Frank McNitt home in Lisbon, Michigan

47. Frank McNitt's Lisbon Family

In writing of the arrival of Frank and Martha McNitt and their six young children in Lisbon, Michigan in 1861, my mind is crowded with memories of the stage-coach village that couldn't die.  It was a little gem of a country town with 200 or more residents when my grandparents came to it from Bowne, in Kent County.  Today Lisbon is a ghost town.  Remaining are the schoolhouse, built by my grandfather in 1861, two or three decrepit, long-empty store buildings, and a few houses.  Gone are the Baptist and Methodist churches, the postoffice, the gristmill, the saw-mill and basket factory, the drug and general stores, the shoe store and the meat market.

Mining camp ghost towns in the Far West still evoke a kind of romantic curiosity.  In the Central East a ghost town occasions a different and perhaps sadder regard.  The mining towns expected to live only until the veins of ore were worked out.  Lisbon and similar villages now deserted anticipated long life.  Now their avenues once deeply shaded by tall maples and elms are nothing but country roads.  Lisbon's wooden sidewalks rotted and vanished long ago, and farms edged in to bring a pastoral hush to streets once familiar with stage-coaches and smart carriages.  New England has a few such villages.

What can be meant by "the village that couldn't die"?  Lisbon is dead.  But Peter H. Harvey, who wrote a long story about it for the Grand Rapids Herald of April 10, 1949, discovered that efforts to

(end of page 118)

surrender its charter, begun in 1904, never came to anything.  So here remains an incorporated yet empty village, kept alive by a sort of legal fiction.  Perhaps the spirits of the departed, still loving it, have willed that it shall live -- in memory at any rate.  I dwell on these things because Lisbon was my birthplace.

When Frank McNitt came, he bought a farm on the northern edge of the village, on which stood a log house.  He lived on the east side of the main road, in Kent County.  Across the street in Ottawa County lived Curtis Pintler, son of the founder of the community, John Pintler.  In early times the place was called Pintler's Comers.  When it achieved a postoffice, it was assigned the name Lisbon.  Now the farmers get their mail by rural delivery.

One of the first building contracts awarded Frank McNitt was that for erecting the schoolhouse in 1861.  His bid was a little higher than one or two others, but the school board was convinced he would do the work better and so found a way to give him the contract.  His first care in hiring carpenters was to make sure three of them were willing and able to play pedro and other card games with him in odd hours.  The schoolhouse is one of the few buildings left in Lisbon.

When Frank had finished his war service in the Union Army he began thinking of a better house.  In 1873 he told his very small daughter Eva: "Now I'm going to start building."  Then he took a shovel and began digging.  She was mystified: she thought buildings always went up, not down.  He made a large house of it, with a sitting room, parlor, dining room, a big kitchen, six bedrooms, and basement.  A brick chimney remains today to mark his work.  The house burned to the ground after the place was sold early in the present century and all the family had moved away.  It is remarkable how many houses burn in a dying town.

Lisbon was on the stage route between Grand Rapids, sixteen miles to the southeast, and the lumber-milling town of Newaygo, about twenty miles to the northward.  It was the natural place for a coaching inn, about a day's drive from each terminal point, so Lorenzo Chubb built a frame hotel on simple, modified New England lines.  It was called the Chubb House, and sometimes the Half-Way House.

The hotel stood on the slope of a hill, overlooking a fine lawn.  Because of the slope, the ground floor was a basement at the rear; it contained the office, with a bar at the back.  A wide flight of steps at the front of the building led up to a long, wide veranda, beyond which were. the parlors and dining room of the main floor.  Upstairs on the second floor was a large ballroom.  On the two floors were about a dozen sleeping rooms.  At the back and sides of the building were or-

(end of page 119)

chards and fine shadetrees.  The Chubb House had an imposing site, and it was a gracious place.  Well below, and across the street, stood a group of three barns: one for horses, one for hay and grain, and one for coaches and carriages.

Lorenzo Chubb's inn was a community social center, as well as a resting place for travelers.  At not infrequent intervals in the winter, festivals of dancing were held, and lively couples came to remain for two to four days and to rollick in the quadrilles or square dances of the period.  We have a revival of square dancing now, but the modern version does not equal for jollity the merriment of the old days when this form of the dance was as familiar as breathing to the high-spirited young.  Nor can the discreet calling of present-day masters of ceremonies match the devil-may-care singsong of the boss fiddler, who called the figures of the dances with tireless good nature when he was not bowing his own instrument.  Those country fiddlers!  They may not have been musicians and they wouldn't have called themselves violinists.  But they could impart an electrical joyousness to the tunes they played and they could keep going for hours.

After a long evening of dancing the women and girls retired to the bedrooms for rest, while the men bunked down on the ballroom floor.  After a few hours of sleep and a good breakfast, the party would return to the ballroom, where the fiddlers were waiting in their tilted-back chairs, making weird noises as they tuned up their strings.

Then at a hush, the boss fiddler would sound the welcoming call: "Choose your partners!"  Then, "First four couples this way!"  And so on through the day and far into the night, with intervals for dinner and supper.  The meals were bounteous and good: ham and eggs and griddle cakes with maple syrup and pots of coffee for breakfast, and roasts and pounded steaks, fried chicken and chops, pies and cakes and more coffee for the midday dinner, and much the same thing with preserved fruits for dessert at the evening supper.

Quadrilles weren't the invariable rule; there would be polkas and waltzes and schottisches at intervals to provide variety and to give the caller a chance to rest his larynx.  Thus the festival continued until all were satisfied or exhausted.  There were no cocktail lounges in those days, and ladies didn't drink.  But the young blades slipped downstairs to the bar when they could, while their partners nervously awaited their return.  The Chubb House had no tradition of boisterousness, but the bar had a good trade.

Grandmother McNitt probably thought ill of the bar, and may have sniffed at the prolonged dancing, for she was a good Puritan and had a

(end of page 120)

large family to bring up right.  And in her gentle way she did bring up her boys and girls right.  They were a lively lot, with keen interests in all sorts of things.  The high school course included algebra, geometry, English classics, world history, astronomy, physics (then called natural philosophy), with spelling bees and practice at public speaking thrown in.  Singing teachers came occasionally to hold special classes, and there were instructors in town to train youngsters in playing the parlor organ.  The McNitt household had its organ, and the rooms rang with song.

