Facts and Events
TALES OF OUR ANCESTORS. By Cecil R Camfield, March 28, 1995
This tale starts with Michael Comveldt. (I am guessing at the spelling.) (One day Earl Camfield's wife had a salesman tell her that he came from Alsace-Lorraine and the name was common there.) Mike was born on the German side of Alsace-Lorraine in 1819. Eleven years later he was separated from his family on arrival in New York and bound out as an Indentured Servant to an upstate New York farmer. (The way my father told it, "He was separated from his family on Ellis Island when Mike was 11 and 'bound out'." I have since found out that Ellis Island, as an immigration station, did not exist in 1830. I think the family indentured themselves to pay their way. Anyway, Mike served seven years to pay his indenture.)
The next I know Mike is driving horses on the Tow Boats on the Erie Canal. Sarah Wisner liked to sit on the Canal bank, where it ran through her father's farm, and met Mike, two years her junior. Can you imagine the furor in the Wisner family when Sarah announced she was marrying that Mike Camfield (his Master had Anglicized his name) who couldn't speak passable English. I don't know when they married, but when Fred (my father, Mike and Sarah's grandson) lived with them, 1887 - 1896, he learned a lot of German because Mike's English was so broken.
Sarah and Mike had a son, Joe, (born 1852?) and a foster daughter, Ann. (The story I got was that Ann's mother had died and Ann's father left Ann with Sarah and sent money for Ann's "keep" for years.) Who was older I don't know.
There is a chronological gap here during which time Mike moved his family to the vicinity of Waukegan, Illinois and back to Bronson, Mich. My father lived to tell how his grandfather, Mike, hated the mud in downtown Chicago, because they had to push the oxcart to help the oxen. And he had enough gold sewed in his clothes to buy the "Loop." (My father's favorite story as we drove around that area when I was a boy.)
It must be remembered I got these stories in bits and pieces. (I was 12 when my parents divorced.)
How Joe got to South Bend (or when) I don't know. I only know that he was a barber and married Rose Graham, who in my father's words, "Was Dirty, Shanty, Irish." Fred was born in 1874 and then Mabel. Aunt Pearl came along in '87. Because, as I got the story, Fred, at 13, was so incorrigible that when the baby came they sent him to his grandparents.
Now I must insert some geography. Mike and Sarah had settled on an 80 acre farm on the S. E. corner of the Bronson-Orland Road and (what is now Slisher Road) 4 miles south of Bronson, Mich. One mile south was (is) Hickory Corner's and a little east was (is) the red brick Hickory Corner's School. 3/4 mile north, in the field back of the Dunkard Church lived the Warner family of 8 children, around Fred's age. In those days children went to school until they passed the eighth grade or had to work in the winter, so Fred went to school with the Warner children, as well as working with the boys and ended up marrying the youngest, my mother.
I spent a lot of time with my uncles who told me stories of Mike: Once Mike had a pair of colts, one he showed at the Fair. The judge couldn't decide between Mike's colt and another for first place. They were showing, "under harness" which meant their heads were held up by a "check rein." Mike suggested that they uncheck them. When they did the other colt's head dropped to the ground while Mike's never quivered. Later Mike was offered $100 plus a team of old nags for the colts. Mike needed the money so made the deal. Later one of the Warner boys facetiously asked him how he liked his new team. "Me gotum, me gotta like um," was Mike's answer. (That reply has become my philosophy.) In the summer-time Mike's dog would lie in the stock-watering-trough to cool off. When Mike found him there he would haul him out by the scruff of his neck and kick him. One day Fred found the dog in the trough and administered the usual treatment. Mike saw it, got his gun and shot the dog. "Nobody kicks MY dog!" Mike was - - - shall we say, strong minded? The night before he married he went out with is friends on the Canal saying, "This will be my last drink." It was. When Mike and Sarah got on the "outs" they wouldn't talk to each other. Then he would say to Fred, "Tell the old woman so and so." And Sarah would reply, through Fred, " Such and such."