Family Places: Sumner, Michigan – Early History and 1913 Snapshot

It occurred to me this week, while I was in pursuit of information about my elusive great-great-great grandfather Michael McGurn (1826-1868), that learning about family places is probably as important as learning about our family stories. I’d hoped to write a post on Michael, but I just don’t know enough for sure about him yet, so I had to shelve that idea for now.

Instead, here’s a first installment on a place where the Forquers and McGurns have deep roots: Sumner, Gratiot County, Michigan. My great-great grandfather Reason M. Forquer (1849-1934) came to Sumner in 1873. He farmed and also owned a general store in town. Another great-great grandfather Thomas Henry McGurn (1853-1937), a blacksmith and later a saloon keeper (and son of the elusive Michael), was living in Sumner by 1880, though I don’t know exactly when he arrived.

Sumner’s first settlers came to Gratiot County in the mid 1850s, establishing a sawmill and a store in the location that would become the village. The settlement was first known as “Belltown” after George S. Bell, who came from Ohio in 1854 and took possession of 400 acres of land in Sumner Township. Another of the first immigrants into the area, Titus Stover, ran the store, and his customers took to calling the settlement “Stoverville.”

Sumner's Main Street in 1913
Sumner’s Main Street in 1913. Tucker, History of Gratiot County

The village that would eventually be Sumner was laid out in 1868 and named Estella. When the post office was established in 1869, it was named Sumner because it was the first post office in Sumner Township. Between 1869 and 1887, the town had one name and its post office had another, until frustrated residents petitioned the board of supervisors to change the name of the village to Sumner.

Map of Sumner in 1901
Map of Sumner in 1901 – Land owned by “R. Farquer,” a common misspelling of Reason M. Forquer’s name, is shown at the top. The hotel is at the corner of Main and Water St. (now Ferris Road). http://www.mfhn.com/gratiot/maps.html

Willard D. Tucker’s history of Gratiot County provides a snapshot of Sumner (and of the whole county, for that matter) in 1913. That year, for instance, the post office was operating two rural delivery routes. One rural delivery carrier was Charles L. Booth (1879-1926), husband of Minnie (Forquer) Booth (1879-1967). Minnie’s brother Arthur Reason Forquer (1881-1951) was my great grandfather, and I knew Aunt Minnie when I was a child. The other delivery carrier was Elmon Jesse Evey (1869-1932). Elmon’s son Walter Evey (1901-1991) became my great uncle Walter by marrying my grandmother’s older sister Opal Jeanice (Forquer) Evey (1903-2006).

In 1913, Sumner’s school had two teachers and ten grades. There were churches in town for Free Methodists, Adventists, and members of the Church of Christ. You can see the school and the three churches on the map.

Businesses in Sumner in 1913 included a flour mill, a hotel, and a blacksmith shop. There was also a resident physician. Several stores sold general merchandise, including the store owned by my great-great grandfather Reason Forquer, which he would later sell to his son Arthur Forquer, my great grandfather.

That’s a start on the history of Sumner and its relation to our family. More to come in later posts.

Reason M. Forquer
Reason M. Forquer. Donna Hundey Burke Weaver Archive, used with permission

How I’m related to Reason M. Forquer:

Reason M. Forquer (1849-1934) and his wife Isabella “Lizzie” (Edgett) Forquer (1853-1929)

Their son Arthur Reason Forquer (1881-1951) and his wife Mable Blanche (McGurn) Forquer (1882-1984)

Their daughter Katy Pleasant (Forquer) Hundey (1910-2000) and her husband Harold Benjamin Hundey (1907-1987)

Their daughter, my mother

Me

Thomas Henry McGurn
Thomas Henry McGurn. Donna Hundey Burke Weaver Archive, used with permission

How I’m related to Thomas Henry McGurn:

Thomas Henry McGurn (1853-1937) and his wife Anna E. (Doxey) McGurn (1858-1945)

Their daughter Mable Blanche (McGurn) Forquer (1882-1984) and her husband Arthur Reason Forquer (1881-1951)

Their daughter Katy Pleasant (Forquer) Hundey (1910-2000) and her husband Harold Benjamin Hundey (1907-1987)

Their daughter, my mother

Me

Sources:

1880 United States Federal Census. Census Place: Sumner, Gratiot, Michigan; Roll: 580; Family History Film: 1254580; Page: 639C; Enumeration District: 102; Image: 0377. Record for Thomas Mcgurn. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=1880usfedcen&h=22275303&indiv=try.

1900 United States Federal Census. Census Place: Sumner, Gratiot, Michigan; Roll: 713; Page: 21B; Enumeration District: 0060; FHL microfilm: 1240713. Record for Thomas H Mcgurn. http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=1900usfedcen&h=24777605&indiv=try.

Centennial Committee. Sumner Michigan, 1868-1968: Centennial Yearbook. 1968.

Death Certificate, Michigan Department of Health, Certificate of Death: Reason M. Forquer. Donna Hundey Burke Weaver Archive.

MIGenWeb Project. Gratiot County Michigan. 1901 Map images. http://www.mfhn.com/gratiot/maps.html

Tucker, Willard D. Gratiot County Michigan. Historical, Biographical, Statistical. Saginaw, Mich.: Seeman & Peters, 1913. (May be accessed online here: https://openlibrary.org/books/OL6566617M/Gratiot_County_Michigan.)

4 thoughts on “Family Places: Sumner, Michigan – Early History and 1913 Snapshot”

  1. Hi Annette! I ran across your blog just now as I was searching for how I think I know where Walter Evey was born. (I recorded it when I was just a newbie and didn’t understand the importance of sources! It’s not Sumner, even though that’s where his family was living, so I’m on a hunt for my original information.) Anyway… I am also a descendent of this family on my father’s side. Walter and Opal were my great-grandparents. I have done a lot of research on this family line. Michael McGurn stumped me for a long time! I still have not traced him beyond his marriage except for his birth year. I don’t know when or where he entered North America or where in Ireland he was from. But the good news is that I had much better luck with his wife. I know who her father was and what part of Ireland they were from. I have been able to put together a little bit of their story from before they immigrated to Canada. They were potato famine immigrants. I presume Michael was as well, but that’s just an educated guess, given his age and other demographics.
    I’d love to share what I have with you. Send me an email.

    BTW, I’m also related to the Bliss family on my mother’s side, although I don’t have your exact Samuel Bliss in my line. We probably have some common ancestor in there somewhere!

    1. So nice to meet you, Stephanie! I look forward to sharing family history information with you. I’m finding Michael McGurn pretty elusive, too, but maybe we could collaborate on trying to get him traced back to Ireland. I’d also be interested to know how you’re related to the Bliss family, which is a very old family in America, as I’m sure you know. I’ve sent you an email, in addition to this reply, and I look forward to collaborating on the Forquers and Eveys. So very glad you found my blog!
      Annette

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