There were eight children in the family.  Alice, the eldest, was born in 1853; Verner, the youngest, in 1875.  Between them, named in the order of their birth, were Henry, Clara, Edith, Seward, Dora, and Eva.

All of them had their father's vitality and mental urge, and their mother's gentleness.  Only one of them survives as I write: Aunt Eva, who as a girl of eleven when I was born in the house, elected herself to be my deputy mother and who watched over me for years, wherever I might be.

I have never been able to catch up with the stories of courtships and young love affairs in a household with five bright and pretty daughters, each with well-marked individuality.  Dora was the odd one; she didn't have many beaus, for she had some of her father's eccentricity.  She became a teacher, saved her money with utmost shrewdness, and presently kept a millinery, drygoods, and notions store in nearby Sparta.  Her thrift amazed everybody.

A designing farmer named Chapin Clute, a widower with grown sons, offered a bleak promise of romance when Dora neared middle age.  When at the end of six weeks of marriage Dora discovered his only yearning was for her money, she sent Verner a distress signal, and he came with horses at the gallop.  Clute and sons offered resistance, but Verner brushed them aside, loaded his sister's belongings into his light wagon, and drove with her rapidly to the old homestead.

Thereafter Dora mentally adopted the whole tribe of her nieces and nephews, and spent the rest of her life working, saving, and planning the disposition of her estate.  At her death, it was found no one had been forgotten; the size of the bequests varied according to favor and to need.  Her modest legacy to me was made the starting fund to provide for the financing of this book.  So in a sense this history should be regarded as a memorial to her: a belated tribute to a starved but not unhappy life.

It is most improbable that any of Frank McNitt's young people ever consciously strove for what we call culture, but they were full of energy and the urge to self-expression.  Amateur theatricals offered something

(end of page 121)

interesting to do, and many plays were produced by the younger set in Lisbon.  It appears they were well done, too, considering everything.  Nothing too heavy or ambitious was tried; just the things that would be fun, and could be carried off lightheartedly.  Sometimes the amateur players ventured into other communities with performances.

My father was one of the ring-leaders among the village thespians, playing the heavier roles and assisting in management.  He continued with this interest for years and helped to organize and direct plays in which he also acted.  George S. Chubb, son of Lorenzo, had many light comedy parts.  He was the best actor in the lot, with voice, good looks, personality, lack of self-consciousness, and natural gaiety.  The girls had fun with romantic parts and with their costumes.

Before we approach another form of self-expression of the period, another family should be introduced.  Among the friends of the McNitt sisters were Emma and Myrtle Koon, daughters respectively of Dr. Charles Koon and Dr. Sherman J. Koon: physicians who adorned the community and served faithfully the countryside for many miles.  They and their brother Chauncey, who practiced in Casnovia, six miles to the north, were among the earliest graduates of the medical department of the University of Michigan.  They went on horseback to answer calls that might keep them away two days at a time, and then on returning, might remount after a hasty bite to ride far away again.  The two Lisbon doctors also kept a drugstore.

Their sister Martha married John Potter Cook; a son, William W. Cook, rich and eccentric lawyer in New York, presented his alma mater, the University of Michigan, with the Martha Cook dormitory for girls and the Law Quadrangle, a magnificent group of Gothic buildings that now houses the Law Department.

Myrtle always was regarded as the bright girl genius of Lisbon.  After professional training in Detroit she practiced elocution, and could do what we of later years have seen Cornelia Otis Skinner do: delight an audience for an evening with impersonations and readings from plays.  She could amuse with folksongs too; perhaps no one has surpassed her in "On Wilbra'ms Mountain There Did Dwell."  After a few years of married life in Grand Rapids the widowed Myrtle Koon Cherryman went on with her public appearances, conducted a department for the Grand Rapids Press, and engaged in civic enterprises.  Her son Rexford Cherryman became a successful actor, well known to Broadway in leading parts in "Madame X" and "The Trial of Mary Dugan."  Emma Koon married Alexander Stock, brother of Frederick Stock, long conductor of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.  Emma and Myrtle, vital

(end of page 122)

elderly ladies, lived together in Hillsdale many years.  Myrtle died in June 1950.

All these personalities and enterprises are mentioned that various grandchildren may know something of the background of family life sixty to seventy-five years ago, in a good little village now vanished.

Myrtle Koon's success as an elocutionist may have stimulated my Aunt Eva to try her own abilities, or elocution may just have been in the Lisbon air.  It may have been an outgrowth of the amateur theatricals.  Eva had a sweet and flexible voice -- what we call a cultivated voice -- and she did very well with her readings.  At our big family gatherings she always was called upon to contribute to the entertainment; she was especially good at things that pleased children or made them bug-eyed.

She also tried her hand at painting in oils.  She will not forgive me, perhaps, for describing one of her girlish works of art.  On a pie-tin she painted a moonlit scene; on the edge of the tin at the lower right she glued a twig, and on the twig she stuck two small peanuts, which she painted to represent owls.  The family observed the result, pronounced it good, and hung the finished work in the parlor, along with the Victorian walnut furniture, the wax flowers under a bell glass on the marble-topped table, and the framed pictures decorated with pampas grass.

Alice, the eldest daughter, left the home circle early and so missed some of the youthful fun.  At the age of fifteen she was captivated by a handsome young man named Joseph R. Harrison, and married him in 1868.  The Harrisons kept general stores in Sparta and Lisbon for many years.  The children of various marriages will be accounted for later, with other family data, but before reaching this tabulation I am moved to tell something of the good and ill fortunes of individuals.

Erwin, first of the children in the Harrison family, married and became a printer.  Life developed unhappily for him and he died at twenty-eight.  Charles, a handsome six-footer, was a pharmacist in Lisbon when he married Madeleine Sliter, an unusually pretty and charming young woman.  After a few years as a pharmacist in Grand Rapids, Charles removed to Seattle, where he entered business as an employing engraver and lithographer.  Two sons, Webster and Clay, became six-footers like their father.  The family enterprises came to include mining in Alaska, two picture theaters in Seattle, and a sawmill in Oregon.  Zella, christened Rosella, emulated her mother and on her sixteenth birthday married Jay Hodgins in Sparta.  She is and always has been one of the gentlest of a family of gentle, warmhearted women.  Glenn, the youngest, became a rancher in Montana.

