Duncans in Van Buren Co. MI


Duncan research files of
Mary Ann (Duncan) Dobson
the Genealogy Bug

Last revised September 3, 2009

Formed 1829 from Cass


1830-1860 Van Buren Co. MI Census
      No Duncan indexed

1870 Van Buren Co. MI Census
Town of Keeler
Pg.404a, #20-20, DUNCOMBE, Chas. 48 CANada farmer $55,400-$25,000, parents of foreign birth
                  Frances S. (f) 40 NY keeping house,
                  Fanny E. 13, Albert O. 6, Hattie 4 MI, father of foreign birth
                  Charles 2, Lila (f) 3/12 b.Apr. MI, father of foreign birth
                  HURLBUT, Albert 24 NY works on farm
Pg.405, #43-44, DUNCOMBE, S.W. (m) 32 CAN farmer $44,200-$6,000, parents of foreign birth
                  Ada G. 23 NY keeping house
                  Frances A. (m/f written over) 2 MI, father of foreign birth
                  Nellie G. (f) 5/12 MI b.Jan., father of foreign birth
                  REESE, Salone B. (f) 23 NY domestic servant


Pension Index Card File, alphabetical; of the Veterans Administrative Contact and Administration Services, Admin. Operations Services, 1861-1934; Duff to A-J Duncan (negative FHL film 540,888, some cards very faint); Joseph Duncan to Dunn (positive FHL film 540,889, some cards very dark)
      Cataloged under Civil War, 1861-1865, pensions, indexes; does not say if Confederate or Federal, but probably Federal. Negative film, some cards much too faint or dark to read, some cards blurred or faded, particularly the service unit and the dates of application. Most of the very faint or dark cards were in a slightly different format, with space for years enlisted and discharged which were sometimes filled in. Many of these were for service in later years, although one or two were for service ca 1866.
      Name of soldier, alias, name of dependent widow or minor, service (military unit or units), date of filing, class (invalid or widow or minor or other), Application #, Certificate #, state from which filed (sometimes blank), attorney (sometimes blank, MAD: did not usually copy), remarks. Sometimes the "Invalid" or "Widow" class had an "s" added to it before the application #; occasionally the area for the service information included a circled "S". The minor's name was frequently that of the guardian rather than the minor.
      The military unit was frequently the Company Letter, the Regiment Number, sometimes US Vet Vol Inf. (US Veteran Volunteer Infantry), L.A. (Light Artillery), H.A. (Heavy Artillery), US C Inf (US Colored? Infantry), Cav. (Cavalry), Mil. Guards, V.R.C. (?Volunteer Reserve Corps?), etc. Sometimes there were several service units given.
      Cards appear to be arranged by the last name, first name, middle initial if any, and state (including "US") of service.
      Duncombe, Stephen W., widow Duncombe, Ada G., minor Duncombe, Nellie G. et al; D 14 MO Inf.; 1891 Jan. 16, Widow Appl. #492357, Cert. #835245, Mich.; 1891 Nov. 14, Minor Appl. #531916, no cert., Mich. (MAD: 1870 Van Buren Co. MI)

