Bowerman, Hastings and Housler Families Legal Records
from Cass County, Michigan

Family Tree Abbreviated
The Background of the Bowerman and Housler Families
(James) Addison Bowerman Civil War Pension Records
Declaration for Widow's Pension
Amanda Hastings Bowerman Probate Court Records
The Will - 1891
Family Letters 1892 - 1908
Declaration for Soldier'\s Child Who is Permanently Helpless

The Background of the Bowerman and Housler Families

Amanda Hastings Bowerman and her husband (James) Addison Bowerman had nine known children. Her ninth child was (Myra) Blanche Bowerman, the mother of Gratia A. Housler, whose writing appear on my website.

Amanda Hastings was born in Herkimer County, New York in 1818 and moved with her family to Medina County, Ohio perhaps as early as 1835. The state was a raw frontier then, just barely open to settlement by non-indigenous people.

Addison was also born in New York. He was born in 1817, in Ontario County. Amanda and Addison were married in Medina in March of 1838. Amanda gave birth to their first two children, Amanda Malvina and Lucius H. in Ohio.

Sometime between 1843 and 1845, she and Addison moved to Cass County, Michigan in the lower part of the Southern peninsula. Here Amanda and Addison had seven more children. Other family members moved with them. These people included Clarissa Hastings, Amanda's sister; Cornelius Bowerman, Addison’s father; and the Chapman family, who intermarried with the Hastings family.

The Bowerman family was reputed to be uncommonly attractive; Amanda, was a blonde, and Addison, according to war records, was red headed, ruddy complexion. Blanche and perhaps other children had somewhat dark skin, very black hair and high cheek bones. Family members attribute this to Addison’s mother, Ruby Hamilton Bowerman, being part Native American. These facial features continued down to one of Addison’s great-great-grand-daughter. Will Housler watched his daughters very carefully, according to Gratia, because he felt their Native American heritage meant they would be morally lax with young men. However, extensive research has found no Native American ancestor for Gratia.

The family had an uncommon rate of mental illness. Amanda’s daughter Alma apparently died in a mental institute. Her son Lucius [1] had a guardian appointed to him because of his ‘affection of mind’ and died in the Cass County home with ‘insanity’ listed as the cause of death. Her daughters Clarissa and Estella were in and out of various mental institutions much of their adult lives.

Most of Amanda’s and some of Addison’s family were Quakers and Abolitionists. This gives some credence to the rumors that Amanda was involved in the Underground Railroad, which was very active in that part of Michigan. Some historians feel that the group"slave rescues" that occurred there were fuel for the Fugitive Slave Laws which in turn set off the Civil War.

When asked whether she worked with the Underground Railroad, Amanda said, "Maybe I did and maybe I didn’t." [2]

Because of his Abolitionist politics, Addison Bowerman enlisted in the Union Army in 1863.

While Addison was away, Amanda was left to run the farm with their nine children.  Amanda knew how to run the farm well: she knit the family’s clothing and made candles and wine. The inventory in her probate records lists 25 quarts of canned fruit. Having a British heritage she not only made fruitcake for Christmas, she made it in August so it could ferment properly by December.

When he went off to war, Addison told the family, "Don't let anyone spank my baby", referring to Blanche, his youngest child. Some felt that this is why Blanche was rather spoiled as a child and attention demanding as an adult.

A year after Addison mustered into the Army, he was dead of  'chronic diarrhea' or dysentery, a common cause of death in the war. He died in Nashville, Tennessee and is buried at the Nashville National Cemetery.

Eleven years after her father’s death, Blanche Bowerman she married an 18 year old man named Coit Eugene Miles near her home in Wakelee, Michigan.  Coit’s father was Lewis Miles, who also died during the Civil War.

Nothing is known by the family about this marriage. The 1880 census, enumerated June 23, 1880, shows Coit living with his mother and listed as ‘divorced’.

In January of  1880, Blanche was twenty, she married William B. Housler, Gratia’s father.

Will was the eleventh of twelve children of John J. Housler and his first wife, Anna Thompson.  Soon after Will's mother died, John married the housekeeper. That pregnancy was miscarried shortly after their marriage. John and Jane Viletta Bolster had at least another four children together.