(end of page 123)

Zella's husband Jay was a central figure in one of the exciting events of my boyhood.  An excellent amateur baseball team in the nearby town of Ravenna for a season or two defeated every other amateur team for many miles around.  The name chosen for their team by the enthusiastic, slim young athletes was the Ravenna Pets.  They caused heartburnings among the sports lovers of Casnovia, the capital of our township.  Pets indeed!  It seemed time to tame these rampageous Pets.  The Casnovia contingent decided to organize a new team, and to challenge the Ravenna outfit to play one game.  The challenge was accepted, and the game was set to be played at the Casnovia circus lot in midsummer.

Surreptitiously the Casnovians recruited a team of professional and semi-pro players, the best to be had in western Michigan.  Their choice for pitcher was Jay Hodgins, our cousin, who was a semi-pro for years, and known to be good.  No relief pitcher was even considered.  On the great day most of the men of the entire region were on hand.  My brother Hal and I drove to town for an event so great that you perceive I remember it vividly after many years.

The challenging team bore the name of the Casnovia Corkpullers: a name possibly derisive of the Pets.  The Corkpullers were arrayed in white as spotless as a bartender's apron, and each player wore a big red C on a white bib or dickey attached to his shirt.

The lithe young amateurs who actually lived in Ravenna found themselves matched against voracious professionals from all over.  If the tragedy of Mighty Casey who struck out once only, so far as we know, was worth a deathless poem, the sufferings of the Ravenna Pets should be worth the space given the story here, and something besides.  Hitters perhaps nearly as good as Casey waved their bats helplessly at Jay's bewildering pitches.

Not to spin it out, Jay pitched the Corkpullers to a thirty-one to one victory.  Hardly a Pet got past first base.  It was a disaster.  Perhaps Jay, who lived until 1949, remembered the game in his octogenarian years with as much amusement as his younger cousins did.

Henry, the eldest son in Frank McNitt's family, went to Red Cloud, Nebraska, in search of health as a young man.  There he found a wife, Adeline Pontzius, who came back with him to Lisbon in a covered wagon.  Once or twice when he was ill and unable to do it, she lowered to the ground by rope and tackle the small cookstove they had with them.  Chickens and other provisions were bought from farmers along the way, and they had a chicken dinner every Sunday.  Henry became a teacher locally famed for his mastery of rebellious big boys, after the manner of Eggleston's Hoosier Schoolmaster.  Then he bought a farm

(end of page 124)

at Trent, in Muskegon County, with his father's aid.  He was school director in his district and a justice of the peace for many years.  At sixty-four he retired to live in Muskegon Heights, but instead of being finished, he was just at the entrance to a new career which gave him great satisfaction.  Almost immediately elected a local magistrate, without seeking the post, he continued until very near the end of his long life of eighty-one years.

Clara, the second daughter, married William Purd Sessions, a jeweler and member of the firm of Hubbard & Sessions in Port Huron, Michigan.  He was always Purd to the family.  He was a young man of spirit and high vitality, and before marriage had been an athlete and sportsman.  Perhaps he had burned himself out.  When his two children were very young, it was necessary to take him to a hospital.

In one of those revealing old letters that came into my hands only recently, I found that Grandmother had written her daughter Eva that she had dreamed Purd had come home again, as full of fun and jokes as ever.  But Purd never came home; he died in the hospital.  Clara, his widow, moved to Northville to keep roomers in a large house and rear her children.  And she voluntarily took me in, to help her a little, and to enable me to get the final two years of high school training.  Later she removed to Ann Arbor, where nearly all the members of the family were converging; object: privileges of higher education for the younger generation.

Edith married George S. Chubb, the most personable young man in Lisbon.  They may have continued operating Lorenzo Chubb's inn for a while, but not for long.  When some years before, the Chicago & West Michigan railroad (now part of the Pere Marquette system) had been built from Grand Rapids northward through Sparta and Newaygo to Traverse City, the stage-coaches stopped running to Lisbon and Newaygo, and Lisbon began gradually to die.  The pine forests along the Muskegon River and around Newaygo had been disappearing into the sawmills, and the great areas of empty slashing now were attracting few but the berry-pickers who came in summer.  When nearby Sparta, a mile north and four miles cast, became the transportation center, Lisbon started languishing.  In 1894, when I was invited by my grandparents to live in their home for the first two years of high school, Lisbon was charming and somnolent under its great maples.  Everyone supposed it could go on always like that, for only two or three of the old stores then had been closed.  Another railroad had come along and managed to miss Lisbon by a mile: a branch of the Grand Trunk, running from Muskegon to Owosso and Saginaw.  A small business com-

(end of page 125)

munity grew up around the station one mile to the north, first called North Lisbon, then Gooding.  Progress in the form of railroads didn't do our little town any good at all.

George Chubb was a peach-grower and gentleman farmer, at a time when a large but not wide area just east of and parallel with Lake Michigan was widely known as the Fruit Belt.  The closing of the Chubb House to paying travelers marked the beginning of a kind of manorial life in the big house, with friends coming often in their carriages from Grand Rapids and other places to enjoy a spacious hospitality.  There visitors were entertained in groups by George's readings -- then called recitations -- and frequently by the sparkling talents of Myrtle Koon.  There were books on the shelves and magazines on the table, and always much good talk.  George Chubb endeared himself to nieces and nephews and other small fry by reading aloud to them from Tom Sawyer and similar works.

When the two daughters, Agnes and Lynne, were old enough for lessons a piano was brought up from Grand Rapids.  In a short while the girls were picking out the notes and singing snatches from the operetta Erminie.  Those were the days of the great popularity of light opera, and often members of the family were in Grand Rapids enjoying performances at the Powers Opera House.  There they saw also the best plays, more available on tour then than now.