HISTORIES before 1923

1880 "History of Berrien and Van Buren Counties, Michigan : with illustrations and biographical sketches of its prominent men and pioneers" ed. by Franklin Ellis & Crisfield Johnson & others, pub. by D.W. Ensign & Co., Philadelphia (HeritageQuest image 2/2007, Local History Reel/Fiche Number 4587; FHL film 908,063 item 1 and 1,000,080 item 3)
      Pg.485-486, Van Buren Co. MI, Township of Keeler: CHARLES DUNCOMBE. Mr. Duncombe's father, Moses Duncombe, was a native of Norwalk [Fairfield Co.], Conn., and married Sarah Oliphant, who was born in Ballston, Saratoga Co. NY. To them were born eight children - three sons and five daughters. Soon after their marriage (about 1816-17, in Saratoga Co. NY), they removed to Ancester, near Hamilton, Ontario. About 1824 they returned to Waterford, Saratoga Co. NY, and in 1833 removed again to Canada, locating at Blenheim. In the fall of 1844 they came to Michigan, and located at what is now Keeler Centre, on a place which Charles Duncombe had purchased, and the same which he now occupies. The family was the first to settle at Keeler Centre. Mr. Duncombe was a tanner, currier, and shoemaker by trade, and after coming here worked at that business winters and made improvements on the farm during the summers. He was a very industrious man, an active politician, and a respected citizen. He was a Whig until the formation of the Republican party, whe he became a member of the latter. He was never an office-seeker. Mrs. Duncombe died in Keeler in 1848; Mr. Duncombe's death occurred in Hartford (Van Buren Co.) in 1866.
      Charles Duncombe, the third child in his father's family, was born May 30, 1822, at Ancaster, Canada, and until he was thirty-five years old aided greatly in supporting the family. In 1849 he went to California and engaged as a dealer in stock, dry goods, miners' furnishings, etc., returning to Michigan in 1852. In October, 1855, he was married to Frances S. Knights, of Half Moon, Saratoga Co. NY, where she was born on the 30th of January, 1830. Her father, Aaron N. Knights, came to Keeler a few years later, and is now living in Decatur, Van Buren Co. His wife (Mrs. Duncombe's mother) died in Keeler township. The place on which Mr. Duncombe now resides has been his home since he came to Michigan. For several years he was cashier of the First National Bank at Decatur, but is not now connected with that institution. He is one of the proprietors of the "Decatur Mills," and owns a hotel and several stores at that place. Decatur owes many of its improvements to him, he having taken great interest in their projection. In the summer of 1879 he erected a brick-store building in that village. He at present operates several fine farms. In 1867 he was a member of the State Constitutional Convention, and has been active in political matters. He was supervisor of Keeler township for 12 or 14 years. Mr. and Mrs. Duncombe are the parents of six children, - three sons and three daughters. These are all living except one son, who met a painful death from scalding when quite young. The others reside with their parents, except one daughter, Fannie E., who is now the wife of Seth Taft, and living in the neighborhood.

