Eli M. Hurley
Of Bertrand Township
Eli M. Hurley was born on 06 Oct 1822 in Virginia the son of John and Phebe (Koon) Hurley. Eli Hurley married Nancy Ellen Blake on 03 Aug 1849 in Henry County, Indiana. Eli died on 12 Nov 1871 in Bertrand Township, Berrien County, Michigan. Eli Hurley owned property in section 10 of Bertrand Township.
The 1860 census of Bertrand Township includes:
Eli Hurrie, 38 years of age, born in Virginia
Nancy E. Hurrie, 26 years of age, born in Indiana
Phebe Hurrie, 7 years of age, born in Indiana
James Hurrie, 6 years of age, born in Michigan
Joanna Hurrie, 4 years of age, born in Michigan
William Hurrie, 1 year of age, born in Michigan
Obiviously this should be Hurley not Hurrie. This family must have arrived in Michigan by 1854.
The 1870 census of Bertrand Towship includes:
Eli Hurley, farmer, 46 years of age, born in Virginia
Nancy Hurley, 34 years of age, born in Indiana
Phoebe Hurley, 17 years of age, born in Indiana
James Hurley, 14 years of age, born in Michigan
Joanna Hurley, 12 years of age, born in Michigan
Rebecca Hurley, 8 years of age, born in Michigan
Louis Hurley, 8 months old, born in Michigan
The 1880 census of Bertrand Township includes:
Nancy E. Hurley, 45 years of age, born in Indiana
Lewis W. Hurley, 10 years of age, born in Michigan
The following Biography was written for a book called, Portage’s Past. This is a collection of memories of an area of Bertrand Township called Portage Prairie. This biography reads:
The Oak Forest Road curved to the east, just north of the Travis home, and the first Hurley home was located here, on the east side of the road. The map of 1860 shows this log house and the Hurley land in Sec. 10 W. The records in St. Joe tell us John and Phoebe Hurley lived in Indiana, and Eli is named as a son. He came to this area to work, met Nancy Ellen Blake, a daughter of John Blake, and married during the 8150’s. Elbie York told me John Blake gave this 15½ acres of land to his daughter, when they were married. The Atlas of 1873 shows their log cabin had been rebuilt on the west side of the road. It remained there for more than thirty years. The Eli Hurleys had a large family. Phoebe (Mrs. John Best), Alice (Mrs. Ed Miller, Jamat, Joe, Louis and Rebecca were some of their children. The old school records show other names too dim to read. It is to be seen that Eli named his first child for his mother.
Phoebe Hurley was a rather handsome girl and popular with the young people. She went to school in the district log school on the Chicago Road and told me of the blow snakes on the dirt floor. When the new Pollywog School was opened in 1869, she was in attendance on the first day, and she and Eva Young claimed the honor of naming the school. She was sixteen years old then, and soon after that she was working in Buchanan. There is a picture of Phoebe and Ada Sanders taken when they were young girls.
Phoebe’s father, Eli Hurley, died in 1871 when she was eighteen years old. Phoebe spoke of poverty and told how the children took their wages to their mother.
Phoebe J. Hurley and John Best were married in 1878. He was Dave Best’s oldest son. The Best family is an old one in this area, and its many descendants are intermarried with many Berrien County families. John Best, the first ancestor to come to America, came from Holland and settled in New Jersey. One of his sons, John Best moved to Pennsylvania and married Sarah Allen, whose father, Capt. John Allen, was an officer in the Revolutionary War. They settled near the Susquehanna River, and David Best was born there in 1822.
The Best family came to Indiana in 1851 and David learned the trade of a blacksmith and the working of iron became his chief interest during the rest of his life. He helped build the first railroad in Schykill County, Pennsylvania, and worked on the Doubre Locks. Elbie York told me her grandfather helped build the M.C.R.R. when it was constructed across Michigan. In 1847, he married Elmira Lemon, and they became the parents of twelve children, eight of whom were living in 1893, and all of whom are named in the Biographical History of that year. He moved his family into a log cabin on the corner of Buchanan-Galien and High Bridge Roads. After a time he built a frame house south of his cabin and used the cabin for a blacksmith shop. He later built the large home on the corner that stands there today. After David Best’s death, the farm was sold to Melvin Boyle, and he moved there when he married Laura Shafer. The farm was purchased by John Russell and he enlarged and improved the buildings. It is a handsome farm residence.