In summer the Chubbs and some of the McNitt family repaired for vacations with entertainment to the Island Park Assembly at Rome City, near Kendallville, Indiana.  The Assembly was in plainer terms one of the Chautauqua enterprises.  These have sometimes in recent years been mildly jeered at by the sophisticated as ventures in culture for villagers.  They are gone now; the automobiles killed them off.  With the passing of the Chautauqua the American middle class in the interior lost something valuable.  Does anyone suggest that the movies and television have adequately replaced all the varieties of entertainment and self-expression they have driven out?

When I was nine I was invited by my aunts -- and I suspect Aunt Eva was at the bottom of it -- to go with the family group to Island Park.  It was an all-day ride by rail (and a thrilling ride) to glamorous Rome City, which I hardly noticed in the ecstatic walk from the station over a wide, banner-bedecked wooden bridge to the small island where a cottage and a tent awaited us, in a colony of neat summer residences.  A modern child probably would be less impressed by a visit to Paris.  On this enchanted park-like island in Sylvan Lake were an auditorium, flower-gardens and fountains, a big refreshment store with the first

(end of page 126)

Franklin McNitt at 57
Franklin McNitt at 57, before removing beard

Mary McNutt Peck
Mrs. Mary McNutt Peck - See p. 241
Edith McNitt Chubb
Mrs. Edith McNitt Chubb
Eva McNitt Eggers
Mrs. Eva McNitt Eggers
See p. 107
Eva McNitt Freeman
Mrs. Eva McNitt Freeman, in
the age of elocution

soda-fountain I had ever seen, and at a small landing an excursion steamer that puffed its way around the lake.  About a mile out from the landing was a tiny, low-lying fairy isle, with tall trees and grass.

The Assembly had classes in singing and other kinds of training, and in the evenings, concerts and lectures.  I kept secret the fact that as a young music-lover, my heart was captured by a girl violinist hardly older than myself.  Her name was Helen Blakesley.  She never knew of my admiration from afar, and no one else has known of it until now.

For my sin of running on and on like this, I offer the plea in mitigation that this story may be a slight chapter of Americana.  Fifty-eight years after that blissful fortnight, I paused while on a motor trip from New York to Los Angeles to see what fate had befallen the Island Park Assembly.  As for Rome City, my chickadees, it is not a city and it does not resemble Rome; it is a little place with gas stations, a few stores, and a railroad depot.  When I inquired about the Assembly almost no one knew what I meant.  Finally an old resident responded:

"Oh, yes; that became a beer garden about the time automobiles came in. The place is called Kerr's Island.  When the beer garden faded, the owner tried selling the land for building lots.  You can get over to the island by following that road." And he pointed.  This is what the modern Rip Van Winkle found:

The wide bridge had given place to a low causeway of muddy clay.  On the island were a few nondescript houses amid rough knolls and gullies.  No gardens, no fountains, no auditorium, no boat landing.  But standing at the marshy spot where once was a pier for the steamer, I discovered again, out in the lake, the fairy isle of my childhood, unchanged and beautiful.  And I was grateful.

I might linger on the big family gatherings at my grandparents' home and at the big house of the Chubbs, but already I have lingered too much.  Especially at Christmas the family was happy in an atmosphere charged with kindness and loyalty; none of the many children ever felt overlooked.

In a world of change, the Fruit Belt of western Michigan lost much of its fruitfulness.  The soil may have become exhausted or the climate may have changed a little.  George Chubb's peach orchards became less profitable; fruit trees will grow old.  By contriving, and by trying other things, it might have been possible to maintain the old manorial life on a lesser scale.  But at this time another thing happened: the Chubb daughters were finished with the ten grades in the Lisbon schools, and a younger brother, Ralph, was coming along.

(end of page 127)

A choice had to be made.  Should the Chubbs remain in quiet Lisbon, or should they for the sake of education for the children sell out and start over again on a new level in an entirely different kind of life?  No doubt Aunt Edith made the hard choice for the family.  In 1897 a large house in an excellent hilltop neighborhood in Grand Rapids was rented, the girls entered high school, and a dozen or more lively students of a kindergarten training school were taken in to board.  Life was still pleasant and gracious.  Weren't there old friends in Grand Rapids who had enjoyed the hospitality of the Lisbon home?

Alas for Aunt Edith; these former guests knew her no longer.  They would not countenance socially a family that kept boarders.  It was no doubt hard to take; among people of our kind, friends are always friends, and any kind of useful effort is worthy, and makes no difference.  "The rank is but the guinea's stamp; the man's the gowd for a' that."  Here is where real Scottishness began appearing so plainly that it was at once dominant.  Instead of quailing, Aunt Edith resolved more firmly than ever that education and opportunities for the young transcended all else.  After two years of seeing the girls through high school and mothering the incipient kindergartners, she moved on to Ann Arbor and made ready to serve student boarders on a large scale.  She was committed to education, not only for her own children, but for any and all young people she could help.  She had only $25, but Grandfather Frank supplied her with capital; within a year she was established.

Readers are to bear in mind two outstanding traits in Scotland at and after the time our family left: the passion for learning, and the free spirit of democracy that recognized the logic of equality in the days when the country was poor.  Aunt Edith took the lead in being a good Scot, and her influence drew others of the clan around her.  In grace, breeding, and womanliness she had no superior in Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor, but she didn't meet professors' wives!  She was too busy, and she didn't care anyway.  She took genuine interest in helping the students who came to work for her as stewards and waiters, and cheered them through hard days.

The eyes of many successful lawyers and physicians and teachers, and no doubt of judges and members of Congress, light up today when her name is mentioned.  She was kind to them when they were young and struggling.  Her tables were served with food of the same manorial quality that once had brought the high-toned visitors from Grand Rapids to Lisbon.  Her house became the largest, most popular, and most successful in Ann Arbor.

Her sisters were women of the same fine type, but because she took

(end of page 128)

the initiative in the hard ways she did, I nominate Edith McNitt Chub to a special place of honor with another brave woman of the clan: Nicola McNaught of Galloway.  She drew young people from farm and village into the great world.