1912 "A History of Van Buren County Michigan; A Narrative Account of its Historical Progress, its People, and its Principal Interests" by Captain O.W. Rowland. Vol.II. Pub. by The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York, 1912. (Google Books, 8/5/2009)
      Vol.II, pg.869-872: Albert 0. Duncombe. Although all the years of his manhood have been devoted to one pursuit, and that an occupation which is so exacting in its claims and so personal in its bearing that it narrows the views of many men engaged in it to their own interests and makes them abnormally acute in that limit, Albert 0. Duncombe, one of the leading merchants of Van Buren county, Michigan, with a large department store at Keeler, has never become a man of one idea, and his vision has always been broad enough in its sweep to take in the interests of the whole county in which he lives, and keep him keenly alive to the welfare, comfort and progress of its residents. Since the dawn of his manhood no enterprise undertaken, in which their lasting good has been involved, has gone without his earnest and effective support, or been without the benefit of his wise and judicious counsel.
      Mr. Duncombe was born in this county in September 16, 1863, the third in a family of six children (three sons and three daughters) born to Charles and Frances S. (Knights) Duncombe, four of whom are living. These include Albert's sister Fannie S., the oldest of the living children, who is the wife of Seth Felt, a prominent farmer of Keeler township; his other sister, Harriet, who is the wife of N.F. Simpson, warden of the Michigan state's prison in Jackson; and his brother Charles, a sketch of whom will be found in this volume, giving a brief account of his life. Mrs. Simpson is a High School graduate and she and her husband are the parents of two children, their daughter Frances Fae and their son Nathan D. Frances is a High School graduate in the class of 1905, and is now the wife of Ralph Z. Hopkins, a resident of Detroit, where he is connected with a contracting establishment as a draughtsman. Nathan is a student at the Michigan Agricultural College, and will graduate in the regular course in 1913, if nothing happens to prevent his doing so.
      Charles Duncombe, the father of Albert 0., was a native of Canada, of Scotch parentage, and born on May 1, 1822. He died in Van Buren county, Michigan, on January 1, 1900. He was educated in the public schools, and after leaving them became in succession and all together a merchant, a banker, a real estate dealer and a farmer. Although he attended the public schools when he had opportunity, his benefits derived from them in the way of scholastic attainments were very limited, because his opportunities of seeking those benefits were limited and often interrupted. He was practically a self-educated and self-made man, and one of much more than ordinary business capacity and extent and comprehensiveness of information. This is one of Nature's ways of dealing with us. She often deprives her most promising offspring of extraneous advantages, then offers them compensation in the way of chances to develop their inherent faculties, and it is not her fault if they fail to accept and use the chance.
      Mr. Duncombe, the elder, accepted her terms, and made the most of his openings in life by his own efforts. He began operations with very little capital and at one period of his life owned more than two thousand acres of land. He was a young man when he came with his parents to Michigan, and not many years afterward he yielded to the excitement that filled the world over the discovery of gold in California and became one of the bold and resolute "Forty-niners," that great band of hardy adventurers which crossed the plains in 1849 to the new Eldorado on the Pacific slope. These modern argonauts used ox teams as their means of transporting their goods, and made the long and wearying journey themselves for the most part on foot. The bones of many of them whitened on the trackless llanos of the wilderness, as it was then, but Mr. Duncombe reached his destination in safety. He made Sacramento the seat of his operations and was successful in his venture. When he had accumulated a considerable sum of the virgin treasure of which he went in search of, he returned to civilization, traveling down the Pacific, across the Isthmus of Panama and up the Atlantic to New York, and thence across the continent to his former Michigan home. He invested his money in land, and kept adding to his holdings by subsequent purchases until, as has been noted, he owned two thousand acres and over.
      In his political faith Mr. Duncombe was first a Whig and after the birth of the Republican party a member of that organization. He adhered to this political party to the end of his days, and found his heroes of state craft among the leaders its critical times developed. Its first candidate for the presidency, General John C. Fremont, received his ardent support, and to his last hour of life he was a warm admirer of Lincoln and Blaine. On the large field of political activity he was a member of the state constitutional convention, and locally he served for a number of years as supervisor of his township. Fraternally he was connected for many years with the Masonic order, and became a charter member of the lodge at Keeler when it was organized. He died in Keeler township, and in his passing away the township lost one of its best and most useful citizens.
      His wife was a native of Saratoga county, New York. She was born there in 1830, and died in Keeler township, this county, in 1882. She was reared and educated in her native county. During the greater part of her life she was an active working member of the Baptist church, and for some years was president of the local organization of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Her remains and those of her husband were interred in the cemetery in Keeler, and beautiful and suggestive memorial stones mark the place of their long sleep in the narrow house to which all must go.