John and Phoebe Best lived in the western part of Bertrand Township when they were first married. Allie May Best was born near Clear Lake and Elbie Best was born in Dayton. Phoebe Best’s mother, old Mrs. Hurley, married Harvey Buckles in 1880, and she and her youngest son, who was then ten years old, moved to the ‘Priscilla Fields’ home just north of the Whitesel Corner in St. Joseph Co., Indiana. Mr. Buckles died in 1884 and his wife and some of her sons went to Kansas. It was, no doubt, about this time that Phoebe Best and her two little girls moved to the Hurley home on Oak Forest. John Best had died and Phoebe had a rather hard time. There were no widow’s pensions in those days and no welfare programs. I have heard Elbie tell of helping her sister sawing wood when they had to stand on blocks to be above the log. Phoebe did housework in Buchanan and walked back and forth every day. It was late when she would get home and the girls would try and milk the cow. Allie May said she was a ‘kicky’ cow and her Mother had bought her ‘cheap’. Allie May said she would begin to pray when she sat down to milk, and God would not let the cow kick.
In about 1903, Phoebe Best rented the house and barn just east of our house on Curran Road, the present Tom Hall site. Allie May Best and Jake Rough were married in 1899 and Phoebe and Elbie were alone. Elbie had been trying to persuade her mother to get more cattle. Their own barn had been in bad shape, and the Rough buildings were empty and they rented them. They still took their cows down to their pasture and every morning would drive 8 or 10 cows and heifers to the field. She rode a horse and sometimes she stopped and took me along, riding pillion. We would turn into a lane near her home and drive them back to the marsh. When we got there she would get off the horse and shut the gate, always looking around for rattle snakes. I was always told to stay on the horse. Phoebe made good butter and cheese, and they sold these and eggs to ‘customers’ in Buchanan. She had good luck with turkeys and always had a flock of 40 or 50. After they were hatched in the spring, they would go over to Well’s woods south of my old home. They would stay there all summer and would come home in the fall minus a few that foxes had caught. Then they were fattened for the holidays. Elbie picked berries for neighbors and sang in her clear ringing voice as she worked. She wore a wide gold band ring and it would flash through the leaves as she worked.
While Phoebe used the Bill Rough buildings, she had part of her own house repaired, and then bought a house in Buchanan and Charlie Clemens moved it out for her and it was added to part of the existing house. The old log house was torn down. Her cattle, turkeys and chickens and her team of horses were all moved back to her home on Pollywog Road. They bought a driving horse about this time and an open buggy and would drive by our house in style. There were good times at the Best home. People were invited in families, and their parties were lively.
After Phoebe and Elbie moved back to their own place, Elbie started a milk route and hauled milk to the Dayton Creamery. People put up ‘milk stands’ and their cans of milk were waiting for her. She could swing a can of milk across into her wagon as well as a man.
There was a long steep hill just south of the Dayton Creamery, and one morning when she started down that hill, the rattling of the cans frightened the horses and they began to run. The wagon was upset and Elbie was thrown out and suffered a broken leg. This was in 1906 or 1907 and our new telephone was the closest one to the Best home. I was commissioned to deliver the message. When I got there Allie May and Carrie (Whorlie) Bickle were helping Phoebe dry corn. I imagine I was not very tactful with my message, and pandemonium broke loose. In a very few minutes, three ladies were in Carrie’s buggy and galloping un the sandy hill south of the Best home. Two of the ladies were applying the whip to the horse and screaming as they went. Carrie, in the middle, was screaming, too, begging them to spare her little horse. Will Rose, our mail carrier for many years, came along just then and stopped in amazement and asked me what had happened. It was a very hot morning and I was winded too, but I told my story to the mailman, and then went slowly, puffing toward home. Just in time for Children’s Day in our church, Phoebe stopped at our house and gave me a circle comb. It went across the top of my head and had pink ribbon in it. I wore it with pride.
That accident ended Elbie’s milk route. Shortly after her leg was mended, she went to work at the Warren Feather Bone Factory in Three Oaks. She would come home on weekends and help her mother. During august of 1912, a Homecoming was held in Buchanan and large crowds were in attendance. August 12th was the last day of the celebration, and Phoebe and Elbie came to Buchanan. They were having automobile races on Days Avenue that afternoon, and I can assure you, those races were far more exciting than the Indianapolis 500 in later years. The cars would start, three at a time, with the back wheels at the curb in front of Treat’s Grocery, with motors dead. The drivers stood at the front of their cars with the cranks in their hands. When the gun was fired, they cranked their cars, jumped in and raced to the top of Days Avenue hill, turned around and the first one to touch his front sheels at the starting place won in his section. Cars were there from other towns and great excitement prevailed. Richard Pears was there and he got his motor going on the first turn on the crank, but he did not have enough speed to win. The winners then lined up and raced against each other.
