William Amos JohnsonI’ve mentioned bits and pieces of William Amos Johnson’s life as it pertained to his parents and his wife Lena but never totally focused on him. And it’s seems a natural progression to move from Eugene Baker to his son-in-law (and my 2nd Great Grandfather)—especially since today is the 112th anniversary of William and Lena’s wedding.

William Amos Johnson was born 15 December 1877 the youngest child of William Suffling and Mary E. (Gordon) Johnson. William grew up in Cannon Township where the family had settled in 1873. By 1900 the Johnsons owned a successful farm noted for its large orchards and William remained at home to help with its management. He married Lena Baker 22 April 1902 at the home of her parents and the couple removed to a home on Moffitt Hill. Their first child Robert Eugene was born in March of 1905.

At the time of the 1910 Census the couple and Robert were enumerated with Eugene Baker’s household in Cannon Township where William was listed as attending college—something I’d like to know more about. In 1918 the only other child, Betty Lou Johnson was born.

As early as 1918 through 1922 the family lived in Traverse City, Michigan where William worked first as a pipefitter for Traverse City Gas Co, a tinner (would those be the same?) and then as a plumber for Arms & Cole. Around 1923 the family returned to Rockford, Michigan where William continued to work as a plumber. In September of 1928 Lena Johnson died after a six month illness. Betty Lou was sent to live with her Aunt Clara Harnack in Ypsilanti, Michigan for the school years and would come home for the summers. But three years later she died after a long illness at the age of 12.

In 1930 William was still living and working as a plumber in Rockford. I have yet to find him in the 1940 Census but at the time of the 1942 draft he reported his residence as Rockford, Michigan.

William died in August 1958 well remembered by his grandchildren and my Grandmother who remembers him going to play euchre with the boys back when the Corner Bar was Stag.

Happy hunting,


Eugene Baker, Death Certificate 1920Some of these character studies remind me that I have a remarkable small amount of information on some of my direct lines. Eugene is one of those—which always strikes me as weird because I know so much about his grandparents (Smith & Katherine nee Gilbert Lapham) and Great Grandmother (Hannah nee Johnson Gilbert DuBois). I’m missing the anecdotal notes which I hope exist in the local happenings of the Rockford Register. I’ll have to look into that soon.

Eugene Smith Baker was my 3rd Great Grandfather. He was born 15 Oct 1850, to Isaac and Harriett (Lapham) Baker in Rockford, Michigan. He loved most of his life within the community with the exception of a stint working in a hotel in Crystal Lake, Benzie County, and a brief time in Illinois around the time of his marriage to Amelia Grove 26 Oct 1873 in Joliet, Will County. The couple had seven children: Katherine (born in Joliet), Willis George, Frank E., Clara, Lena Grove (my 2nd Great Grandfather), Hollis Lapham, and Ethan Rex. Upon returning to Kent County Eugene settled to farming in Cannon Township and later relocated to Algoma Township. He was a staunch Republican like his grandfather (who served in the Michigan Senate) and involved in his community. He died after a 3 month illness on 15 Apr 1920 and was buried in the Rockford Cemetery. Sadly his wife never recovered following him quickly in June.

Happy hunting,


Eugene Robert Baker, My 1st Cousin Thrice Removed

To all the many who didn’t make it back home and the families they left behind. We remember.

In my family that includes:

Two of my first cousins thrice removed…

Lt. Eugene Robert Baker, 370th and 401st Fighter Squadrons of the U.S. Air Corps, the son of Ethan Rex and Grace (Van Vyven) Baker—named for his grandfather (and my 3rd Great Grandfather), Eugene Smith Baker. He was killed in action 13 Aug 1944 in Chartres, France.

Sgt. Robert S. Baker, Co M 119th Infantry 30th Division, the son of Hollis Lapham and Nora (Beers) Baker, died 13 Sep 1944 also in France.

And my 3rd Great Grand Uncle, Americus G. Holden, Co H, 21st Infantry Regiment of Michigan, the son of Charles and Sarah (Skiff) Holden. He was sent home sick from his post in Tennessee and died of his illness 30 Aug 1864.

All three have military headstones at Rockford Cemetery, Rockford, Michigan.

Happy hunting,


P.s. I made a large error at the end there… Americus Holden is buried in Courtland Cemetery. Thank you for the correction, Carole!

I now feel like I have just enough of a backlog of digital images to participate in the meme “Tombstone Tuesday”… so, the next up is in honor of my Great Great Grandmother who was laid to rest 84 years ago yesterday.

This is the headstone for my Great Great Grandmother Lena Grove (Baker) Johnson. She was the 5th child and youngest daughter of Eugene and Amelia (Grove) Baker born 16 Apr 1884. At the age of 18 she married William Amos Johnson, the youngest son of William Suffling and Mary (Gordon) Johnson. The family spent a number of years in Traverse City, Michigan where William worked as a plumber but in 1923 they moved back to Rockford, Michigan. She died five years later on 03 Sep 1928 after a six month illness leaving one grown son, Robert Eugene, and a 10 year old daughter, Betty Lou.

Lena is buried with her husband in the Rockford Cemetery, in Rockford, Michigan. When you take the main entrance to the cemetery if you follow the center path and take the next left the Johnson plot will be on the left hand side of the path. Interestingly on my last trip the stones were essentially in the right location but up out of the ground beside their normal spots. Given the tremendous shifting over the years I’m not terribly surprised.

Happy hunting,


I now feel like I have just enough of a backlog of digital images to participate in the meme “Tombstone Tuesday”… so, the first up is one of a set of sinking stones from the “New” Rockford Cemetery.

This is the headstone of my 3rd Great Aunt Katherine Baker Sears who died 162 years ago today. She is buried in the Sears Lot just south of the Hessler Mausoleum.

Katie Baker was the eldest child of Eugene and Amelia (Grove) Baker and the oldest sibling of my 3rd Great grandmother Lena Grove Baker Johnson. She was born 05 December 1874 probably in Joliet, Illinois where her parents married and lived for a short time before Eugene brought them back to Kent County, Michigan.

In 1895 she married Clifton F. Sears. They had at least two children before he died in 1899—Dorothy and Charles F. After Clifton’s passing she kept house for her brother Frank Baker for a time and and from 1909 to 1943 she worked for C. F. Sears Co, her father-in-law’s dry goods store.

Katie was involved in the community with the Methodist Church, the Garden Club, Tuesday Club, Dorcas circle and more.

Rest well, Aunt Katie!

Happy hunting,


The other line I spent time on while in Fort Wayne was the German ancestors of Amelia (Grove) Baker—the Dice/Theiss, Besore and Koppenhaver families. But since I don’t have a shot of Amelia, here are her daughters. Lena is in back and Clara and Katie Baker are in front. Lena is my 2nd Great Grandmother and married William Amos Johnson. Clara married August Harnack and Daniel Anders. Katie married Frank Clifton Sears.

Picture copied from the collection on the Rockford Historical Muesum‘s Surname Files.

Happy Hunting,


I am very lucky to be a descendant of American veterans who survived their various enlistments. Both my Grandfathers served during the Korean War, my uncle Mike served during the Cold war, my 3rd Great Grandfather Henry R. Massy served briefly in the Civil War as did two of his brothers, and my 7th Great Grandfather served in the Revolutionary War. And that’s leaving out the many uncles and cousins who also served or for that matter are serving now. That said I am so thankful for those who gave their life for our country and our freedom.

Happy Memorial Day!