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The George Families of River Street (Another Episode of the River Street Saga)

The George Families of River Street (Another Episode of the River Street Saga)  image The George Families of River Street (Another Episode of the River Street Saga)  image The George Families of River Street (Another Episode of the River Street Saga)  image The George Families of River Street (Another Episode of the River Street Saga)  image The George Families of River Street (Another Episode of the River Street Saga)  image The George Families of River Street (Another Episode of the River Street Saga)  image
Author
Jan Anschuetz
Rights Held By
Ypsilanti Historical Society
OCR Text

River Street in Ypsilanti is a short and beautiful road that has led to fame and fortune for several of its residents including Mark Norris, Lyman Norris, Benjamin Follett, Shelly Hutchinson, Walter Pitkins and Walter Briggs, all of whose stories can be found in past issues of the Gleanings. In this installment I will tell the story of an immigrant family who came to this country from England seeking free and excellent education for their children and whose grandchildren, in turn, did much to influence education in Ypsilanti. Our tale begins in England and is the life-long love story of Cary Eaton and George George. Cary was the daughter of Susannah Woodhams; she was born in July, 1781 in Hartfield, Sussex, England and died circa 1812. Her father was James Eaton; he was born circa 1772 in Kockholt, Kent, England and died about 1818. His profession is listed as a farmer on Cary’s marriage record. Susannah and James were married August 11, 1800 in Hartfield, Sussex, England, and Cary was born May 28, 1808 in Godstone, Surrey, England. Cary wrote her own life story as published in her obituary in Ypsilanti in 1895: “My parents lived at Godstone, Surrey, England, and their six children were all baptized at Godstone Church. My mother died when I was only four years old; my father died soon after, and my Aunt Hesham who was my mother’s oldest sister, and who stood sponsor for me when I was baptized in infancy thought it was her duty to take me and bring me up with her own family. When I was 15 years old I went to live with a distant relation of my mother’s who had not any family and she wanted a companion and someone to write her notes and teach her little niece; so I went there and had a pony to ride and was quite happy. They had a nephew living with them, George George. He fell in love with me. I consented at last and we were married in 1838.” Their marriage record can be found in Guild Hall, St. Bride Fleet Street, Register of marriages, 1837-1839 in the parish registry, City of London for July 22, 1839. George George is the son of George George (1788 to 1845), whose occupation is listed as a farmer on his son’s marriage record. His mother was Ann Worgor. Cary writes a little about their life together, referring to her husband as she continues: “He had a great deal of trouble, poor man, through the sacrifice he had made, and I am afraid he was never repaid for it: but we loved our children and they were so good and dutiful to us I think that we can say, what very few parents can say, that not one of our children ever gave us any trouble.” We don’t know what troubles that Cary was referring to in George George’s life, but we do know that Cary and George decided to immigrate to the United States of America with their children. Their oldest son, Worgor, was born July 4, 1840. He was married while in England to a woman seven years older than him, Emily Morgan, and had a daughter, Marianne, who was born in 1863. Cary and George’s son, Frederick, was born February 24, 1842; Cary Elizabeth was born November 16, 1843; George Edward was born September 1, 1845; Eliza Ann was born in 1847; Susanna was born September 27, 1849 and died two years later; and Martha Maria was born July 14, 1851. In an audio-taped interview recorded in 1965, Cary and George’s granddaughter, Jessie Swaine, stated that her grandparents decided to come to America because they had a large family and wanted their children to have a good and free education. In England, at that time, parents were responsible for paying for their children’s schooling, and the George family could not afford to educate their many children on their own. Family records tell us that George George came to the United States in 1863 and the next year sent for the rest of his family. We do not know how it was that Cary and George George and their children ended up in Ypsilanti, but we do know that their daughter Cary married a local man, Leonard C. Wallington, and lived at 627 River Street. Jessie Swaine, their niece, tells us in an interview recorded 60 years ago that Leonard inherited part of a family farm which was on Cross Street where the golf course is, sold his portion, and purchased a large home on River Street. He soon went into the malt business with his father-in-law, George George, who in 1866 bought the brick school which was built in 1839 as the Peck Street Primary and then sold to the public school system and became the Fourth Ward School in 1850. George George, L. C. Wallington, and Worgor George went to work converting the structure into a malt house. A second cousin to the George children visited the family from Kent, England and was impressed with the opportunities in Ypsilanti, Michigan for the brewing industry. Frederick Swaine’s family occupation, that of his father and grandfather, had been brewers, and they were licensed to brew for the king. Although he had been orphaned as a baby, Frederick was interested in investing his inheritance, talent and ambition in the malt business to supply the two breweries in town. He also fell in love with the beautiful young Eliza Ann George, his second cousin. Swaine returned to England to pack up his belongings, arrange his finances and affairs, and moved to Ypsilanti where he married Eliza in 1874. The young couple then moved in with his brother and sister-in-law on River Street while he went about the business of becoming a maltster. Frederick quickly bought out the interests of his father-in-law and two brothers-in-law, Worgor and Lawrence, even though they remained employed by him. He also set about greatly enlarging the malt house from a 20 by 40 foot structure to a three story building of an impressive size: 50 by 94 feet. Furthermore, Frederick Swaine contracted for the building of a home for his new bride on the north east