John J.’s children included Jonathan, Johnny J. Jr., Elizabeth and Eliza. Thompson, the seventh son, is rumored to have murdered by John J. who struck him with an ax while in the woods cutting trees. The death was made to look like an accident and no charges were ever filed. Another son, Samuel, enlisted in the Civil War and was declared a deserter by the Union army. John J. later filed papers stating that Samuel had not deserted but had died during the war. He requested and was granted his son’s pension.

 Will had his first teaching job when he was just 17. When he announced his appointment to his father, John J. said, "Then they’re bigger fools than you".

Will taught when he could find a school to hire him and worked as a farmer or lumberman when he couldn’t. In the late 1800’s in the Midwest, teachers were hired for a year at a time and seldom at the same school two years running.

Will was also a justice of the peace. He officiated at one wedding of his brother Eli, "Dock".

Another Housler brother, Henry Harvey Peter, known as Peter, lived in Cass County, near Blanche Bowerman’s family. Will probably moved to Cass County to teach at a school and live with his brother.

Between their wedding date in 1880 and 1892, Blanche and Will moved between northern Michigan near Will’s family and southern Michigan near Blanche’s family.

Will and Blanche later lived and farmed with Will's favorite brother, Johnny and his wife Alpharetta Bolster. Alpharetta was the sister of Will and Johnny’s stepmother. Apparently, it did not last long because, "It's so hard for two women to share a kitchen". [3]

 In 1883, when Gratia was born, Will and Blanche lived in Manton, Colfax Township, Wexford County, Michigan.  

By 1892 Will, Blanche and Gratia had moved to Colorado.

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(James) Addison Bowerman Civil War Pension Records

Declaration for Widow’s Pension

On this Tenth  day of November  AD 1867  personally appeared before the Clerk of Court   within and for said County and State aforesaid, Amanda Bowerman  a resident of Newburg in the County of Cass and State of  Michigan  aged  47  years, who, being first duly sworn according to law, doth, on her oath, make the follow declaration, in order to obtain the benefit of the provision made by the Act of Congress approved July 14,1862:

That she is the widow of Addison Bowerman  who was a Sergeant  in Company A, commanded by Joel H. Smith in the Nineteenth Infantry  Regiment of Michigan Volunteers  in the war of 1861, who died in Nashville, Tennessee  on or about the twenty-fifth day of  October  A. D. 1864  and the cause of his death was Chronic Diarrhea.

She further declares she was married to the said Addison Bowerman on the fourth day of March in the year 1838  at Medina [County] Ohio  by one Ansel Brainard  a Minister of the gospel;  that she believes there is a public record of her said marriage __ private record of the same  and that the names, ages, and residences of her children under sixteen years of age, are as follows:

Estelle Bowerman 15 years old, Alma Bowerman ten years old, Walter Bowerman eight years old and Blanche Bowerman four years old that they all reside with her in Newberg, Cass County, Michigan.

 That her husband, the aforesaid, died on the day above mentioned, and that she has remained a widow ever since that period, as will more fully appear by reference to the proof hereto annexed.

She also declares, that she has not in any manner been engaged in, or aided or abetted, the rebellion in the United States.

And she hereby constitutes and appoints Andrew J. Smith  of Cassopolis  her Attorney to prosecute the claim and procure a certificate, and to  all other acts necessary in the premises.

Amanda Bowerman's signature 1867
Amanda's signature in 1864

Also, personally appears Samuel Decou  and Jane Decou  residents of Cass County, Michigan person whom I certify to be respectable and entitled to credit and who being by me duly sworn, say they were present and saw Amanda Bowerman  sign her name, or make her mark to the foregoing Declaration and Power of Attorney; and they further swear that they have every reason to believe, from the appearance of the applicant and their acquaintance with her, that she is the identical person she represents herself to be, and that they have no interest in the prosecution of this claim. And they further state that they knew her and her said husband before he entered  the said service and know that they lived together as husband and wife, and were so reputed, and that she still remains a widow. That they are acquainted with the names and ages of  their said children, and believe them to be as stated in the Declaration. That their knowledge of the above stated facts and the identity of the claimant as the widow of the said deceased soldier is derived from their long and intimate acquaintance with the applicant and her deceased Husband.