      Albert 0. Duncombe grew to manhood in this county and obtained the greater part of his education in its schools. He began his scholastic instruction in the lower grades of the common schools, continued it at the high school in Decatur, and completed it at the Northern Indiana State University. His whole life since leaving school has been passed in merchandising. In 1884 he and his father began business in this line in Keeler with a stock of goods valued at about two thousand, five hundred dollars, and since 1900 he has carried on the business alone. In conducting it he has been very successful, both in increasing his trade to great magnitude and in winning and holding the confidence and esteem of the people throughout a very large extent of the surrounding country.
      Mr. Duncombe's department store is the largest of the kind in Van Buren county, and carries a stock of merchandise sufficiently comprehensive and varied to meet every requirement of the community in which it operates, including agricultural implements. Its trade averages sixty-five thousand dollars per annum, and its well satisfied patrons number many hundred of the most intelligent and cultivated people residing in the region tributary to its traffic, as well as thousands of others. Mr. Duncombe is assisted in carrying on the business by his brother Charles and two saleswomen, with additional help on holiday and other rushing times. The force mentioned would not be sufficient if all its members were not persons of superior qualifications for the work in which they are engaged, and it were not governed by perfect system, which prevents all waste of time and energy.
      Mr. Duncombe was married to Miss Alice G. Peters, who was born in this county on June 3, 1869, and is a daughter of James A. and Harriet (McMillan) Peters, and the first born of their three children, the other two being her brother Stephen, who is a resident of Indiana, and her other brother, Tracey E., who is a salesman with headquarters in Spokane, Washington.
      The father of these children was born in the state of New York on June 17, 1847, and died in Van Buren county, Michigan, in January, 1908. He was long engaged in mercantile pursuits as a salesman after leaving the Decatur High School, where he completed his education. He was of German ancestry, a Republican in politics and a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge at Hartford, Michigan, fraternally. His wife was also a native of the state of New York, born in Sing Sing on December 20, 1850. She also died in this county. Her education was secured in the public schools of her native county, and her life was devoted to good works under the guidance of the church of which she was a faithful and zealous member during the greater part of her life, and a consistent exemplar of its teachings all the time.
      Mr. and Mrs. Duncombe have one child, their daughter Frances P. They also had one son who died in infancy. The daughter is a graduate of St. Mary's convent at Monroe, Michigan, class of 1907, and of the Kalamazoo State Normal School, from which she received her degree in 1909, her special course in that institution being that of music and art. She taught music in the public school at Belleview, this state, one year, then her parents sent her to the Cosmopolitan School of Music in Chicago for the further development and cultivation of her talents, which are of a high order and show great promise. In that institution she is pursuing the study of voice culture under the instruction of Professor L.A. Torrens, and that of dramatic art under instructors who are also highly competent.
      Miss Duncombe is unusually richly endowed for her art work, to which she intends to devote her life, and in all other respects she is a great credit to her family, her friends and the locality of her home. Appreciating fully the advantages she is enjoying through the liberality of her parents, she will undoubtedly make the most of them, and Van Buren county is delighted over the prospect of giving to the world a new star in the lofty firmament of intellectual radiance and power from which Miss Duncombe is destined to shine. The whole community unites with her parents in their just pride in her natural gifts and the use she contemplates making of them, and rejoices in the fact that she is well deserving, in her high character, devotion to duty and social accomplishments, of the universal esteem bestowed upon her wherever she is known.
      Mr. Duncombe has given his adherence to the Republican party in political affairs from the dawn of his manhood. His first presidential vote was cast for James G. Blaine, and his devotion to the party has been unwavering ever since. He has served as a delegate to its county and state conventions a number of times, and was one of the Republican national convention which met in Chicago in 1904. He has always been a devoted friend of the public schools, and given them the benefit of his services for many years in some official capacity, regarding the cause of public education as one of the greatest claims on the attention of the people, and one of the strongest means for the preservation of liberty, intelligence and morality among them.
      Fraternally he is a member of the Odd Fellows Lodge at Keeler and of Benton Harbor Lodge, No. 544, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, in each of which he takes an earnest interest, showing commendable fervor in his zeal for the welfare of both fraternities, as he does with reference to every other good agency at work among the people for their betterment in morals, intellectual development, in social relations and as contributors to the general enjoyment of the community.
      Mr. and Mrs. Duncombe reside in a beautiful modern dwelling in Keeler. The house is conveniently arranged, richly and tastefully furnished, and provided with every appliance required for its comfort and the enjoyment of its inmates. The home is a social center of great popularity, a radiating point of high culture and genial good fellowship, wherein gracious hospitality is dispensed and the best attributes of American domestic life are enthroned, in accordance with the sunny and elevated nature of its occupants, whose hearts are rich in kindly feelings for all mankind.