corner of River Street and Forest Avenue. River Street was soon teaming with George family members – working, playing and living. Worgor, Emily and their three children, Marianne, Percival (born in 1867), and Frederic Morgan were living at 505 River Street. Leonard and Cary George Wallace lived a few doors south of the malt house at 627 River and had two daughters: May, born circa 1870, and Ethel Maude, who had been born in 1872. Frederick Swaine and Lizzie George had a total of four children: Florence born in 1875, John in 1877 (who died the same year at about six months), then Jessie born in 1880, and son Frederick who was born in 1880 and died two years later of diphtheria. Meanwhile the malt business and the George families prospered. It seems that the dreams of George and Cary George were coming true at last with prosperity for their children and a free and excellent education for their grandchildren in the new country. All of the grandchildren of George and Cary were attending the excellent public school at the 4th Ward School, and then the Seminary and Ypsilanti High School. However, their joy was tempered with sadness with the death of their beautiful 22 year old daughter Patti in 1873. A few years later, in 1879, Cary Elizabeth George Wallington died, along with the baby boy named George Edward Wallington she had just delivered seven weeks earlier. From census records, we know that her daughter Maude moved into her Aunt Lizzie’s home. Tragedy continued when Worgor’s wife, Emily, died of consumption in June, 1879 and despite the kind and faithful nursing of her Aunt Lizzie George Swaine, his daughter Marianne soon joined her mother. Her touching obituary in the Ypsilanti newspaper reads “GEORGE – Dec. 8th, 1880, of consumption, MINNIE, beloved and only daughter of Worgor and Emily George, aged 17. Minnie was left motherless a few months since. The eldest child she was her fond father’s dependence. She was ‘glad to go and meet her mam’. Shortly before her death she said to her aunt, Mrs. Swaine, ‘Pa cries and you cry, but I don’t.’ Her pastor, Rev. Dr. Wilson made some affecting (sic) remarks at the funeral. Thy Father called thee, loved ones, while yet in early bloom but fond, sad hearts of earth will cry, too soon, too soon.” Worgor did not give up on love and a few years later married a local girl, Anna E. Shutts, who was born September 10, 1850. Anna was the daughter of Martin and Mary A. Shutts who owned a farm in Plymouth, and soon two more children joined their cousins on River Street: Anna Marian and Edward Shutts. Despite these blessings, sorrows were not over for Cary and George George. In 1886, George George, the optimist who moved to Ypsilanti from England to seek his fortune and make sure that his children and grandchildren were educated, died, and his widow Cary moved in with her daughter and son-in-law. What type of man was George George? Perhaps we can glimpse his kind character and genuine affection for his grandchildren in the little poem he wrote to his four-year-old granddaughter, Jessie Swaine, which was found in her childhood album. It reads: I have searched and searched the place around Searched nearly every house in town To see if I could possibly find A nice little girl for a Valentine All at once I thought of you I want no other she will do That’s the girl for me, say I The one that suits my eye You are mine dearest Jess I choose you from all the rest Grandpa, 1883 There are several other affectionate and sincere notes from her grandfather carefully pasted by the little girl in the scrapbook on pages which are now yellow and brittle, and now reside in the Ypsilanti Historical Museum archives. The album is filled with childhood memories of Jessie Swaine, who died in the same bed and in the same bedroom that she was born on River Street nearly 90 years later. Within a year after George George died, his son Worgor died in July, 1887. By this time, Cary had only two of her seven children living – daughter, Lizzie George Swaine, and a son, George Edward, who was a grain buyer in Kansas. Cary wrote “Bereavements have been a great trial, only two left out of seven children, my daughter Lizzie and my son (George) Edward of Kansas City. God grant they may be spared to me. The others, I trust are safe in Heaven.” The sadness continued on River Street, and Worgor’s son Percival died of consumption only four months after his father. His obituary in a local newspaper states: “Died – 11-7-1887: Percy George, son of Mrs. Worgor George of River St. died suddenly last Monday of hemorrhage of the lungs. He was but nineteen years old, and a young man respected by all who knew him. The funeral services were held at the house, Wednesday afternoon and conducted by Rev. Mr. MacLean.” Cary George, who lived with her daughter Lizzie and son-in-law Frederick Swaine and their two daughters, passed away eight years later. Her obituary gives us a glimpse of her life and her last hours, as published in the Ypsilanti newspaper: “Mrs. Cary Eaton George died at the residence of her daughter, Mrs. F. J. Swaine, Monday, June 10, 1895, at midnight, aged 87 years and 13 days. The life which then was transferred from this to the world beyond was a beautiful one and presents an example worthy of emulation. Mrs. George was born in Surrey, England, in 1808, left an orphan while a little child, and was reared to womanhood by relatives. At 15 years of age she shouldered the responsibilities of life for herself, and for a long time made her own way in the world. In 1838 she became the wife of George George, with whom and the family she had she came to this country in 1863. Here she has lived ever since, her husband and five of their seven children preceding her to the other shore. The two surviving members of her family, a son Edward George of Kansas City and a daughter, Mrs. Swaine, were at her bedside to receive her dying blessing. Mrs. George was a consistent member of the Episcopal church in which faith she found comfort and happiness in her declining years.” Two years later, Frederick Swaine, husband of Lizzie and once a successful business and civic leader as well as noted musician, died suddenly, leaving the family destitute. By this time, Florence and Jessie Swaine were in their early 20s and, after graduating from high school in Ypsilanti and from the Michigan Normal College, they were able to supplement the family income by money earned in their teaching careers. George George and his wife Cary came to America so that their descendants