Samuel Decou

Jane Decou

(Witness signatures)

No. 433880

Department of Interior

Widow’s Claim

I certify that Amanda Bowerman , widow of Addison Bowerman, who was a Sergeant in Co A. 19th Mich. Vols., in the service to the United States, is entitled, under the provision of the act of Congress approved July 14, 1862, to receive pay at the rate of Eight dollars per month, to commence on the Twenty-fifth day of September, 1864, and to continue during life, unless she shall again marry in which case the pension is not payable after the date of such marriage.

Given at the Department of the Interior,
 this Twenty-seventh  day
 of March  one thousand
eight hundred and sixty five.
W. T. Otto

Acting   Secretary of the Interior

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Amanda Hastings Bowerman Probate Court Records

The Will - 1891

I, Amanda Bowerman, of the township of Newberg in the County of Cass and State of Michigan being of sound mind and memory do make publish and declare this to be my last will and testament hereby revoking all former wills by me at any time hereto for made.

My will is that all my just debts and funeral expenses shall be my Executor having after named be paid out of my Estate also a suitable stone shall be placed at my grave with the proper  inscription engraved thereon and the same to be done by my Executor and paid for out of my Estate as soon after my decease as shall by him be found convenient.  Also there shall be a stone placed at the grave of my Daughter Alma [5] H. Bowerman whose remains are buried at Fish Lake Cemetery to cost not less than Fifteen Dollars and the same to be paid for out of my Estate.

I give and bequeath to my Daughter Clarinda [6] S. Thompson the sum of Five Dollars and to my son Walter [7] W. Bowerman the sum of Five Dollars.

All the rest and residue of my Estate real and Personal and mixed of which I shall die seized and for --- or to which I shall be entitled at my decease I give desire and bequeath to be equally divided between and among my said children named as follows. Malvina [8] A. Anderson, Lucius [9] H. Bowerman, Clarissa [10] R. Davis, Sarah [11] E. Goff, Estelle [12] J. Akerly and Blanche [13] Housler.

The portion that may fall to my Daughter last named, Blanche Housler, is to be placed in the hands of William H. Goff [14] in trust for her benefit and her heirs. He shall be required to give sufficient Bonds for the faithful performance of said trust.

And lastingly I do nominate and appoint Myron F. Burney to be the Executor of this by last will and Testament.

In witness where of the said, Amanda Bowerman, have subscribed my name and affix my seal this 14th day of September one thousand eight hundred and ninety-one

Amanda Bowerman's signature 1891
Amanda's signature in 1891

On this 14 day of September 1891 the above named Amanda Bowerman signed and sealed this instrument and published and declared the same  Will and Testament and within undersigned in her presence and at her request and in the presence of each other have hereunto inscribed our names as witnesses and have written opposite and name our places of residence.

Susan Holloway, Wakelee, Cass County, Michigan
H. S. Crego, Wakelee, Cass County, Michigan

State of Michigan
County of Cass SS
In Probate Court

I, M. R. Bennett Judge of said Court and Ex Officio Clerk and Keeper of the Seal itself, do hereby certify that I have compared this forgoing copy of a will with the original instrument proved in and allowed by said Court as and for the last Will and Testament of Amanda Bowerman late of said Cass County Deceased and have found the "to be a true full and correct transcript then from and of the whole of said original as the same now appears of record and on file in this office."

In testimony who of I do here unto set my hand and affix the Probate Seal of said Count at my Office in Cassopolis this 31rst day of October AD 1891

M. R. Bennett
Judge of Probate

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Amanda Hastings Bowerman Probate Court Records


State Of Michigan
County of Cass

A True and Perfect Inventory of all the Real Estate, Goods, Chattels, Right and Credits of Amanda Bowerman late of Newberg in the County of Cass, deceased which have come to the knowledge or possession of Myron I. Burney, Executor of the Will and Estate of said deceased that is to say:

[Partial list of Inventory]


The east half of the south west quarter and the west half of the west half of the south east quarter of Section seven in town [ship] 6 south range 13 west, [in Michigan Meridian Toledo Strip 19] except 50 acres off the south end and 10 acres out of the north east corner.


