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Orrin Howard

Sarah Kenyon

The given name, Orrin appears numerous times in the large Howard family of upstate New York in the early nineteenth century. At times, the spelling Oren is used. While the family history is well documented, including the migration of a number of Howards to Michigan, the place of Orrin, data on his family and even of Leverett Clark has not yet been established.

The book, History of Cass County, Michigan, 1885, states that Orrin and Sarah Howard, of Jefferson County, New York, had nine children, five boys and four girls. At this time, the only record is of Leverett Clark -- the names of the eight siblings are unknown:

   Leverett Clark Howard  b.1822  m. Clarinda Pickett

Orrin Howard was a mechanic. As it was with thousands of ambitious people, he emigrated to Michigan in 1834, just after the territory was opened for settlement. The irresistable lure was cheap land for homesteading.


Leverett Clark Howard (1822- 1903)

Clarinda Pickett (1831-1916)

Leverett Clark Howard came to the Midwest as a boy of 12 with his parents. The family arrived, first, at White Pigeon, thence to LaGrange County, Indiana for a short time, before settling in Cass County, Michigan.

When he was 27 he got the gold bug and left home for California. He must have been a typical '49er in the California Gold Rush, since he eventually returned home empty-handed. He never wanted to talk about his experiences as valuable as they would have been for his grandchildren. When asked, all he would ever say was that he didn't find any gold

As for that episode in his life an interesting find was a short article in a 1942 issue of Dowagiac Daily News, the local paper. In the "40 Years Ago" section of a regular column, Looking Back appeared this item:

Leverett Howard went to Chicago Friday morning to attend a meeting of the "Forty-Niners" Club held in that city Saturday. He was accompanied by his daughter, Mrs. John Wooster, who will visit friends in that city.

On April 24, 1851 he bought two parcels of land in Section 23 of Wayne Township, northeast of Dowagiac, Cass County. Each parcel was 40 acres, but since one parcel cost him $400 and the other $67.50 it is likely that the $400 parcel was improved with the fine old brick house. Imagaine, Michigan farm land at $1.65 per acre!

A few months later, on 16 November 1851 Leverett married Clarinda Pickett, daughter of Selah Pickett, also of Wayne Township, Cass County, Michigan. Leverett was 27 years old, and Clarinda Pickett was 20. The license also gives the witnesses as Daniel Pickett (age 26, her brother) and L. H. Howard.

Our search indicates that Leverett is the only known son of Orrin Howard. However, the search goes on, since the Howard's of New York State were very numerous, and many of them emmigrated to Michigan in the early 1800s. The question then is: who is L. H. Howard? Obviously, he is related, which also tells us that other members of the Howard family were then living in or near Wayne.

Great-great-granddaughter Elizabeth Wooster remembers the old place:

The main residence was a beautiful brick building set on a knoll some distance from the road and overlooking the fields. I remember the graceful spiral staircase sweeping up to bedrooms where the plaster had all been tinted pale blue. There was solid hardwood paneling in the kitchen, pantry and dining room downstairs. The farm at one time was very large.

In time, the farm passed through many hands, and over the years parcels of the land have been sold off. At this writing (1995) the old farmhouse stands forlornly alone on a small plot of land. The building is in very poor condition, although it is still occupied.

There was only one child:

   Florence Howard  1853-1920  m. John Wooster

The 1860 Federal Census not only lists the L. C. Howard family but four house numbers further in the list appears George Pickett and then his father, Selah Pickett. The Howard family includes Florence age 7. Also living with them was Joseph Pickett age 18, a farm laborer, possibly a son of George.

The 1880 census shows Leverett age 58 and Clarinda age 49, and now living with them is a niece, Ella Pickett age 16, and Daniel Pickett age 51, brother-in-law, farm laborer. Daniel was Selah's son, and Clarinda's older brother. It thus appears that over the years, several member of the Pickett family migrated from Chautauqua County, New York to southern Michigan.

This census entry also identifies their origins, stating that Leverett's father was born in Vermont and his mother born in New York. Clarinda's father was born in New York and her mother in Vermont.

In Census search they are found living there in Wayne Township decade after decade, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1890, and 1900. They must have been very happy there. In the census there were always at least two other people living there, working for them there on the farm--either a couple or single men and women.