could receive a free education and would have been proud to know that this dream had come true and that at least four of their grandchildren attended college. Jessie and Florence were both life-long teachers who went on to continue their education beyond their college degrees, and Jessie was an especially loved and honored founder of the first home economics department in Ypsilanti Public Schools. We know that Fred George, son of Worgor and Emily, attended college. We have several pictures of him as a student with a mortar board on his head and pipe in his mouth in a student bedroom looking very happy. Fred’s half brother, Edward Shutts George, son of Worgor and Anna, also grew up to pursue an advanced degree and make his mark on education in Ypsilanti. In fact, he was so esteemed for his contributions that George School on Ecorse was named for him. In remarks made shortly before he died, we get a glimpse into his personality. Edward teasingly admitted that “as a boy we had a neighbor, a dear old Irish lady, who once told my mother. ‘Why – he’s the devil of the Fourth Ward’”. We know that Edward grew up with this sister and half-brother, Fred, on River Street. He liked to play at the Huron River bank and served as a choir boy at the George family’s church, St. Luke’s, on North Huron Street. He graduated from Ypsilanti High School in 1906 and worked as a lineman on the railroad that passed two doors from his home on River Street, to earn money to go to the University of Michigan Dental School, from which he graduated in 1911. Edward worked at a dental clinic in Ann Arbor for a year and then joined a partnership with Dr. Louis James in the office at 119 Huron Street, started by Dr. Watling who had founded the dental school at the University of Michigan. His life continued to improve when on June, 1915, he married a local girl, Alice Mable Gass. They lived with Edward’s mother, Anna, on River Street until they purchased a large home a block from his dental practice at 219 Huron Street. Edward and Alice had one daughter, Marian Elizabeth, who married George N. Elliot and they, in turn, had three daughters. Edward’s philosophy was to serve the community as well as his family. Soon he went about proving his leadership talents and positive outlook on life through a variety of community commitments. In a speech he once wrote, he stated his view on life by saying “If you want to be really cruel to a man, just deny him the opportunity of serving his community and his fellowmen.” Perhaps Edward was influenced by his grandparents’ reverence for education. He served on the school board from 1919 to 1939 and wanted to make sure that the educational system in Ypsilanti met the growing needs of the community. During his time on the school board, a gymnasium was added to the high school and the aging Prospect School was rebuilt. Also, an addition was added to Woodruff School and Harriet School was built on the south side of town. In an undated newspaper article published after Edward’s death, found in the Ypsilanti Historical Museum archives, we read about other ways that he served the community: “Another of his contributions to the city was his leadership in the construction of Island Park. When Detroit Edison bought the water rights at the Huron River he foresaw the possibilities of using the land for a recreational center. The electric company deeded the land jointly to the city council and the school board. Dr. George together with his friend, Fielding Yost, who took a personal interest in the project, worked to lay out the recreational field. Both men had become close friends while working together on the County Boy Scout Council. Dr. George had worked so hard on the island project that one day a group of his friends called him down to the area where they had placed a sign naming it “George Island.” One reason he chose the spot was because he had played there as a child along the banks of the Huron River.” Thus we learn that what we know as Frog Island Park was once named Island Park and, in jest, “George Island Park.” Dr. George was also president of the Kiwanis club from 1923-1924 and was the enthusiastic energy behind their participation in the city’s 100th anniversary projects. The Kiwanis built an authentic log cabin, completely furnished appropriately for the 1823 era at Gilbert Park, where it remained for several years. They also obtained an ox cart, oxen, and driver and gave rides to eager children. In a speech he gave to the Ypsilanti school board shortly before his death, Dr. Edward George relayed his philosophy of education: “Sometimes we put too much stress on buildings and equipment, when the backbone of a good school system is in the teaching staff. Personally I have always felt – start with the best kindergarten teachers that can be found – then go one better – if possible – for the rest of the grades.” The grandson of George and Cary George was well loved and honored for his contributions and betterment of education and the community of Ypsilanti, so much so that after his death in 1949, the new E. S. George School at 1076 Ecorse Road in Ypsilanti was named for him. In a short paper, handed out when the school was opened in 1951 it was written “this school was named for a Dentist, Dr. Edward Shutts George who was born and raised in Ypsilanti in 1886 and lived here his entire life, until he passed away in 1949. He had been President of the Ypsilanti School Board from 1919 to 1933 and because he was a staunch believer in improving educational facilities, this school was named for him.” Over 150 years ago when the George family made the long and perilous sea crossing from England to American for the education of their children and grandchildren, little did they know that the surname of George would be written on a school building and stand for quality education in their chosen city. The Georges are still on River Street – resting together on a beautiful bluff high above the Huron River and city of Ypsilanti that they loved so well, where the dreams of this immigrant family seem to have come true. Other stories in The River Street Saga series can be found online at the Ypsilanti Historical Museum web site. More still can be read about the Frederick Swaine and Lizzie George family, as well as others who lived on this pretty little street in Ypsilanti, Michigan, most of whom are still there, in body if not in spirit, in the historic Highland Cemetery. (Jan Anschuetz is a local history buff and a regular contributor to the Gleanings.)