      Pg.872-874: (MAD: Chares as spelled in heading) Chares Duncombe. Reared as a farmer and following that occupation until he was nearly forty years of age, then turning his attention to merchandising with as much deftness and capacity as if he had long been trained to the business, Charles Duncombe, of Keeler, has shown his adaptability to circumstances to be of an extent and character that would win him success and credit in almost any line of endeavor that he might choose to turn his hand to. His is rather an unusual case, as farmers are not generally well adapted to general merchandising, their usual pursuit not involving the fine points of this line of trade and unfitting them for its more graceful requirements. But Mr. Duncombe is as much at home behind the counter as he ever was behind the plow, and he can turn a mercantile transaction as neatly and as cleverly as he ever did a furrow. This shows his versality and readiness for any station or duty, and he has given many proofs of them in his mercantile career in other ways.
      Of the six children born to his parents Charles Duncombe was the fourth in the order of birth. He is a son of Charles and Frances S. (Knight) Duncombe, the story of whose lives is given at some length in the sketch of Albert O. Duncombe, which will be found in this volume. Like his brother Albert 0., Charles was born in Van Buren county, Michigan, and reared and largely educated on his native heath. He attended the district school near his home until he completed its course, then engaged in farming on shares for his father. This he continued until the death of the father, when he inherited one hundred and sixty acres of fine land in Hamilton township and began cultivating it entirely on his own account. He remained on this farm and devoted himself wholly to its development and improvement until 1907. And he has ever since superintended its cultivation and kept it up to the standard of excellence to which he raised it. It is devoted to general farming.
      In 1907 Mr. Duncan entered the employ of his older brother Albert as a clerk and assistant manager of the large department store the brother owns and carries on in Keeler. He has been a potent factor in helping to win the wide popularity the emporium enjoys and build it up to the high place it has in the confidence and regard of the business world and the general public. He is what the old Romans called "suaviler in modo, fortiler in re" - genial and courteous in manner but strong or resolute in deed - and the two qualifications for business combined in him have given him great influence with the purchasing public, and pronounced success as a business man in the department of trade with which he is connected. (MAD: Duncan as spelled in this paragraph)
      Mr. Duncombe was married in April 2, 1891, in Keeler township, to Miss Maria McMillan, who was born in this county on February 14, 1873, the first of the five children, all daughters, of John and Salome (Reece) McMillan, all of whom are living. The others are: Ada, who is the wife of A.W. Gustine, formerly a merchant in Keeler but now a farmer in the same township; Buna, who is the wife of H.A. Welcher, also a Keeler township farmer; Nellie, who is the wife of D.F. Gregory, a scion of the old Gregory family so long prominent in this locality, and, like her sisters, a resident of Keeler township; and Zorah, who is the wife of M.J. Teed, a butcher living and doing business in Benton Harbor. Mr. and Mrs. Gustine have three children, Mr. and Mrs. Welcher have two sons, and Mr. and Mrs. Gregory have one daughter.
      Four children, three sons and one daughter, have been born to Mr. and Mrs. Duncombe, but only one of them is living, their son Charles McMillan. From the age at which he entered school until the present time his education has been carefully looked after. He completed the eighth grade of the elementary and grammar school at Hamilton, passed one year at the high school in Decatur, and was graduated from the Hartford high school in the class of 1910. At this time (1911) he is a student in the school of Professor Ferris in Big Rapids, which is considered one of the best of the kind in the state, and there he is pursuing a course in the commercial and business department to fit himself to follow in the footsteps of his father, his uncle and his grandfather as a merchant.
      John McMillan, the father of Mrs. Duncombe, is a native of the state of New York, and in earlier life was a blacksmith. He was a soldier in defense of the Union during the Civil war, and made an excellent record in the army. He has served as treasurer of Keeler township and is now township clerk. His political faith is pledged and his political services are given to the Republican party, and he is ardently devoted to its principles. Fraternally he is a Freemason and belongs to the lodge of the order in Keeler, where he and his wife are living. The latter was also born in New York state, and she, too, takes an earnest interest in the fraternal life of the community as a member of the Order of the Eastern Star. No citizens of Van Buren county are more highly or more generally esteemed.
      Mr. Duncombe is a Republican of the most devoted loyalty to his party. He cast his first presidential vote for President Benjamin Harrison, and has kept himself steadfastly under the Republican banner ever since. He served several years as school director while living in Hamilton township and is now township treasurer of Keeler township. He is deeply and intelligently interested in the cause of public education, regarding it as a bulwark of American liberty, a valuable means of preparation for the duties of citizenship and a great force in democratizing our people and helping to make them homogeneous in their social and political activities.
      Mrs. Duncombe is a true partner of her husband's joys, sorrows and ambitions. She shares in all his aspirations, takes part in all his work for the good of the community, and aids in making their home one of the choice domestic shrines of the township, and one of its most popular and agreeable centers of social culture, beneficent energy and genuine hospitality. Van Buren county has no better or more useful citizens than Mr. and Mrs. Duncombe, no better representatives of what is best in its citizenship, no more zealous promoters of its welfare in every way, and, to its credit be it said, no heads of a household within its borders who are more highly esteemed or more thoroughly appreciated.


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