in the midst of the wilderness, he cleared and developed a farm of one hundred and twenty acres. He cut the first tree upon the place and the stump was left standing. Mr. Brackett of this review remembers in his childhood days of playing around that stump, which stood in the dooryard, and is still to be seen there-a mute reminder of the forest which once covered the district and of the work done by the pioneers in clearing the land. At the time of Ezra Brackett’s arrival there were only three other men living in the neighborhood, and all of the hardships and privations of pioneer life had to be endured. He had to take his grain and other products of his farm in a pack on his back to Albion, a distance of nineteen miles, and in the same way he brought back provisions for his family, subsequently he worked on the construction of the Michigan Central Railroad from Jackson to Marshall, and also worked on the Erie Canal at Lockport and measured every stone there on the construction of the locks before coming to the west. His educational privileges were extremely limited, for up to the time that he had attained the age of fourteen years he attended school for only two terms. He was, however, a self-made man and self-educated as well, for by reading, observation and experience he added greatly to his knowledge. He was a most interested student of ancient history and was considered an authority upon the subject, for he informed himself concerning the events, which marked the world’s progress in former years. He was a most highly esteemed and respected citizen and was very active in his town and country. He held many offices of trust in his township and his fellow townsmen, recognizing his worth and ability, accorded him the honor and distinction that was due him. In politics he was a Republican, and he wielded a wide influence in community affairs, ever standing for justice, truth, right and progress. He died in 1889, at the age of eighty-four years, having been born in 1805, and thus passed away one of the prominent early residents of Michigan, who aided in reclaiming the state from the rule of savages and utilizing it for the purpose of civilization. In early manhood he wedded Miss Mary Davison, who was born in Trenton, New Jersey, and was a daughter of John Davison, a merchant and banker of that place. She was born in 1807 and died in 1882, at the age of seventy-five years. In the family were eleven children, but only three are now living-Charles, who resides upon the old homestead, which he owns; Albert, who is located at Findlay, Ohio, and Ezra, who is the youngest of the family. Ezra Brackett remained in his native place to the age of seventeen years, and in the meantime acquired his preliminary education in the district schools. He afterward enjoyed the advantages of study in Olivet College, at Olivet, Michigan, and subsequently continued his education in Milton College in Wisconsin. In early manhood he engaged in teaching school for three years in Illinois, Indiana and Michigan, and then entered the ministry of the Seventh Day Adventist Church, preaching for five years in the last two mentioned states. On account of ill health he then retired to his farm and subsequently he purchased a farm in Monterey Township, Allegan County, which comprised one hundred and twenty acres, and was pleasantly located about eight miles north of the village of Allegan. When he made the purchase about two-thirds of the farm was under cultivation, and in addition to carrying on general agricultural pursuits he also had a good sized apple orchard. He subsequently sold this place and bought another, where he makes a specialty of raising stock, and in the days when Merino sheep were largely raised he was one of the most extensive sheep owners of the county and still has a few upon his place. He is likewise a breeder of thoroughbred horses and cattle, making a specialty of Shetland ponies, Percheron horses and Red Polled cattle. His farm is well stocked and in fact is equipped with every modern accessory and convenience known to the model farm of the twentieth century and comprises two hundred and forty acres. In 1895 he moved to the village of Allegan and purchased property, residing in one of the most modern residences in the village. He goes to and from his farm each day to superintend the work, which is carefully conducted and brings him an excellent financial return. On March 26, 1873, in Monterey Township, Allegan County, Mr. Brackett was married to Miss Ella M. Lay, whose birth occurred in Allegan on May 27, 1853, her parents being George T. and Mary (Barber) Lay. Her father was born October 28, 1822, near Lockport, in Niagara County, New York and was the son of Abner Lay, who removed to that place from Vermont when a young man, at which time western New York was a dense wilderness. He afterward took an active part in the War of 1812, being engaged in a number of battles in the vicinity of Buffalo and Black Rock. He married Mehitable Talbot, a native of Massachusetts, and a lineal descendant of one of the three brothers who were among the earliest settlers of the Bay State. George T. Lay. Father of Mrs. Brackett, was a youth of ten years when he accompanied his parents on their removal to Erie County, Pennsylvania, and at that tender age he assisted his father in clearing the homestead, enduring with the family the many hardships and privations of pioneer life. He remained there until twenty-one years of age, when he left the cleared and well improved farm in Pennsylvania to seek his fortune farther west. He first made his way to Jackson, Michigan, at that time the terminus of the Michigan Central Railroad, and carrying his satchel in hand, he then traveled on foot through different towns and finally arriving in Allegan in May 1844. The best outlet Kalamazoo then had for her flour was by shipping it in keelboats to Allegan and transferring it from boats above the dam to boats below and thence down river to Lake Michigan. Mr. Lay took passage on board the keelboat Pioneer and spent his first summer in Michigan sailing up and down the Kalamazoo River. He next became connected with the lumber trade and for the succeeding nine years worked at it in all of its branches, from taking the tree from the stump in the forests of Allegan County to retailing the lumber on the docks at the head of Lake Street, Chicago. After residing in Allegan for a few years and exercising great economy as well as industry he became able to purchase one hundred and sixty acres of land on section 25, Monterey Township. Instead of paying for his land immediately he used what means he had in hiring men to chop down trees. He also worked in this way himself and thus succeeded in soon clearing one hundred acres. The first and second crops raised thereon paid for the land and cleared the farm of all indebtedness, and he continued to add to his holdings until he had acquired about fourteen hundred acres.
On the 5th of October, 1851, Mr. Lay was married to a daughter of Chester and Nancy (Barber. She was born in Old Canaan, Connecticut, July 14, 1825, and at the age of nine years accompanied her father’s family to Freedom, Portage County, Ohio, and thence to Allegan in 1844. Following their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Lay remained in Allegan until after the birth of their first child, May 27, 1853. It was a daughter who, at the age of twenty years, became the wife of Ezra Brackett. Mr. Lay was very successful in life and very prominent and influential in public affairs in Monterey Township. He also proved an important factor in different industries of the county and his business integrity was above question. He died at his home in Allegan March 31, 1901. Unto Mr. and Mrs. Brackett have been born three children-Lloyd Clayton Brackett and Ezra Carelton Brackett, both born in Monterey, and Lela Brackett, who was born in Allegan and died aged eleven months. The family is prominent in the community and Mr. Brackett is one whose life history is indeed commendable and exemplary. Reared amid pioneer conditions and early familiar with many of the hardships incident to life on the frontier, he has good use of his opportunities as the years have gone by, and is today a prominent representative of agricultural interests. For many years he has participated in business life of the county and has so directed his affairs as to merit the confidence and esteem of the entire community, while no word of censure has ever been uttered against his actions.
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