Due bill against B. F. Higgins. Cash




Rocking chair


Small rocking chair


22 2 qts. cans of fruit @ 30 cts. per can


 3  1 qts. cans of fruit @ 15 cts. per can


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Amanda Hastings Bowerman Probate Court Records

Family Letters 1892 - 1908

July 4, 1892

Lucius [Bowerman] is uneasy lest the cow should be sold as his mother’s property. Can the affidavits of reliable neighbors be taken to sustain this claim and to whom shall such evidence be presented and how soon must it be done.
Whatever is wright[sic] in the matter Lucius wishes me to look after for him.
Yours Respectfully,
A. H. Williams
Fife Lake

Editor’s note: Lucius’ inheritance paid in full by 1898. [15]

September 22, 1892
Traverse County, Michigan
Mr. Bennett,

Dear Sir:
I understand the old home is sold. Now if there is any thing for me. Let me know what the amount and when it will come.Now for my part don’t have a lawsuit, settle the best you can and save cost.
Respt. Yours
Amanda Malvina Anderson
Write me soon.

Editor’s note: Amanda Malvina’s inheritance paid in full by 1896. [16]

Editor’s note: Will Housler wrote a letter to Judge Bennett dated December 16, 1892 written in Schoolcraft County, Michigan and to the Judge of Probate dated March 29, 1896 written in Florence, Colorado.

Editor’s note: Gratia’s inheritance paid in full by 1894. [17]

Mrs. Rose Crout
Three Rivers, Mich
May 15, 1896

Dear Sir,
Yours received would say no reply that my Mother is sick and totally blind. She is here with me and she must have her money. The Dr. says she may regain the sight of one eye but he thinks she will be blind forever in the other and if she is you and Bennett shall pay for it dearly for if she would have had her money to take care of her self this might not of happened at all. I will give you to understand that weather or not you think she is crazy she is not she is just as sane as you are or Mr. Bennett. Other I don’t want you to think you can bluff me off as you have some of the rest of them, we gave a letter of Mr. Bennett to our lawyers and he was astonished and at such language coming from a man who holds such a position in life as he and Mr. What’s His Name from Portage is no gentleman to write such stuff to you unless he knew it to be facts. I am doing all I can for Ma but I am not Rich and cannot afford to get all the nessarys she needs and cannot have. Why I call it nothing but a sin and shame to make a poor women suffer as you have made her suffer. Your excuse is the Legal Steps have not been taken - they’re no legal steps to take only for you to pay over her money to her and be free from all trouble. We have employed our lawyers but we cannot do anything until she is able to be up and out again but she would Rather you would settle and save all expenses and trouble. I hope you will see fit to settle at once  immediately as she must have money.
We are yours,
Mrs. C. J. Davis [18]
Mrs. R. M. Crout [19]
Mr. N. F. Crout [20]

Editor’s note: Clarissa’s inheritance paid in full by 1897. [21]

Vandalia, [Cass County, Michigan]
April 29, 1908
Mr. E. E. Cone Judge of Probate for Cass County, Cassopolis, Michigan

Dear Sirs:
M. F. Burney executor of the Amanda Bowerman estate owing to failing health and being unable to call at your office wishes to be relived of the responsible of the money held in trust belonging to Clarence Akerly [22] Would it be advisable to send the money to the Boy as he has been located (and is of age) in Wyoming penitentiary [23] , has 2 year term yet. If the money is not sent to him. He (Father Burney) wishes you to appoint some one else to take his place as he must have it settled up right away. Please let us hear from you soon. Respectfully
            F. G. Grenell
            Vandalia, Michigan

Editor’s note: Most of  Estella’s inheritance was not paid out until after she died in  1898. Some monies,  $213,  were paid to her sons then. It is unclear from Probate Court records when or if the remaining $72.49 of inheritance was  ever paid to Clarence Akerly, mentioned in this letter, or to any of her heirs.

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Declaration for Soldier’s Child Who is Permanently Helpless

ACT OF JUNE 27,1890.

To be executed before a court of record or some officer thereof having custody of its seal, a notary public, or a justice of the peace whose official signature shall be verified by his official seal, and in case he has none, his signature and official character shall be certified by a clerk  of court of record, or a city or county clerk.