Aunt Edith's later years were not easy.  She became nearly blind from cataracts.  Left to her own resources with her radio, she developed two strong new interests: baseball and politics.  The Detroit Tigers had no more enthusiastic partisan than she, and at the same time she developed an almost startling dislike and distrust for the New Deal.  She believed in rugged self-reliance; didn't her life work entitle her to scorn what she thought namby-pamby paternalism?  Her mind was keen!  She lived to be eighty-eight, revered to the last as a gentlewoman.

Next in the family came the second son, Morrison Seward McNitt, who dropped the first name before any of his nephews and nieces ever knew he had it.  He sold sewing machines before he became a clerk in a general store at Byron Center, near Grand Rapids.  About the time he became proprietor he married Flora Bacon of Ellis Hill, Bradford County, Pennsylvania.  Their two sons are Rollin Lee and Reginald DeKoven; the latter obviously owes his name to his mother's fondness for music and her admiration for the composer of the operetta Robin Hood.  The name Reginald was dropped early.

Seward had a character like good steel and a personality like silk.  When his health declined and outdoor work was recommended, he sold his store in 1898 and engaged in farming until he removed with his family to Ann Arbor in 1900.  There he bought a house and lived the rest of his life.

Dora's story already has been told.  The next sister was Eva, who at the age of twenty subordinated her interests in elocution and painting to marriage to Charles C. Freeman; he was ten years her senior and principal of schools at Lake Odessa, Michigan.  After many years there, the Freemans moved to Ann Arbor.  A son was born to them April 4, 1911, and when it became apparent he could not live, an infant girl born two days earlier was adopted.  She was named Grace.

Presently Verner moved to Ann Arbor and bought a dairy farm just outside of town, southward from the football stadium; on November 18, 1905, he married Flora Mills.  Their daughter Ruth was born in 1909.  Verner was the youngest of his family and barely more than six years my senior; he seemed like an older brother, and some of his outgrown clothing was passed on to me in childhood.  I also came into ownership of his tricycle, which I liked better.  As a young man he drove the smartest span of horses in Lisbon; later he owned the best

(end of page 129)

automobile he could get and drove it fast.  In my high school days in Lisbon he was always singing about the house, Irish ballads mostly.  After working hard all day he would play croquet by moonlight.  Flora is not the only one who mourns his untimely death by heart failure in 1940.  She remembers the past in company with most of the walnut furniture from the Lisbon parlor, its horsehair covering replaced by modem fabrics.

With almost all the family removing to Ann Arbor, Grandfather and Grandmother finally sold the Lisbon home and moved there too.  Only my father and his sisters Alice and Dora held out.  The departure of the Chubbs from Lisbon in 1897 marked the beginning of the last phase of the town's decline.  The great house and the three barns mysteriously burned to the ground a few years after the Chubbs sold; thus the finest landmark in the center of the village disappeared.

What the railroads began, the automobiles finished.  Here and there about the country there must be many who cherish memories of the good little town that wouldn't die.  Lorenzo Chubb's wife, Cordelia Meech, had a sister Nancy, whose granddaughter, Adelaide Frost, attended the school in Lisbon.  She is now the wife of Colonel Eddie Rickenbacker.

The family of Franklin and Martha McNitt of Lisbon:

I. ALICE FRANCES McNITT, b. July 28,1853, m. on December 27, 1868 Joseph R. Harrison (1848-99), d. May 16, 1937.  Their children:

1. Erwin T. Harrison, b. February 27,1871, m. on December 18, 1889, Jessie Laraway, d. August 20, 1898; two children:
I-a, Archie, b. September 15, 1890;
I -b, Helen, b. January 18, 1894.
2. Charles L. Harrison, b. April 9, 1873, m. on May 21, 1893 Madeleine Sliter, d. November 5, 1946; two children:
2-a, Webster, b. December 29, 1894;
2-b, Clay, b. January 14, 1896.  Degrees, and names of wives and children of both are lacking.
3. Rosella Harrison, b. June 20, 1875, m. on June 20, 1891 J. C. Hodgins; Zella lives in Sparta, Michigan; four children:
3-a, Gladys, b. April 24, 1892, d. April 13, 1902;
3-b, Robert E., b. August 27, 1893, is with Hudson Motor Co. in Detroit;
3-c, Merle R., b. September 13, 1902, lives on Scenic Drive on White Lake between Muskegon and Whitehall and builds boats;
3-d, Alton L., b. December 23, 1905, lives at Fremont and is field supervisor for Everwear Aluminum Co. directing large sales force;
(end of page 130)
3-e, Frank, b. June 16, 1907, was named for his Lisbon grandfather; d. November 24,1917 by breaking through ice and drowning while skating on Bass Lake, near Peacock, Michigan.
4. Glenn, b. January 1, 1883, m. on July 272, 1908 Lila Kelley, d. December 19, 1937; no children.
II. HENRY ALLEN McNITT, b. December 2 5, 1854, m. on February 8, 1880 Adeline Pontzius (1858-1936), d. February 1936; four children:
1. Virgil V., b. January 15, 1881, educated at University of Michigan and became newspaper man, m. on June 12, 1909 Marie Florence Bellows, b. December 7, 1882, educated at Oberlin and at Stanford University; children:
I-a, Robert Bellows McNitt, b. January 10, 1911, A.B., Yale 1933, m. on June 2 0, 1936 Mary Dyer, d. December 2 2, 1941 by fall from moving train; one son, Robert Bellows McNitt, Jr., b. June 16, 1938.  Robert wrote a column for the Yale Daily News and was business manager of the Yale Literary Review while in college; after graduation he became reporter for the Evening News of Southbridge, Massachusetts, then city editor and managing editor, then managing editor Knoxville Journal 1938-39, editor McNaught Syndicate in New York thereafter.
I -b, Frank McNitt, b. December 5, 1912, attended Yale School of Fine Arts four years and Art Students League, New York, one year.  The self-portrait he painted at age twenty-one in 1934, shown in one of the illustrations here, was accepted for hanging in the annual show of the National Academy of Design in New York, when only one in every eleven submitted was selected for exhibit.  Frank m. on October 1, 1936 Virginia Collins, b. June 1, 1916; she also studied painting at Art Students League as pupil of Alexander Brook; three children: Jean, b. October 3, 1937; John Barnard, b. August 14, 1939; Benjamin Alexander, b. July 3, 1945.  Frank was a painter in New York and Woodstock several years, then was feature writer for Evening News, Southbridge, 1937-41; since then has been managing editor and then editor Westwood Hills Press, Los Angeles; markedly espoused causes of displaced Japanese-Americans at outset of our entrance into second World War, and other minorities, and opposed imposition of special test oath on faculties of University of California, demanded by Regents in a search for Communist teachers.  Lecturer UCLA School of Journalism from February 1951.  Is vice president McNaught Publications, Inc., Los Angeles and of Southbridge Evening News, Inc.
2 . Ethel L. McNitt, b. February 28, 1882., m. on December 25, 1901 Edward C. Bearss; they live in Ann Arbor; one daughter:
Vivian, b. November 8, 1902, m. on February 7, 1923 Clinton H. Good, b. October 26, 1901, A.B., Michigan 1925; three children: (a) Clinton Robert Good, b. June 9, 1924, took pre-medical work at Yale, M.D., University of Cincinnati 1948, m. on January 1,
(end of page 131)
1947 Margaret Flores, b. October 25, 1927, B.M., University of Cincinnati 1948; their two children: Clinton Arthur Good, b. March 19, 1948, and Robert Bruce Good, b. May 10, 1949.  (b) Leslie Edward Good, b. March 19, 1929, m. on August 6, 1947 Marie Ann Foglia, b. June 21, 1929; one child: Leslie Ann Good, b. October 6,1948.  © Betty Jean Good, b. June 10, 1934.  Clinton H. Good is vice president of McNitts, Inc., in Cleveland, in charge of production.
3. Harold Anson (Hal) McNitt, b. June 24, 1884, LL.B., Michigan 1909, m. on June 17, 1916 Margaret Austin, b. January 8, 1896; two children:
3-a, Jean, b. May 28, 1917, m. on February 24, 1940 Eugene Brand, b. June 1, 1909; two children: Margaret, b. July 15, 1941, and Barbara, b. May 17, 1944.
3-b, Harold Austin McNitt, b. December 6, 1924, A.B. "with distinction," Michigan 1949, also Phi Beta Kappa; entered Air Forces training 1943, commissioned Second Lieutenant and was preparing to go overseas in weather reconnaissance on a B-25 when war ended; m. on June 8, 1946 Roberta Frank, b. June 26, 1925; Austin is now completing work for Master's degree at Michigan and plans to teach.
Harold Anson McNitt, his father, is the founder and president of McNitts, Inc., engravers, printers, and publishers of the annual Bluebook of College Athletics in Cleveland.  He practiced law in Grand Rapids for several years after graduation, and then became editor and manager of the Central Press Association.
4. George E. McNitt, b. November 2 5, 1886, attended Michigan State College, m. on February 10, 1909 Effie Nielson, b. April 25, 1889; four children:
4-a, Hazel, b. May 21, 1910, m. February 10, 193 4 Wayne Ohl, b. December 15, 1909; no children.
4-b, Roland McNitt, b. May 11, 1912, educated at Harvard, m. on February 20, 1936 Nathalie Morey, b. April 1, 1911; one daughter: Katherine, b. July 9, 1940.  Roland is a divisional manager for the Blue Cross with office in Boston; Nathalie conducts a private school in Lenox, and Roland commutes.
4-c, Gerald McNitt, b. June 27, 1915, m. on September 15, 1939 Mary Alley, b. April 10, 1916; two sons: Gerald, Jr., b. May 11, 1943, and George Richard, b. April 25, 1946.  Gerald McNitt is employed by the American Optical Co. in Southbridge, Massachusetts.
4-d, Eleanor McNitt, b. November 14, 1917, m. August 25, 1943 Clarence J. Payne, b. June 5, 1912, who was First Lieutenant in Field Artillery in second World War; son Paul Douglas b. June 3, 1944.
George E. McNitt, father of this family, is with the Evening News in Southbridge, and serves as liaison man in production between
(end of page 132)
newspaper's mechanical department and the McNaught Syndicate in New York.
III. CLARA JANET McNITT, b. May 3, 1857, m. on September 29, 1887 William Purd Sessions, b. August 22, 1855, d. May I, 1895; Clara d. January 13, 1919; two children:
1. Charles C. Sessions, b. September 10, 1888, attended University of Michigan, was an officer in first World War, m. on April 5, 1935 Carolyn B. Garten, R.N.; no children.
2. Marguerite Sessions, b. September 21, 1890, m. on May 12, 1920 Edward J. Roxbury, who as a Brigadier General was killed in action in second World War; Marguerite d. January 3,1933; two children:
2-a, Clara Janet Roxbury, b. August 19, 1923; now married with two children.
2-b, Edward J. Roxbury, Jr., b. August 20, 1925; at last account was a Lieutenant with the U. S. Army in Japan, living there with wife and one son.
IV. EDITH LOIS McNITT, b. July 2, 1859, m. on December 23, 1880, George S. Chubb, b. September 14, 1850, d. August 1932, Edith d. June 1947; three children:
1. Agnes Ethelberta Chubb, b. December 7, 1881, attended University of Michigan, m. on September 7, 1904 Luther Fiske Warren, b. September 20, 1885, M.D., Michigan 1909, d. January 17, 1937; Agnes now lives in Westport, Connecticut.
Dr. Warren's career will receive our attention before we go on to the children.  He was an instructor in clinical microscopy and in clinical medicine in the Michigan Medical Department 1910-11, then removed to Brooklyn, New York to practice.  He held and was advanced in following posts in Long Island College of Medicine, Brooklyn: Assistant Professor Internal Medicine 1912, Associate Professor 1915, Acting Professor 1917, Professor 1918; was Director of Medicine in Long Island College Hospital 1918-37; Physician-in-Chief St. John's Episcopal Hospital and Director of Medicine Brooklyn Home for Consumptives, 1932-37.  Also he was Consulting Physician Harbor Hospital, Methodist Hospital, Brunswick General Hospital, Lutheran Hospital, Coney Island Hospital, and Southside Hospital; member Board of Governors American College of Physicians 1931-34, and a Regent of the same 1933-37; examiner in medicine for New York State Board of Medicine 1930-33; president State Board of Medical Examiners 1933-37; president Kings County Medical Society 1930; organizer and first president of Brooklyn Health Council 1934-37; member Board of Directors and chairman of Public Health Committee, Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce; member Board of Trustees of Brooklyn Polytechnic Institute 1924-37, and of Board of Packer Collegiate Institute 1927-37; member New York Academy of Medicine.  He carried on a heavy private practice and was expert diagnostician.  The four children of Dr. Luther and Agnes Warren:

(end of page 133)

I-a, Charles Ford Warren, b. August 19, 1906, A.B., Michigan 1927, M.D., Harvard 1931, m. on September 8, 1928 Alice Faul, b. November 20, 1905; three children: Anne Warren, b. March 6, 1931, now member class of 1951 University of Michigan; Jean Warren, b. June 28, 1936; Charles Ford Warren, Jr., b. June 24, 1938.
Dr. Charles Ford Warren served his internship with the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston 1931-33, his graduate education under Dalton Research Fellowship at same hospital 1933-35; has taught at Long Island College of Medicine as instructor 1935-42, associate instructor 1942-45, Assistant Clinical Professor since 1945; at Long Island College Hospital: assistant attending physician 1935-46, associate attending physician since 1946, Chief of the Medical Clinic since 1946, Chief of the Arthritic Clinic since 1946.  Arthritis is his field of specialization.  Was clinical assistant at St. John's Episcopal Hospital 1937-39, associate attending physician since 1945; assistant visiting Physician at Kings County Hospital 1935-46; associate attending physician at Brooklyn Thoracic Hospital since 1935; in collaboration with Dr. Walter Bauer and other physicians has contributed articles on researches in medical science to the American Journal of Pathology, the American Journal of the Medical Sciences, the American Heart Journal, and other publications.  He is a member of the American College of Physicians, American Medical Association, Kings County Medical Society, New York Medical Association, Association of the Physicians of Long Island, American Federation for Clinical Research.  Shares a suite of offices with his brother Dr. Robert at 200 Hicks Street, Brooklyn.
I-b, Robert Fiske Warren, b. July 7, 1908, A.B., Michigan 1929, M.D., Harvard 1933; m. on July 2, 1936 Lucy Marie Sinclaire, b. November 20, 1911; trained in pathology and general surgery seven years, finishing with a residency at Long Island College of Medicine Service at Kings County Hospital; is specialist in orthopedic surgery after training with Dr. Arthur Steindler of Iowa City, Iowa; Major, Medical Corps, A. U. S., stationed at Hoff General Hospital in charge of orthopedic service 1942-45; certified by American Board of Orthopedic Surgeons 1949; fellow of American College of Surgeons; member American Academy Orthopedic Surgeons, New York Academy of Medicine, Brooklyn Surgical Society, American Academy Compensation Medicine; Assistant Professor of Clinical Orthopedic Surgery, Long Island College of Medicine (now known as State University of New York, Medical Center) since 1948; either chief attending, or attending, associate, or visiting Orthopedic Surgeon at following hospitals: St. John's Episcopal, The Brooklyn, Carson C. Peck Memorial, Brooklyn Thoracic, Veterans, Kings County, Long Island College, Kingston Avenue, House of St. Giles the Cripple, and Sea View Hospital; secretary Medical Board St. John's Episcopal Hospital 1947-49 and of Board of the House of St. Giles the Cripple since 1949;
(end of page 134)
member Entrance Committee Long Island College of Medicine since 1948; orthopedic advisor to the following: Visiting Nurse Association, Department of Welfare, and Department of Public Health; member Committee on Trauma, American College of Surgeons since 1947; member Comitia Minora, Kings County Medical Society since 1949; orthopedic consultant for Industrial Home for the Blind since 1947.  How he does it we cannot guess, but he has a heavy private practice besides.  Dr. Luther Warren taught his sons to work and bear responsibility.  The two children of Dr. Robert and Lucy Warren: Cicily de St. Croix, b. January 14, 1941, and Luther Fiske, b. October 13, 1939.
I-c, Edith Lois Warren, b. November 15, 1911, m.1st on July 29, 1937 Kent Rhodes, b. February 5, 1912; three children: Jocelyn Rhodes, b. February 3,1939; Warren Rhodes, b. December 4,1940; Cherry Rhodes, b. June 28, 1943; m. 2nd on April 12, 1950 Frank Christian Hanson.
I-d, John Collins Warren, b. November 4, 1913, d. July 17, 1921.  Had little John lived he would have gone as far as his two older brothers.
2. Edith Lynne Chubb, b. July 23, 1883, attended University of Michigan but interrupted her course to m. in November 1901 Mott G. Spaulding, b. January 1878, LL.B., Michigan 1901; she entered Michigan with class of 1903, and returned after husband's death in 1921 to win her A.B. with her daughter Virginia in 1924; two children:
2-a, Virginia Marguerite Spaulding, b. October 29, 1902, A.B., Michigan, 1924, m. on June 16, 1924 Louis Gess, B.S., Michigan, Engineer 1924.  Mother, daughter, and bridegroom received their degrees on the same day, as was noticed in Detroit newspapers; one son: Richard Spaulding Gess, b. July 31, 1931, member class of 1953 at Michigan; has played football, weighs 190, and aspires to make the Michigan team before he graduates; represents third generation of family at the University.  Louis Gess, Richard's father, is Chief Application Engineer with the Brown Instrument Co. at Jenkintown, Pennsylvania; has been with company twenty years.
2-b, George Chubb Spaulding, b. February 19, 1907, m. in June 1933 Vivian Mack; they have an adopted son Allan Newton Spaulding, b. December 18,1945.
3. Ralph L. Chubb, b. August 18, 1887, B.S. in Chemical Engineering, Michigan 1909; has held various engineering positions, among them operating engineer for Wilputte Coke Oven Corporation 1916-21, TNT superintendent for Grogan Powder Co. 1942-43, and research engineer for Bureau of Agriculture and Engineering Chemistry since 1943, working on guayule rubber production at Salinas, California.  Ralph m. 1st on December 6, 1909 Hattie E. Distel; 2nd on September 5, 1916 Zella B. Farrar; three children:
3-a, Edith Alice Chubb, b. November 26,1917, attended Michigan
(end of page 135)
two years, then for two years was a professional dancer; m. in September 1937 Fred G. Bowser, their three children: Bonnie, b. November 26, 1938; Susan, b. June 11, 1943; Cheryl, b. July 22, 1945.
3-b, Elizabeth Ann Chubb, b. August 5, 1920, attended University of Michigan two years, m. in July 1941 Roy E. Kimball, now Captain in U. S. Air Forces in Canal Zone; their two children: Roy, b. March 24,1943, and Ralph, b. March 25, 1946.
3-c, Ralph L. Chubb, Jr., b. March 24, 1924, course at Michigan interrupted by war service as Ensign in the Navy, under-water demolition branch; received degree as Mechanical Engineer in 1947; was member of Michigan football squad in seasons of 1944 and 1946 and participated in big games as a halfback; also was a member of the swimming team 1944-45; now is an erecting engineer for Babcock & Wilcox Boiler Manufacturing Co.; m. on March 12, 1949 Joy Harris.
Ralph L. Chubb, Sr., m. 3rd on July 6, 1943 Gladys L. Burge (nee Wagner).
V. MORRISON SEWARD McNITT, b. May 2, 1861, m. November 2, 1887 Flora Bacon, b. March 10, 1864; he d. March 24,1909; two sons:
1. Rollin Lee McNitt, b. November 23, 1890, LL.B. Michigan 1912,  m. on August 20, 1908 Marjorie Elizabeth Hilton, b. September 30, 1890.  Admitted to Michigan Bar in July, and California Bar in September 1912; was admitted to practice in all California courts and in Federal courts, including United States Supreme Court; has conducted litigation in all of them.  On arriving in Los Angeles in 1912 he joined editorial staff of L. D. Powell Law Book Co. and wrote law nearly six years; also was assistant to editor-in-chief of the Standard Encyclopedia of Procedure until he resigned to practice law.  In 1916, in addition to practice, he began teaching at Southwestern School of Law; was Dean from 1918 to 1940, now is Dean Emeritus; still teaches courses in constitutional and labor law.  Was member of board of education and city attorney of suburb Eagle Rock before its annexation to Los Angeles.  Shortly afterward, was appointed member of the Board of Planning Commissioners of Los Angeles, and served eighteen months as its president.  Has several times acted as judge pro tem of Superior Court in Los Angeles by stipulation of counsel.  Member of American and Los Angeles Bar Associations and of Lawyers' Club of Los Angeles, of which he was president in 1943.  In 1942 was named member of Hudson-Corbett Committee headed by Judge Manley 0. Hudson of the Permanent Court of International Justice, and took active part in drafting Statement on International Law of the Future.  Has taken vigorous part in politics as Democrat; active in State campaigns and as delegate to national conventions; was chairman of Los Angeles County Central Committee from July 1945 to August
(end of page 136)
1948.  Has served four-year term as trustee of Pasadena Congregational Church, and has served on numerous civic committees.  Rollin Lee and Marjorie McNitt have one son:
Rollin Lee, Jr., b. January 11, 1916, m. September 4, 1937 Elizabeth May Church, b. July 5, 1914, A.B., Stanford 1936; he took A.B. degree at Stanford in 1937, LL.B. 1940; admitted to California Bar January 1941.  At outbreak of war in 1941 he applied for service in U. S. Navy and was commissioned Lieutenant j.g. He retired in autumn 1945 as a Lieutenant; began work in December as executive vice president and manager of Whittier Building and Loan Assn.; he is now director and treasurer also, and lives in Whittier, suburb of Los Angeles.  The children of Rollin Lee, Jr. and Elizabeth McNitt:
I-a, Robert Clyde, b. July 2 8, 1940;
I-b, Roger Lee, b. October 1, 1942;
I-c, Marcia, b. January 1, 1945;
I-d, Margaret Elizabeth, b. March 11, 1947;
I-e, Evelyn Louise, b. May 26, 1948.
2. Reginald DeKoven McNitt, b. July 22, 1895, m. December 15, 1915 Lillian Zanella; B.S., Michigan State Teachers College 1925, M.S., Michigan 1926, Ph.D., Michigan 1930; was teacher and research assistant in psychology and education in colleges and at Michigan 1924-32; Professor of Social Science at Wilmington College in Ohio 1934-44; chief, personnel testing section, Dayton Signal Corps Supply Agency 1944-45; director, personnel testing program, Air Materiel Command, Wright Field, Dayton, 1945-47; afterward Professor of Personnel Management and Psychology, AAF Institute of Technology.  Is now consulting psychologist with office in Dayton.  No children.
VI. DORA McNITT, b. February 7, 1863, m. Chapin Clute May 15, 1898, d. December 19, 1943.  No children.  Her story has been related.