Phoebe and Elbie came over the railroad tracks and then down Days Avenue and found themselves in the middle of an automobile race. The horse as frightened and began to run and both women began to scream. Elbie got he horse turned west at Chicago Street and just before they reached Oak Street, Phoebe Best died there on the buggy seat. Elbie was trying to hold the rearing horse with one hand, and hold her mother across her lap. Men ran out and stopped the horse and others carried Phoebe into the house across the street from the Methodist Church. I was at the Boardman corner, later Koenigshof, and heard Elbie screaming, and I ran down there and saw Phoebe on a couch. That was the last time I ever saw her. My Grandmother Brown died the next day, near Galien, and we went down there and when we came back, poor Phoebe was in her grave.
After her mother died, Elbie spent some time with an aunt, Mrs. Sarah Heck, who was ill, and she told me it was at this time she learned to value fine china and glass. Her aunt had many fine things and taught her about them.
Elbie Best and Oliver York were married in her sister’s home, (Mrs. Jake Rough) on December 30, 1914, by Rev. H.I. Voelker, Ollie was a son of Margaret Seiders York. She was one of the eight Seiders sisters, five who came to live on Portage Prairie. Their attendants were Ollie’s brother, Harry York, and Ines Lintner. Elbie’s dress was blue taffeta and she was a lovely bride. A nice reception followed and there were tables of gifts. I well remember that wedding and I can think of only a few who were there that are still living.
After their marriage, they lived in her house on Oak Forest Road for two years. Ollie York had been a thresherman in South Dakota, and he was soon running a threshing machine on Portage Prairie. During his many years of threshing, he had several types of engines and separators. He used steam power at first and then converted to gasoline power. He did good work and most of the threshing for many years. He introduced the plan of furnishing teams and wagons and men for the job. When he finished at one farm, they all moved with him to the next ‘set’. The wagons were fitted with ‘basket racks’ and one man could load in the field. This cut down the number of men needed from 20 to 22 to 12 or 14. The plan was very popular with the men because it relieved the ‘changing work’ which would take ten days to two weeks. The women were happier to fix a dinner for less men and not have to rig up such a long table.
Ollie had one sad experience with the Big Marsh in the western part of the township. He finished threshing at the west end of Curran road and he decided to cross the Marsh when he came home. Elbie said, ‘I told him I knew more about that marsh than he did, but he wouldn’t listen’. He started across and not far from the Al Moyer place his big steam engine mired. It took a lot of men and teams to get the engine out, and then he went around to the Buffalo Road.
The four Kandupa children were part of the York Household for many years. Mary Kandupa came first in 1916, when I was teaching at the Kansas School and she came to school. She had three brothers and they were soon installed with Elbie and Ollie. Russell, the oldest, died in 1926 when he was 21 years old. He is buried just inside our cemetery gate. Joe and John Kandupa grew up attending the Kansas School, and then graduating from Buchanan High School. Mary had a large church wedding when she was married to Harold Widdis. They lived near Bridgman. Joe is in business in Baroda and John is in South Bend.
Jake Rough died in 1924 and Allie May was alone. They had bought a house near the City Hall in Buchanan and Allie May moved to Buchanan. As the years went on, her health failed and she died at the York home in 1941, at the age of 61.
Ollie and Elbie York moved to Buchanan soon after this and lived in Allie May’s house. A few years later they bought the beautiful Richard’s home that was just west of their home, and moved into that home. It was about this time that Elbie began collecting on a large scale. She had acquired many things before this, but now that she had room to display them, she began searching for rare pieces. She attended sales, persuaded people to sell their treasures and bought items that she knew would grow into value. Her home became filled with china, glass, furniture, relics and pictures of all kinds and many other interesting pieces. As she grew old, she became a woman of means and high cost did not prevent her from buying things she wanted. She sold very little, but she occasionally gave things away. If she had things that belonged to old families, she sometimes gave them to the descendants.
Oliver York was on the board of directors of the Buchanan Co-ops, and also served on the Board of Loans for the Buchanan Credit Association. He acted as auctioneer for many sales and both he and Elbie served many church offices.
Oliver died in 1959. Elbie died in 1966 at the age of 85. She probably lived more in her life time than any other woman on Portage Prairie. From a poverty stricken childhood of hard work, she attained financial success and became a matron known for hospitality and gracious living. She was fond of children, probably because neither she nor Allie May had any. She helped many people who needed help. Frank Wharton came walking by the Best home on Oak Forest Road and they took him in and he stayed there for many years. And there were others. Both Ollie and Elbie’s wills left bequests to our church.
As the years went on, Elbie became ill and suffered from many diseases. The younger people who saw her in those years saw little of the handsome, kindly woman we knew so well. The sisters were very close and after Allie May and Ollie died, Elbie was lonely and her life was sad. Phoebe Best was buried with her two daughters and Ollie York. Jake Rough is buried with his first wife.”
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