Photo Captions: Photo 1: Funeral photo for Worgor George. Daughter Anna Marian is holding his photo. Second wife Anna E. Shutts George is holding baby Edward Shutts George. Standing is Frederick George and seated is Percival George.

Photo 2: Emily Morgan George, first wife of Worgor George with daughter Marianne. Emily is holding her son Percival.

Photo 3: Martha (Patty George) daughter of George and Cary Eaton George.

Photo 4: Worgor George with pitchfork in front of the Malt House on Forest Avenue.

Photo 5: Jessica Florence and cousins having fun outside the Malt House. Note the Swaine home on the left.

Photo 6: The Wallington girls May and Maude with cousin Jessie Swaine with bicycles on River Street at Forest Avenue.

Photo 7: Eliza (Lizzie) George Swaine, wife of Frederick Swaine.

Photo 8: The log cabin built by the Ypsilanti Kiwanis Club for the Ypsilanti Centennial celebration.

Photo 9: Jessie and Florence Swaine circa 1883.

Photo 10: Children from Fourth Ward School at the corner of Prospect and Michigan Avenue in 1892. Front row 3rd from left is Edward Shutts. Second row in the middle is Miss Stuffy, the teacher. (Anna) Marian George is at the right end of the second row.

Photo 11: Cary Eaton George and George George.

Photo 12: Cary Eaton George as a young woman in England.

Photo 13: Marianne George, daughter of Worgor and Emily George.

Photo 14: Worgor George, son of Cary and George George.

Photo 15: Joseph E. Thompson making presentation to Dr. E. S. George in 1949. Seated at right are Mr. and Mrs. Paul Ungrodt.