A local history, History of Cass County, Michigan, page 333, places Leverett well in the hearts of his family and the community as follows: "Mr. Howard is a Republican, and both he and his wife are exemplary members of the Congregational Church. He is a substantial farmer, and occupies a prominent position among the citizens of his locality."

Elizabeth Wooster Singer remembers Clarinda through her father, Lyell Wooster:

Grandma Howard, as my father always referred to her, was married at 20 and lived to be 85. She was born in Chatauqua County, New York. She and Leverett Clark Howard spent most of their 53 years together in the big brick house out in Wayne Township, but moved into Dowagiac around the turn of the century.

When they did take up residence in Dowagiac they lived on Orchard Street a few blocks nearer to the center of town than John and Florence Wooster. When my dad passed by their house on his way to school in the usual big rush he seldom had time to stop in, but he always did on his way home.

Both he and his grandmother must have enjoyed those times. As grandmothers have done forever she would have milk and cookies ready for him. He loved to walk around her house to look at all her pretty things. He especially admired her big ruby-red thumb-print glass pitcher with tumblers and finger bowl. She promised that when he got married he could have it. Sure enough, when he brought my mother back from Idaho as his bride the first time they visited Grandma Howard she gave them the pitcher set. At home I remember always admiring it there in our dining room.

Another thing he recalled well was that if Gramma Howard saw the smallest hole or tear in anything he had on she would insist he sit right down while she mended it for him. " A stitch in time saves nine," she taught him.

Aunt Ethel (Lyell's sister) had a lovely stereoptican view of Gramma Howard's room after she had come to live with John and Florence following the death of Leverett Clark Howard. It was like a bower of white lace, and Aunt Ethel said everything in the room had been made by Grandma Howard herself.


Florence Howard (1853-1920)

John Wooster (1847-1921)

She married John Wooster when she was 23. They started living in Dowagiac in a large frame house on Orchard Street in 1876. I found them there in the 1880 US Census and in every subsequent one until their deaths in 1920.

We don't know when she qualified as a teacher, but she was probably quite young by today's standards when she started teaching country school.

John and Florence had six children:

   Howard Wooster	1877-1970  m. Lurah Clark
   Edward Wooster	1879-1937  m. Mabel ?
   Ethel Wooster	1882-1965  m. Ray Deming
   Fred Wooster		1884-1956
   Lyell Wooster	1886-1967  m. Nita Kibler
   Helen Wooster	1893-1911

Elizabeth Ann Wooster Singer did not know these grandparents but remembers anecdotes she was told about them:

Before matches were invented in the mid-1800s, Florence remembered being sent to "borrow fire" from their nearest neighbor when their fire had gone out. She'd have the hot coals in a little iron pot with a cover on it and she'd run home with it as fast as she could.

My aunt Ethel said when she lived at home, and gramma Howard was still living with them, the three of them would get together to make pajamas for "dad and all the boys." They'd turn the dining room into their sewing room. "I'd cut out the patterns, and gramma Howard would baste them together, and mom would be there at the sewing machine running up the seams. We'd get through it all in no time." Aunt Ethel was a really talented seamstress herself, so I'm sure she had a good teacher.

My father had tremendous respect for his mother. He often observed that because she had taught school she maintained good discipline at home. Her six children felt more comfortable with her than with their father who would put up with their misbehavior as long as he could stand it and then blow up.

And she was a very brave person. She told my dad that her mother used to have "these terrible blue days" and she had always determined she was never going to do that. And he felt she never did.

My father (Lyell) remembered one of her favorite sayings going back to his earliest years. When Florence would bathe the little ones, kicking and squirming, she'd say, "It will soon be over; a short horse will soon be curried."

Her grandfather, Selah Pickett, had been a chair maker back in New York, and when she was married he made her a set of 4 beautiful little straight chairs. He had also made her a large Boston rocker, a smaller rocker with arms, and a high chair. All this furniture was in our home in Bradbury, California and was destroyed in the fire, except for one chair I had in my office. I treasure this surviving piece.

Florence's youngest child, Helen was drowned when she was only 18. This was obviously a severe loss, as they were very close. She died in 1920 when the influenza epidemic that followed World War I struck Dowagiac. She was only 67. She and John are both buried in Riverside Cemetery in Dowagiac, Michigan.

For further information on this family, see the WOOSTER page section of this history.

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Updated 4-8-03