STATE 0F Michigan

On this 27th  day of  September, A.D. one thousand eight hundred and ninety-five personally appeared before me, a Valany  [Vatany ?] Rublie

of the Village of Marcellus  in and for the county and State aforesaid,  Alonzo P. Beeman [24]  ,  aged 55 years, who, being duly sworn according to law, makes the following declaration in order to obtain the pension provided by act of Congress, approved June 17,1890: That he is the legal guardian of Lucius H. Bowerman  who is at the present time suffering from  affection of mind  which said disability to his  best knowledge and belief is permanent in its character and renders his said ward permanently helpless; that his said ward is the legitimate child of Addison Bowerman  who enlisted under the name of  Addison Bowerman at Newburg, Mich, on the 25 day of August 1863 in Co. A. 19- Mich Infy

and served at least ninety days in the War of the Rebellion in the service of the United States, who was HONORABLY DISCHARGED and died Sept. 25, 1864. That he left a widow surviving him who died Sept. 1892 .

That the said child was born  4th day of August, 1842. That the father was married under the name of  Addison Bowerman to Amanda Hastings, there being no legal barrier to such marriage.

That an application has heretofore been made for a widow’s  pension numbered - and a certificate number -  granted. That the declarant hereby appoints Milo B. Stevensoles  of Detroit  his true and lawful attorney to prosecute this claim and receive a fee of $10 . That his  post-office address is Jones, County of Cass, State of Michigan.

Alonzo P. Beeman
(Claimant's signature)

 Joseph Tickmor
G. E. Wilrey
January 17, 1896
REJECTED on the ground of no title, cl’s [claimant’s] ward was over 16 years of age at date of the soldier’s death.

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[1] See Declaration for Soldier’s Child Who is Permanently Helpless in this Appendix

[2] From a conversation with her great-granddaughter Elois Swift in 2000.

[3] Ibid.

[5] Her sixth daughter. Alma died nine months before Amanda’s will was written,  probably in an insane asylum in southwestern Michigan.

[6] Her third daughter. Clarinda’s second husband was Joseph Thompson.

[7] Her second son. Amanda gave Walter land when he married Violet Stout in 1880. This is probably why he is given only five dollars in this will.

[8] Her eldest daughter. Malvina Amanda probably also was given land or money when she married Jacob Anderson in 1863.

[9] Her eldest son. Lucius was mentally ill. See "Declaration for Soldier’s Child Who is Permanently Helpless" in this Appendix.

[10] Her second daughter. Clarissa is referred to as ‘Kate’ Davis in the letters below.

[11] Her fourth daughter. Ella, as she was known as in the family, married William Henry Goff in 1865. William is named as Blanche’s trustee in this will.

[12] Her fifth daughter. Estella or Estelle first married Jeremiah Utley in 1871, and after his death married Marcellus W. Akerly in 1882. She is probably at the Kalamazoo Insane asylum at the time of Amanda’s will was written.

[13] Her seventh daughter and last child. [Myra] Blanche, married William B. Housler in 1880. It is curious to note that even though three of her living siblings are ultimately institutionalized or legally declared mental incompetent, Blanche is the only one of Amanda’s children to be assigned a guardian in this will. This may be due to the instability of Blanche’s marriage and health.

[14] See footnote [11] above.

[15] These amounts are based on reconciling the financial records of the Probate Court records for all of Amanda’s heirs.

The Probate Court records show $282.90 was paid to Lucius by 1898.

[16] The Probate Court records show $282.90 was paid to Amanda by 1896.

[17] The Probate Court records appear to show $293.22 was paid to Blanche by 1894. It is unclear why she was paid $10.33 more than the other heirs or why Wm. Housler was writing angry letters to the court as late as 1896.

[18] Mrs. Clarissa J. Bowerman Davis

[19]   Probably Clarissa’s daughter Rose/a

[20] Probably Clarissa’s  son-in-law

[21] The Probate Court records show $282.90 was paid to Clarissa by 1897.

[22] Mrs. Estelle B. Akerly’s son.

[23] Despite its name, this is an orphanage and boys’ home near Grand Rapids, in Kent County, Michigan.

[24] According to the Website Political Graveyard Alonzo P. Beeman of Jones, Cass County, Mich. was born in Erie County, Pa., 1841. A Republican he served in the Union Army during the Civil War; farmer; member of Michigan state house of representatives from Cass County, 1907-10. Member, Grand Army of the Republic.

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