VII. EVA McNITT, b. Jan. 31,1870, m. October 12, 1890 Charles C. Freeman; infant boy died soon after birth April 4, 1911; Grace, b. April 2, 1911, was immediately adopted; she is now Mrs. Addison E. Klophel of Springfield, Illinois.  Eva McNitt was a teacher before marrying Charles C. Freeman, principal of schools at Lake Odessa, Michigan.  Widowed for years, she now lives in Ann Arbor.

VIII. VERNER McNITT, b. November 19, 1874, m. November 18, 1905 Flora Mills, d. January 14, 1940.  One child, Ruth, b. September 26, 1909.  Flora lives on farm on Saline Road, Ann Arbor.  Verner's life story told earlier.

Frank McNitt, the shagbark, cardplaying builder who was progenitor of this long procession, doubtless was pleased enough to give her inheritance in advance to his daughter Mrs. Edith Chubb.  With her $25 and his money to help, she made the first payment on a big house on

(end of page 137)

South Ingalls Street, Ann Arbor.  The young doctors, engineers, lawyers, and others of his great-grandchildren who may not have known before of the part he played are only a little behind me in learning of it.  He never mentioned it himself.

As long as we can remember the quality of initiative and the nature of the devoted hard work of Mrs. Edith Lois McNitt Chubb and her sisters, the less likely are we ever to be tainted by snobbery.

(end of page 138)

Return to the Table of Contents

Send e-mail